A Review of the Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Drone with 4K Camera, 1.2-mile HD Live View & Hard Case (White)
Autel Robotics may not quite have the same fame as DJI or Yuneec when it comes to drone development but their fairly new X-Star Premium drone with 4K camera is an interesting choice for users who want a robust set of features, great specs and some very decent quality at a slightly lower price. Offering up a wide range of included accessories like a 4K camera and video recording memory package, this drone is a fairly complete package with 4K camera included right out of the box and this is more than we can say about some other models we’ve reviewed previously here.
Not only has Autel given the X-Star 4K drone plenty of cool flight and recording specs, they also back up their product with a decent warranty, some very good customer support and, as we’d already alluded to, some thoroughly robust manufacturing quality in this compact, Phantom-like 4K UAV drone for the consumer market. Let’s get down to some of the details.
Autel’s X-Star has plenty going for it across the board. To summarize briefly before going into a few particulars we especially like: this drone is tough, compact, delivers some great performance and very decent flight times while also being well priced compared too many competing fliers on the market, especially from the better known brands. In basic terms, despite being a bit more of a budget choice, the X-Star comes well packed with features, advanced video recording technology and doesn’t deliver what we’d call cheap performance.
For starters, this particular drone model comes with a 4K ultra HD video recording and still photo camera included with it. OF course, so does the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 and DJI’s Phantom 4 quadracopter (as well as some DJI Phantom 3 versions, but unlike all of these, the X-Star includes a 4K camera at a considerably lower price. At least $100 lower than the Phantom 3 and Yuneec drones and several hundred dollars lower than the Phantom 4, which it happens to look quite similar to as well. And the 4K recorder in the X-Star is no slouch either. It offers the by now common-to-4K-drones blend of 4K video recording at 30fps but also includes with this 2.7k video at 60fps and Full HD shooting at 120 frames, or 720p at 240fps. These are superb video capture specs and along with them comes the capacity for 12 megapixel still shots and quick, easy integration or removal from a 3-axis gimbal stabilizer.
Additionally, we like the X-Star drone’s generally intuitive remote controller system with 720p HD Live View streaming (at a distance of up to 1.2 miles), several autonomous flight modes which include all the important formats like follow and orbit and a dual GPS/GLONASS flight navigation system for general outdoor flight.
The X-Star also comes with some very decent accessories, which include a robust hard case for storage and transport, a 64GB microSD card and spare propellers. The hard case and included memory are two features which often don’t get included with other 4K drones on the market.
Finally, the Autel X-Star is simply well designed. It’s fairly compact, tough, agile and it actually looks quite a bit like one of DJI’s vaguely cube bodied Phantom drones. So if you like that particular UAV design over some of the others out there, then this flier is a good choice in aesthetic terms, while being cheaper than either the Phantom 3 or 4 drone models from the competitor.
4.5 - 151 Reviews
Overall, the Autel X-Star actually presents very few problems as a mid-range consumer UAV drone. Right off the bat, it needs to be borne in mind that this isn’t a high level drone with loads of specialized autonomous flight features, so expecting from it more than it’s designed and priced to deliver doesn’t deliver an exactly fair analysis of the X-Star. That said, the flier is more than capable of offering up some great flight specs and features for the price it does sell at, with only the following minor flaws.
First of all, we mentioned above that the X-Star comes with an included 64GB microSD memory card as part of the basic 4K drone package. Yes, this is true and it’s a thoughtful inclusion by Autel but the bad side of it is that the drone’s memory system isn’t capable of handling larger than 64GB memory cards. For most users this won’t be a problem since a 64GB storage is enough for 2 hours of even 4K UHD video and many more hours of Full HD shooting but some users might like the idea of having enough storage space on a single card for several hours of ultra HD aerial shooting. A minor detail but worth mentioning.
Next, and most damaging of all, the X-Star is not what we’d call the most stable drone in the world, most particularly when it comes to take-off and landing. Even under calm, mostly wind-free air conditions, the X-Star can very easily tip over when being controlled into the air and the same applies with landings as well. Furthermore, even under ideal circumstances, we noted that the drone’s take-off movements were definitely on the wobbly side. During flight, this problem seems to go away and steady 4K footage is no problem but the lack of sturdiness in both takeoff and landing inspires less confidence during flight. In contrast, drones like the DJI Phantom UAVs in particular shoot up into the air and come back down with wonderful smoothness, even if you’re flying in mild wind conditions.
