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RC Helicopter Review & Buying Guide Includes Unbiased Rating on 4 Major Brands & More

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RC Helicopter  Review / Buying Guide / Rating Chart for Align, Walkera, E-Flite, CopterX, HeliMax, Gaui, Turbo Ace, Esky. (Updated on 4-08-2012)
 
Toy vs Hobby Grade RC Helicopters: Toy grade helicopters are usually $20 to $50 infrared controlled 3-Channel co-axial (two layers of main blades) designs with simulated 4-Channel movements. Restricted to basic up-down-left-right-forward-backward  movements, the stability of these rigid design prevents the main rotor from rolling or tilting in any direction. For limited budgets, our Toy RC helicopter line provides several choices to get your feet wet. Please keep in mind that toy grade RC helicopters are not designed to be maintained over time, because spending labor and parts on a toy quality helicopter cost as much as buying a new one. On the other hand, a hobby quality high performance helicopter & transmitter (usually $100 to $300) are designed to be maintained and upgraded over time. So if you plan to make RC helicopter a long term hobby, you should seriously consider a hobby grade RC helicopter instead.

Stick with the major brands of Hobby Grade Helicopters: Too many helicopter model to choose from? Don't end up with a FIAT.  Because hobby grade helicopter are usually maintained over several years you will need a consistent and reliable supply of parts. Purchasing a Walkera, E-Flite, Align & CopterX is like purchasing a Lexus, a Chevy, a BMW or a Toyota. Parts availability is pretty much guaranteed if you pick a popular helicopter model amongst these 4 major brands. Another area of concern is the integration and implementation radio transmitter (TX) and a matching receiver (RX) on the helicopter. As a rule of thumb, E-Flite helicopters are integratd with JR or Spektrum TXs and RXs which are all supplied by the same company, Horizon Hobbies. Walkera helicopters are integrated with Walkera TXs and RXs. Neither Align nor CopterX has a prominent line of TXs and RXs so they generally use JR, Spektrum or Walkera TXs and RXs. Because Wow Hobbies carries all 4 major brands, we are able to integrate multiple brands into a turn-key product which is not normally available in the market. For a buyer, the worse case scenario is getting a "good deal" at the local mall for $80 but the heli's parts are only available in China. Or flying it for 2 weeks and realizing that the motor is designed to last 2 weeks.
 
Walkera, Eflite, Align or CopterX:
Walkera is known for their breakthroughs in mini & micro helicopter designs, extensive use of CNC aluminum parts, standardization of high performance brushless systems and integration of cutting edge flybarless system with 3-axis gyros. Due to limited profit margins and quantity import requirements, local hobby shops usually can't carry Walkera. When purchasing Walkera helicopters and parts on line, make sure you purchase from a reputable domestic vendor. Because Walkera aggressively update most of their most popular models several times a year without changing the model number, you might end up with last year's version. It's critical that all Walkera helicopters be properly test flown in the USA before shipping to ensure performance and to prevent defects. Currently some of Walkera's most prominent models includes CB180Z-PRO, Genius CP, Ladybird, Mini CP, MX400, V120D02S, V200D03, V450D01 and 4F200/LM. With the release of the Devention standard, Walkera is also the leading supplier for transmitters and receivers. The DEVO 7, DEVO 8S & DEVO 10 are the best sellers in the new Walkera Devention series.  
 
E-Flite Blade helicopters is a very well established brand distributed by Horizon Hobby along with associated Spektrum and JR transmitters and receivers. It's a company that take it's time to complete and meticulously test each model before it's released. Quality control and customer service is excellent. Because Horizon is a more diverse company, there are only a few prominent RC helicopter models. The Blade MCPX, Blade 450 3D, Blade 450 X and MQX are E-Flite's best sellers. By the way, Horizon Hobby is also famous for it's top of the line Phoenix Flight Simulator. Featuring exceptional graphics and utilizing full size RC transmitters, this is a very pratical pilot training tool that you can set up on your PC.
 
