Good helicopters for good price
Anyone thinking about purchasing a middle size helicopter for daily use has to consider choosing these helicopters. These ones can be among the bests in this category, and not just because of the price, but also because of the capabilities. A combination of these things make these helicopters to perfect choice.
A review video
Toncsi (Antonia) has created a review about her beloved heli, which helicopter is subject of all pictures and this page. Have fun!
What's the difference between 520 and 550?
Not that much. Basically they are the same, just the 520 has got shorter tail, and because of that, the blades have to be shorter. In terms of flying behaviour, 520 is a little bit more agile and less stable than 550, so it is ideal to smack pilots, whilst 550 is more suited to beginners due to the lower rotor disc load - but this is how it's told, we have never tested the 520. 520 can be converted to 550 by a conversion kit, which contains a longer tail boom, longer belt and supports. Apart from the conversion kit longer blades are also required. Of course, this works backwards as well, but there is no conversion kit, parts have to be purchased individually.
Everything for performance and use
This helicopter is designed for performance. Perhaps you remember older, cheap models, especially in 450 or smaller size. Those helis were full of weak looking parts. And they didn't only look weak, they were. If you were watching them harder, they got bent. Well, this is not the case. Even the less important parts look strong and they are indeed, like the horizontal fin on the tail boom. Can they break? I'm not sure. The main shaft is thicker than in general in this size, free of any torsion or weaknesses. It is possible - we didn't test it so far luckily - a main shaft remains undamaged after a crash. And this is also true at the feathering shaft. All the carbon parts are thick - not too much, so the helicopter doesn't look an armoured attack helicopter, but shows its durability and power.
Everything has got enough room on this helicopter. Bigger ESC or FBL controllers are not problems, their places have been designed and prepared. This happens when someone designed a helicopter who knows how to fly and maintain them. This happens to the helicopters designed by XLPower. To be honest I didn't build this heli together, but obviously I had to rewire it, and make many adjustments when I paired the receiver, and I don't remember even one tricky part. Well, this is not quite true, but it wasn't related to the helicopter. I'm using Futaba RX/TX combo, therefore the BeastX integrated receiver is not for me. However I had to put a receiver in. Of course, it is not a good idea to put the antennas within the frames. Usually I make two tubes for the antennas and I put them on the tail support rods. Unfortunately the long BeastX leads weren't enough long, and I didn't want to extend them, so I installed the receiver on the side frame inside. Not a usual installation, but it's working, and this wasn't the fault of the heli design.
Main concept is simplicity. The main frame is open, so everything is reachable without exploding the helicopter. No tricky hooks, hidden clips, unreachable screws. No brain surgery needed. Do you know the feeling when you have to replace the inner tail gear in an Align helicopter? Half a day, just to get it out. Well, XLPower makes it much easier, especially because there's no inner gear. The pulley is on the main shaft. Yes, the helicopter is belt driven. One big benefit of belt is that, when the tail touches the ground or grass, it doesn't break. The belt jumps on the pulley and runs on. When blades don't get broken, nothing happened. And the direct pulley requires less gears, less parts. Two support pulleys are built on the frame, but their replacement is easy also.
Swash plate is big, therefore it responds quickly to the servos. But this is why good servos have to be installed. Inaccuracy turns this benefit into a problem. Blade grip arms connected to the swash plate via turnbuckles, so really precise adjustments can be done quickly. And one more thing: there are three grooves on the rotor hub on each side and one groove on each grip. These grooves can help to set the correct 0° and the ideal minimum and maximum pitch. When the middle grooves line up with the grooves on the grips, blades are in 0. When the minimum and maximum grooves line up with grip grooves, the ideal maximum or minimum pitch has reached. You can set the blades with no pitch gauge, although the conservative way of adjustment is still more satisfying, especially with some of the FBL units, which require other pitch settings during the setup process.