Finally, while the specs-listed flight time of 25 minutes per battery charge seems like more than enough for some decent aerial exploring, those minutes can pass quickly and the X-Star actually has a hard time staying in the air for that long anyhow, often instead managing only about 20 to 22 minutes of flight time –and this includes the moments you spend bringing the drone back and landing it. With these factors in mind, we’d strongly recommend a second battery purchase and we’d have also loved to see Autel include a spare power cell in their base package, but maybe this is a bit too much to hope for.
In our overall opinion, we can’t help but really like the Autel X-Star 4K drone. It offers a great and wel-rounded UAV package, includes an excellent 4K Video and photo camera and flies well for the most part. Its few flaws are a bit more serious than we’d like but they don’t take away from the overall quality you get at this price.
• Max Ascent: 6 m per second
• Speed: about 35 miles per hour
• Weight: 3.52 lbs
• Hover accuracy:
Horizontal: ±6.5' / 2 m
Vertical: ±3.2' / 1 m
• Max altitude: 1.2 miles
• Flight time: 25 minutes but variable depending on conditions
• Connectivity: 1 x USB Type-A female for mobile device connectivity, 1 x charge port
• Camera: 4K UHD camera with 2.7K, Full HD and 720p video recording, 12 megapixel photos
• Recording Media: Micro SD (64GB maximum)
• Automated Flight features: Return-to-home, Orbit, Waypoint, Follow
• Weight: 3.3 lbs (with battery and propellers), 4 lb with GoPro Hero camera and Gimbal
• Dimensions: Height: 10" / 25 cm, Motor-to-Motor: 18" / 46 cm
• Controller: Dedicated controller with third par mobile device screen and X-Star app
Physically, the Autel X-Star 4K camera drone has quite a strong resemblance to the DJI Phantom 3 drone. At a basic level, both drones have the same rough shape which consists of a central, vaguely cubic body with four arms protruding from the top of each corner. At the end of each arm is a propeller and its small electric motor. The landing gear of the X-Star mounts to the drone’s undersides along two sides of the body and not only looks sturdy but also IS sturdy in its ability to handle even rougher landing impacts, which is in fact a good thing since, as we’d said earlier, this drone can sometimes present problems when it comes to smooth landing and takeoff as well.
Below the central body of the flier (where the battery cell slides in), the X-Star’s camera and 3-axis gimbal support hangs down. This is of course where the 4K UHD camera that comes with the X-Star is mounted and in contrast to the uniform reddish orange or white color (depending on consumer preference) body, propeller arms and landing gear of the drone’s body, the entire gimbal and camera mounting assembly is made out of a semi-glossy silver finish in the white model and a matte black plastic in the orange model. Furthermore, the gimbal assembly and camera can all be removed quickly and easily for replacement with possible future gimbal upgrades or a third party gimbal setup. The drone itself is made out of hard polished plastic overall and also actually rather heavy for a small consumer quadracopter, weighing in at about 3.3 pounds with battery, camera and propeller guards attached and ready for flight.
As for the X-Star’s controller, it’s easy to use, intuitive and made from the same polished hard plastic as the rest of the drone, featuring command sticks with easy grip and smooth handling. There are also function keys next to the two commend sticks and these serve the functions of activating the UAV’s flight assist modes as needed. The controller of the X-Star doesn’t come with its own built-in touch display for live in-flight camera feeds and flight controls. Instead, like the DJI Phantom 3 drone, the X-Star comes with an adjustable tablet/smartphone mounting bracket and a port for micro USB connection to an Android or iOS mobile device with the Autel Starlink app installed on it. There is also a very tiny basic controller status display on the controller itself, above the command sticks but it serves mostly for displaying basic control information, battery status and the basic status of other autonomous flight and connectivity features.
4.5 - 151 Reviews
Setting up the X-Star for flight is pretty simple. The drone comes partly disassembled in its tough and bulky hard case and this necessitates attaching the propellers by screwing them on, powering up the drone battery for about 1 to 1.5 hours for a full charge and of course, downloading the Starlink app to your touchscreen mobile device of choice, either from the Google Play store if you’re using an Android Tablet/phone or the Apple/App store if you’re using an iOS device.