Align's has one of the best reputations for designing manufacturing larger size RC helicopter such as the T-Rex 250, T-Rex 450, T-Rex 500, T-Rex 550, T-Rex 600 & T-Rex 700. With each successive release, Align is slowly but surely integrating updated flybarless technology with Compact 3GX stabilization. Because Align has not yet developed it's own line of transmitters and receivers so most Align helicopters are sold as kits which requires end-user assembly and the additional integration of Walkera, Spektrum or JR transmitters and receivers.
 
CopterX has become a popular alternative to Align helicopter kits because of its extensive experience in manufacturing inexpensive Align compatible parts. CopterX ready-to-fly packages has recently emerged as one of the most practical choices for pilots who are seeking high quality low cost solution. To optimize performance, Wow Hobbies developed a number of packages that combines the advantages of CopterX 250SE and CopterX 450AE & 450SE with Walkera and E-Flite receivers and electronic components. 
    
Pick the helicopter that fits your ability, setting & tolerance for safety:
Many a beginner pilot has fallen into the trap of buying a fancy RC helicopter that's more suited for advanced pilots. While looks might be important, it's a RC helicopter after all and you want to be able to fly it. Secondly, consider where you are going to fly. Do you want a helicopter for indoors or outdoors? Smaller helicopters are usually more suited for indoor applications and you can fly them 24/7. And if you are the outdoor type, perhaps a mid-size helicopter will fit the bill. And, of course you need to take into consideration the local seasonal conditions. If you have limited indoor or outdoor space, please remember that smaller helicopter are less threatening to people and property. If you are not sure of what size is good for you, it's a sign that you are not ready for the bigger models so just stick with micro to mid-size helicopters!
Here are some additional notes for beginner pilots. A co-axial helicopters utilizes 2 sets of counter rotating main blades so the clock-wise and counter-clock-wise torque cancels out each other. Because they naturally hover without a lot of pilot input, a co-axials helicopter is usually the starting helicopter for beginners. However, this is no longer the case in 2010. Recent development of  new stabilizing technology has made single-axial (standard helicopter) almost as easy to hover and fly as co-axials. Novice pilots should look for the 45 degree bell structured helicopter such as the Walkera CB100 (Indoor Micro), 4#6 Bell (Indoor Sub-micro with shaft drive CP tail) or the Walkera CB180Z-PRO (Outdoor Midsize Mini with shaft drive CP tail and 3-axis gryo). Other than a more authentic look, these single-axial features better aerodynamics and maneuverability. While a co-axial floats, turns and tilts to all directions, a single-axial hovers, banks and zings. Another key consideration is that co-axials usually come with two cheaper brush motors compared with upgraded single axial which comes with more durable single or dual brushless motor(s).

Performance, Durability & Maintenance: These three key factors are closely related. For example, a brush motor is less powerful and it uses brushes and cheaper bearings that will soon quit after 30 to 40 flight cycles. Whereas a more expensive brushlesss motor is usually more powerful and lighter (standard on higher end models and packages) and specified for over 500 flight cycles, thus greatly reducing the need for maintenance. The quality of a helicopter also depends on when it was produced which determines what technologies and structures were available and if they were implemented. A good example just happened recently. Within a short span of 2 months, a very popular Walkera model, the CB180D was upgraded to the CB180Z. Major improvements include a shaft driven collective pitch tail which corrected a major tail motor flaw on the CB180D, a more advanced and higher quality receiver with self leveling 3-axis gyro that also prevents tail swings and finally a brushless main motor which greatly increases the power and lifespan of the CB180Z.
   
Beware of online RC Helicopter Reviews:
A growing number of on-line reviews are made by marketing companies or their agents.
When you see a few visitors raving about a specific product in a small thread, usually it's not a good sign. Even the most popular forums are now influenced by their sponsors. You will see things like "plastic is better than metal" or "I heard they use better parts even though it's from the same factory". The RC helicopter review date is also very important. You should look for unbiased reviews from an established and experienced RC helicopter hobbyists or resource that is no older than 3-4 months. To use our CB180D versus CB180Z example again. An older review on the older CB180D model may be valid 3 months ago but it's not as valid as a current Walkera CB180Z review.
 
