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Thread: Eachine Falcon 120 F3 RTF - full review / mods (Swift 2 upgrade)

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    Eachine Falcon 120 F3 RTF - full review / mods (Swift 2 upgrade)

    Hi again everyone. I can absolutely say that I am steadily moving towards the micro brushless range of copters with this review of the Eachine Falcon 120 F3 RTF copter I bought from Banggood! You can also find the full review and a parts list in my blog: ArxangelRC.blogspot.com


    After many good flights with my Shuiken 180 and following the all around trend to go smaller and smaller, I finally decided to downsize the racing drone! Luckily at that moment Banggood just released the Eachine Falcon 120 F3 in a RTF package with a re-branded FlySky i6 radio, so I thought it would also be a good idea to finally get one of those to have around just in case.


    So, a relatively short shipping period later I had my Falcon 120 delivered just before the Chinese New Year celebrations kicked off! And boy it was a real pleasure to this tightly built model in person! The central cube that holds all of the electronics looks realy ridy and well assembled, wires are well routed and out of the way, and all I had to do was to mount the antenna on, give the camera some tilt angle, charge the battery, put 4x AA batteries in the radio, and go flying!


    Once in the air the Falcon really does live up to its name! Even on the stock 25C 3S 850mAh pack it is quite quick and nimble and gets around quickly. Flight was pretty nice on the stock PIDs, and it does come with Betaflight already installed on the flight controller. The LED bad at the back was nicely programmed, and it was literally a charge-n-fly sort of situation. Radio and copter came paired from the factory. A very pleasant experience in all honesty!









    SPECIFICATIONS
    Motor centre to motor centre (diagonally): 120mm
    Dimensions: 112mm x 112mm x 69mm (w/o props)
    Flying weight: 230.5g (148.4 w/o battery)




    ARRIVAL STATE


    I have to be honest here... lately I have been very impressed with how Banggood packages and shipts stuff, and I can't even remember a situation where that has been an issue. The package arrived quite quickly and was well packed in protective foam, etc. No damage to any of the items.




    WHAT I LIKE


    Where to start...? I am a guy that loves to tinker with the models, to make mods, etc., and I feel really weird when I get one that is literally charge-n-fly! I constantly keep looking for something to fix... and I am happy to report that lately there have been models with nothing to fix! The reason why it has taken me so long to get into FPV racing drones is because they are too fiddly for my taste, and I spend the majority of time tinkering rather than flying... and even when I go flying something still doesn't work quite right!


    That, however, has not been the case with the Falcon 120! The frame feels VERY solid and I can barely twist an arm when forcing it by hand! It would appear it actually is real carbon. The electronics are nicely tucked in the center "cube" with all of wiring already done, so literally the only thing you need to do is put the props on and charge the battery!





    You may notice that the antenna is sticking a little above the camera, and I have to tell you that this is important! You have no idea how many times this thing ended up crashing upside down on the hard floor... and that antenna is the only reason the camera is not busted right now! It is generally a very good idea to hard mount an antenna in this manner to the frame, in models which are designed to crash a lot! I haven't even cracked the antenna casing yet... so I am really happy with its strenght!








    A nice surprise was the underside of the frame, which is covered with some self adhesive foam, cut in the shape of the frame. In addition to protecting the mounting screws for the motors, it also prevents them from coming loose due to excessive vibrations, and provides a soft padding for the battery. When you tighten the battery velcro strap well enough, the foam creates enough friction for the battery so you don't really need to fear it sliding out.


    It is also nice that the power cables with the XT60 connector remain below the frame and motors, and will not get in the way of the props... as it used to happen on my custom frames!





    The motors look good, and they also work pretty smooth when there are no props on! Once I put the props I did get very slight vibration at full throttle, but the motors themselves were good. This is the first contact I am having with such small motors and the thrust is really impressive for their size! I guess they are not the best out there... but for 166 USD RTF they seem to perform rather nicely, giving you the option to run 4S as well as 3S.