Once these things are done, the propellers screwed on and your mobile device connected to the drone through a microUSB cable, the X-Star is good to go for flight initiation via the very simple and clearly labeled quick function buttons below the command sticks.
The camera of the Autel X-Star is one excellent little piece of video and photo technology that definitely impresses considering the reasonable price of the drone it comes with. We’ve previously seen slightly washed out videos with poor dynamic range or weak sharpness in certain other 4K camera drone models we’ve reviewed but fortunately this isn’t the case with the X-Star camera. Instead, it captures some superb 4K UHD video with very decent color vibrancy, good contrast and superb stability during aerial recording. What’s more, the X-Star’s camera can handle 2.7K shooting at 60fps –which is a highly practical little feature for extra resolution without the storage hassles of full 4K—and Full HD video at 120fps, meaning that this drone can grab slow motion footage as well. There is also a 720p video recording setting which works at a robust 240fps.
Additionally, the X-Star’s recorder manages to capture decent quality 12 megapixel still photos which, while not quite as good as the photos from a high-end smartphone camera like the iPhone 6S’s, are still good enough for aerial survey and exploration photography. The 4K camera also comes with a 108 degree field of view that allows for wide angle perspective shooting and as we’d already mentioned, the entire gimbal/camera assembly can be dismounted from the X-Star for easy replacement with third party gimbal/camera systems or upgraded versions of the Autel camera system.
Overall, we liked the video quality of the Phantom 4 drone from DJI better than what we saw in the Autel X-Star camera system but the X-Star still beats the video and photo recording caliber of other 4K cameras like that found in the Chroma Drone with its CGO3 camera or even the native 4K video camera of the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 UAV. On the other hand, photo quality in the X-Star’s 12 megapixel still shots is slightly low in its dynamic range and vibrancy but sharp and crisp enough for aerial surveying photography.
Aside from some issues that it has with wobbly landing and takeoff, the X-Star is a great flier when it’s actually in the sky, at least under calm weather conditions. This drone is easy to fly, handles relatively well and offers up a very stable video feed during all types of flight conditions and autonomous flight patterns. Furthermore, actual operation of the drone during both manual flight and autonomous flight patter switches is remarkably easy to get the hang of. The drone also comes with a dual GPS and GLONASS navigation capacity which allows for fairly fixed positioning except during flight in enclosed spaces without signals. The autonomous Orbit, Follow and Waypoints flight patterns depend on these navigation systems to a large extent as well.
And speaking of those autonomous flight patterns, they’re not as robust as some we’ve seen in other drones like the 3DR Solo 4K-capable Drone or the Phantom 4 but the limited options here do at least provide a basic level of controlled flight which allows a user to focus on working the camera without controlling the drone. Orbit works well at keeping the camera focused on s single position while circling around a fixed preset point at a fixed altitude and Follow allows the X-Star to follow the controller while focusing the camera on the user. The X-Star also comes with a Starpoint Positioning System that measures the drone’s height as it flies and uses optical ground/flight tracking to keep the UAV safely flying in an accurate path even at very low altitudes. Then there’s also a “Return to Home” control in this flier for having it automatically come back to its user with the push of a single button on the controller.
As for the Starlink app, it’s great for coordinating autonomous flight patterns, displaying the 720p HD live drone recording feed and controlling camera functionality and drone navigation via GPS. It’s through the Starlink app that users of the X-Star can control camera functions, recording resolutions, autonomous flight parameters and select flight control settings. The app also comes with a neat little feature known as Smart Pre-flight Check, which lets a user run through a list of pre-flight settings to make sure that everything is ready for a smooth trip.
Overall, the X-Star flies quite well and its maximum range of 1.2 miles, or 2000 meters is more than large enough for most conventional surveying and exploration uses. On the other hand, the X-Star isn’t the best performer during landing, takeoff or flight on windy days. This last flight defect of the drone is particularly surprising considering the larger weight of this particular UAV.
The Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Drone with 4K Camera s selling on Amazon.com for $899.00. This is actually a rather decent price considering the fact that the camera comes included with this well-built drone.
4.5 - 151 Reviews
• Decent battery life
• Wide range of 1.2 miles
• Great price
• Shoots amazing videos
• Decent 12MP still photos
• Great gimbal stability
• Nice, tough design
• 64GB internal storage capacity limit
• Wobbly at takeoff and landing
• A bit heavy at 3.4 lbs
• Not the best flier in windy conditions