So here it is - a remote control helicopter buying guide for beginner to advanced pilots. We have included several common brands for further comparison. Because there are virtually dozens of new models and updated versions released every month, we encourage you to call us (714-939-7895) for the most updated reviews on the most popular models. With constant feed backs from RC helicopter technicians fellow hobbyists, we are uniquely qualified to recommend the helicopter that is best suited to your needs. 
 
Legend: RC Helicopter Rating of (1) Through (10) with (5) being average
* Pilot Level: (B) Beginner, (I) Intermediate, (A) Advance, (M) Masters
* Agility: (1) Basic Maneuvers, (10) Advanced 3D Tricks
* Stability: (1) Easy to Hover, (10) High Head Speed & Torque   
* Power & Lift: (1) Lower Speed, (10) Fast & Sustained Acceleration
* Indoor Appropriate: (1) Too Big & Too Fast for Indoor, (10) Small & Stable
* Outdoor Appropriate: (1) Not Wind Tolerant, (10) More Wind Tolerant 
* Durability & Maintenance: (1) Requires More Maintenance, (10) Better Crash Resistance
* Main Rotor/Motor:
> (CA) Co-Axial: Extra Stability but Less Agility
> (FP) Fixed Pitch: Easier to Fly
> (CP) Collective Pitch: Harder to Fly but Quicker & More Powerful
> (MH) Metal CNC Head Mechanism: More $ but More Precision
> (PH) Plastic Head: Less $ but Less Precision
> (MPH) Metal & Plastic Head: Medium Precision
> (3A) 3-Axis Gyro or TAGS: Good Stability
> (Bell) Bell Structure: Extra Stability
> (FL) Flybarless: Less Stability but More Wind Tolerant
> (B) Brushed: Less $ but Less Durable
> (BL) Brushless: = More $ but More Durable
> (C) Cooler Operating Temperature: Extra Durable & No Waiting to Cool Off Motor

* Tail Rotor & Motor:
> (STML) Separate Tail Motor on Larger Size Helicopter: Slower Tail Hold but More Resilient to Minor Crashes (Suitable for training pilots).
> (STMM) Separate Tail Motor on Micro Size Helicopter: Better Tail Hold with Larger Tail Motor/Rotor & Extra Resilient to Minor Crashes
> (STMI) Separate Tail Motor with inadequate tail hold
> (SDCPT) Shaft Driven CP Tail: Faster Tail Hold & Durable
> (BDCPT) Belt Driven CP Tail: Slight Lag & Belt Not Durable
> (BL) Brushless: More $ but More Durable

> (NB) No Bearings = Higher Operating Temperature & Less Durable
Durability & Maintenance: Longevity, Ease of Repair, Parts Pricing and Availability
Design & Accessories:
> (DVO) Walkera New Devention Standard Receiver for DEVO Transmitters
> (BCT) Battery Charged by Transmitter: Lower Quality Battery & Charger
> (BCU) Battery Charged by USB Port
> (BCW) Battery Charged from Wall Outlet: Higher Quality Battery & Charger
> (SC) Sculpted Canopy: Creates 3-Dimensional Visual Impact
> (2.4G) 2.4G Transmitter: Professional Quality with Reliable Operations 
RC Helicopter Review & Rating Table:
 
Model
Pilot
Level
Agility
Stability
Power &
Lift
Indoor
Use
Outdoor
Use
Durability & Repair