Tail unit is also interesting. It made of one single piece, therefore no popping apart during the flight. Tail control connected to the slider on both sides, no jamming, the control is always precise. Forget the tail wobbling caused by sticky move. Tail control arm is an individual piece, costing peanuts, replacing the entire control set after a bigger crash is going to be unnecessary. What more, you can choose your preferred tail boom colour. I remember, when I was a beginner, black tail boom wasn't too ideal, that's why I used neon vinyl sticker on my heli. Well, you can buy the yellow or orange ones for yourself, XLPower provides them. And the kit comes with black and yellow ones, you have to choose one as you wish.
Overall, this helicopter is designed for use, and prepared for practicing. You are a beginner? Not a problem at all. Might be you will crash it, but its recovery is not going to cause a financial disaster. Only painful bit is the canopy. As always, canopy is not too cheap.
Well, the canopy is also interesting. It has got magnet locks, so it pops up on the heli, only two canopy bolts are enough. Putting up and taking off the canopy is really simple and quick.
We experienced some problems, but they are not so critical. One is the magnet on the bottom plate. It's so strong, there's no glue or sticker which can keep it there for longer time. There are various solutions, how to solve this issue. I sandpapered the bottom plate, then I used strong double sided tape. Finally I covered the magnet with one layer of insulation tape. Since then it's there. But it is possible, we were the unlucky ones, or something went wrong when the kit got assembled.
The other thing is the battery tray, or its lack. I understand why it has no tray: makes it cheaper, but almost all other models use trays, this way is a little bit old-school. However the battery slot is big, no way, the battery turns into a balloon and not possible to remove. Otherwise this heli is free of any problems. And this is surprising, because this is not the second or the third edition, we are using the very first one - as it is relative new model.
How it flies?
This is the most important question. Well, the shape of the main frame looked a little bit wide to me, so I expected worse. It's known, when a main frame is wide, it's able to skew a little bit in stronger manoeuvres, causing an "afterrun" feeling, or like a sponge tries to fly. No matter how strong your motor is, no matter how sharp your settings are, when you stop the heli quickly, it slips a little, but it doesn't intend to stop where you want. Okay, forget it at this helicopter. Even with this wide main frame, it will behave as anything in this category with super narrow frames, but giving you the simplicity of the single frame structure. This heli is going to be stay there, where you put, it's doing what you want. This is due to the extra thick tail boom as well. I think, some of the much bigger helis have got thinner tails than this one, therefore the distortion on the tail is negligible, even in stronger rudder stops, preventing the kick-back effect. These are why this heli an ideal candidate for daily practicing or even more.
With lower RPM this helicopter is a kind trainer, however it is a bit loose. What to expect from this massive helicopter with low RPM? Still well behaved, but reacts smoother and slower to all stick moves. It is ideal for learning basics or slow, precise manoeuvres. But when it gets the RPM, the beast breaks out. Not a bad one, a good beast which is well controlled, but reacts all inputs promptly. Of course: good electronics are also required, but what can a good FBL do with a bad heli and vice versa? So put a good device up, and you have got one of the best helis in this size.
It is ideal for beginners as a second helicopter after a smaller entry level one. But also ideal as daily trainer next to a big one, like a 700-760 Specter. What more, this is the real "exchange" model of its bigger sister, because you don't need to stock up different battery packs. You can use two 5000 mAh 6S1P for the 700, and one pack for this model.
And finally a sensitive question: price and config?
The kit available in three versions: 520 kit with motor and ESC, 550 kit with motor only, 550 kit with motor and ESC. All variations contain RotorTech blades as well. The 550 basic kit is about the price of any similar size models, it costs around 450 pounds. Not extremely cheap but not too expensive either. 520 kit has got a HobbyWing ESC, so the price of about 500 pounds is a bargain deal almost. And even the 550 combo with ESC is not bad, because a HobbyWing Platinum 100A ESC is more expensive than the price difference between the two editions. Of course these the prices for now, when I'm writing this summary.
But the spare parts! Yes, this is the point which makes this heli absolute perfect. Everything is way cheaper than the concurrent brands. And this is why we say XLPower 520/550 are one of the best choices as beginner helicopters or trainers.
Thanks to Alan Matuszczyk-Robinson for his assistance and support.