 
Quality & Design
Main Rotor & Motor 
Tail Rotor
& Motor
Size
Inches
Price for RTF Pkg
Minix Helicopter
B
5
9
6
8
1
6
BCT
CA, PH, B
NA
5
$26
Swift Helicopter
B
5
9
6
8
1
6
BCT
CA, PH, B
NA
7.5
$26
Eflite Blade MCX B 5 9 6 8 1 6 BCT CA, PH, B
NA 7.9 $99
Walkera Lama2-1
B
6
10
7
9 2
7+
BCW, 2.4G
CA, MH, B,
NA
8
$100
Heli-Max Novus CX B 5+ 9+ 7 8+ 1+ 7
BCW, 2.4G
CA, PH, B NA 8 $120
Walkera 5#10
B
6
10
7+
5
3
8
BCW, 2.4G
CA, MH, B
NA
15
$130
Eflite CX3 B 5 9 7+ 5 2 6 BCW, 2.4G
CA, MH, B NA 15 $176
Walkera CB100
B, I
7
8+
7+
6
3+
5
BCW, 2.4G
FP, MH, Bell, BL
BL, NB
8
$139
Walkera CB100 with 2.9g BL Tail Motor
B, I
8
9
8
8
4
8
BCW, 2.4G
FP, MH,  Bell, BL
BL, C
8
$189
Eflite Blade MSR B+, I
7 8 6 7 2
7 BCW, 2.4G
PH, B B 8 $159
Walkera V100D01 I, A 8 6+ 7 8 4 8 BCW, 2.4G FP, MH, BL, FL BL, NB 8 $199
Walkera Lama3
B, I
6
8+
8
1
5
6
BCW, 2.4G
CP, MH, CA, BL
NA
24
$420
Walkera CB180D (Replaced by CB180Z-PRO)
B, I
7+
8
8
6
6
6
BCW, 2.4G
FP, MH, Bell, B
STMI
17
$140
Walkera CB180Q (Replaced by CB180Z-PRO)
(Mad Hawk 300)
B, I
7+
8
8
6
5+
5
BCW, 2.4G
FP, MH, Bell, B
STMI
17
$140
Walkera CB180Z-PRO
B, I
8
9
8
7
8
9
BCW, 2.4G
FP, MH, 3A, Bell, BL
SDCPT
17
$170
Walkera V200D01 I, A 8+
7
8+ 6 9 9 BCW, 2.4G
FP, MH, 3A, FL, BL SDCPT
17
$220
Walkera 4#3B
I, A
8+
6
8
9
3
6
BCW, 2.4G
FP, MH, BL
BL, NB
8
$170
Heli-Max Novus FP I, A 8- 6 7 9 3 4 BCW, 2.4G
FP, MH, B STMI
8 $160
Walkera 4#6 (Heli-Max 125 FP) I, A 8 7 8 8
4 8 BCW, 2.4G
FP, MH, BL SDCPT 11
4#6: $130
 
125 FP: $200
Walkera 4#6S (Heli-Max N125 FP)
I, A
8+
8
8
8+
5
8+
BCW, 2.4G
FP, MH, 3A, BL
SDCPT
11
4#6S: $170
125 FP: $200
Walkera 4#6S With
71316
B+,I,A
8+
8 9 8+
6
9
BCW, 2.4G
FP, MH, 3A, BL
SDCPT 11
Walkera
4#6 Bell
B, I 8 8+ 7+ 9 4+ 9 BCW, 2.4G
FP, MH, Bell, BL
SDCPT 11 $165
V120D01 (Discontinued) I, A 9 7 8 8
8+ 9 BCW 2.4G
FP, M, 3A, FL SDCPT 11 $210
Walkera V100D08 (Replaced by Genius CP)
I, A
7
6
8
6
7
6

CP, BL, FL
B

$199
Walkear Mini CP-PRO
B+, I, A
9
8+
7
8
8
8+
BCU, 2.4G, DVO, TMY
CP, B, FL
B

$229
Walkera Mini CP-PRO Brushless
B+, I, A
9+
8+
9
8
9
9+
BCU, 2.4G, DVO, TMY
CP, BL, FL
B

$379
Walkera Genius CP-PRO
B+, I, A
8
8
7
8
7
8
BCW, 2.4G, DVO
CP, B, FL
B

$193
Walkera Genius CP-PRO Brushless
B+, I, A
9
8
8+
8
8+
9
BCW, 2.4G, DVO
CP, B, FL,
B

$339
Walkera 4G3 (Replaced by 4G6S)
I, A
8+
6+
8
8
5
4
New Cell
CP, M, BL
B
10.5
$235
Heli-Max Novus CP I, A 8 6 8 7+ 4+ 2 New Cell CP, P, B B 10.5 $200
Walkera UFLYS
I, A
8
8+
8
2
9
9
New Cell
FP, 3A, BL
SDCPT
18
$200
Walkera UFLY
I, A
8
8
8
1
8
8
New Cell
FP, BL
SDCPT
18
$180 
Walkera 4G6 (Replaced by 4G6S)
I, A, M
9+
7
8
7
7+
8
New Cell
CP, MH, BL
SDCPT
11
$250
Heli-Max 125 CP I, A 9 6+ 7 7 7 7 New Cell CP, PH, BL SDCPT 11 $280
Walkera 4G6S
I, A, M
9+
7+
8
7+
7
8
New Cell
CP, MH, 3A, BL
SDCPT
11
$260 
Heli-max N125 CP I, A 9 7 7+ 7 6 7
New Cell CP, PH, 3A, BL SDCPT 11 $280
Walkera 4G6S (WK2801 & 31714)
I, A, M
9+
8+
9+
8
8
8+
New Cell
CP, MH, 3A, BL
SDCPT
11
$384
Walkera 4G6S
(WK2801 & 71318)
I, A, M 10 9 9 9
8 9 New Cell CP, MH, 3A, BL, C SDCPT
11 $410
Walkera 4G6S - 2S
(WK2801 & 80814)
I+, A, M
9+ 9+ 10
8 9
9
New Cell CP, MH, 3A, BL, C
SDCPT 11
$460
Gaui 200SD (DX7)
I, A, M 9 8 8 7 8 6+ New Cell CP, MH, BL, C SDCPT 16.3 $629
Walkera V120D02 (Replaced by V120D02S) I+, A, M 8 6
6
7
8+ 7
BCW, 2.4G, DVO
CP, MH, 3A, FL, BL SDCPT 11
$229
Walkera V120D02S
I, A, M
9
7+
8+
8
9
8+
BCW, 2.4G, DVO/WK
CP, FL, BL
SDCPT
11
$253
Gaui 200 V2 XFES (DX7)
I+, A, M
8 6 7 6 8+ 6 New Cell CP, MH, FL, BL, C
SDCPT 16.3 $679
Walkera V200D03
I, A, M
9
8
9
6
9+
8

CP, MH, FL, BL, C
SDCPT
16.5
$308
Walkera 4F200
(WK2801)
I+, A, M 8+ 9 8+ 5
9+ 7 New Cell CP, MH, 3A, FL, BL, C
SDCPT
16.5 $360
Align Trex 250 SE
(DX7)
I+, A, M 8+ 8 8 4
9+ 6+ New Cell CP, MPH, BL BDCPT
18 $739
Align Trex 250 (DX7) I, A 8 7+ 7 4 8 6+ New Cell CP, PH, B BDCPT 18 $569
Walkera 60#B (Discontinued)
I, A, M
9
7
8
1
9
6+
New Cell
CP, MH, BL
BDCPT
20
Not Available
Align Trex 450 SE (DX7)
I+, A, M
8+
8+ 8 2 9 6+ New Cell CP, MPH, BL
BDCPT 22 $989
Align Trex 450 (DX7)
I, A 8 8 8 2 8+ 6+ New Cell CP, PH, B New Cell 22 $809
Align 450 PRO 3GX
I, A, M
8
8
8
2
9
8





Walkera V450D01
I, A, M
8
9
8+
2
9
8
BCW, 2.4G, DVO/WK
CP, MH, BL, FL
BDCPT
22
$469
Align 500EFL PRO 3GX
I, A, M
8
9
8
1
9
8




$790
Walkera V500D01
I, A, M
9+
9
9
1
9+
8
BCW, 2.4G, WK
CP, MH, BL, FL
BDCPT


Align 550E 3GX
I, A, M
9+
9
9+
1
9
9




$816
Align 600EFL PRO 3GX
I, A, M
8
8
9
1-
9
9




$951
Align 700E V2 3GX
A, M
9
7
9
1-
9
8




$1280

 

This Buying Guide is constantly being updated so information may change without notice.