    And the 3030 4 bladed props seem to go really nicely with these motors. A spare set did arrive with the copter, and although I did my best break a few... surprisingly they are still in one piece, so I am thinking I will need to find out exactly who makes these and buy a few more spare sets, because I really like the Falcon and I am planning on flying it a lot!





    There is an easy to use tilting camera mount, and the fact that it is mounted on top and not inside the frame means that there is more freedom of movement for the camera, and possibly a higher up angle.





    At the back of the Falcon there is an LED bar, which is divided in two halves by a buzzer. It is a neat configuration and it saves both space and weight by combining everything! Originally the LED bar was programmed in a neat way, so when you give different stick commands it would change colour and blink, etc., however I did manage to mess that up by reinstalling Betaflight... because I didn't realize it comes with Betaflight stock. So do not make the same mistake! Do not reinstall the firmware, it is already Betaflight.





    The camera has an integrated microphone, and an audio cable also goes to the video transmitter, which means that you can listen to the sound of your model while flying... IF your goggles and/or monitor can output audio... mine can't! And for some weird reason the DVR in my VR D2 goggles doesn't record audio as well!





    And so we come the radio system. The receiver on the copter is super tiny and outputs iBUS, but with a full sized antenna.





    And the simplicity of the radio is also refreshing! You just put 4x AA batteries in the radio and you are pretty much done. It does have a screen, though I wasn't able to find any menus or setup screens... but didn't really need those since the Falcon is already setup with the radio, so you just need to power it up and go flying. And you also get a descent amount of switches... just in case you might need them further down the line.





    With the Falcon you also get a 3S 25C 850mAh pack, which is good for about 4-5 mins of flying... which really surprised me... could possibly do even more, but not in the winter. You also get an AC charger, so you are absolutely ready to go as soon as you've charged the battery.










    WHAT I DON'T LIKE


    And so we get to the ever present section with the things that are wrong about this model! First, just like on a few other models that I've mentioned, there was no manual with the Falcon! Now... I know these racing drones are all the same, they are setup the same, etc., etc., once you've had one you pretty much know how it all works and don't really need a manual. But keep in mind that this is a RTF version, which is probably aimed more at newcomers than people who are already in the hobby and have a radio, a charger, and possibly some batteries, so it should be a given that those newcomers might need some guidance to get started. True, this is as simple as it gets - you plug in the battery, flip a few switches and you can get the hang of it... but still a manual is a must for the new people in this hobby!


    And here is one more reason why you would need a manual, even if you are somewhat experienced with racer copters... flight controller orientation! As it turned out, the board is not designed to be mounted with one corner facing forward, but it is a regular FC, so when it is mounted on this frame, it is actually at a 45 degree angle, which means that you have to adjust that YAW offset in the settings to 315 degrees, if you like me decide to re-flash the board. Before I got around to doing this, I had a hell of a time figuring out why the copter would go crazy at any PID setting after take off... and when I finally bumped up D high enough to prevent the crazy shake effect... I realized the board is at a 45 degree angle and I need to do that adjustment in the settings for it to compensate! A manual noting this little fact would have saved me some time and a lot of frustration!


    Next would have to be the receiver antenna! It was wound up on the top plate around the camera and the video antenna, which is as far from proper placement as you can get! As you can imagine on the first flight I managed to loose signal with the copter not more than 100 meters away, and I had to raise the radio above my head to regain control and prevent a crash! To prevent that from happening again I try to generally hold the radio with the antenna pointing straight up, and I also added a zip tie to the top plate of the copter to hold the receiver antenna upright.


    Also note the receiver signal cables just under the zip tie, you will notice that they are all cut up! This happened in one of my light crashes... which only goes to show that this cable could have been wired a bit better on the inside of the frame, rather than having to go on the outside like that. It is an easy fix, but still annoying when it happens!





    And last I want to comment on the USB location... I know that on this particular frame there isn't really any other way this could happen... but its location is not as optimal as it could be! In order to connect my USB cable, I actually have to push the cable under the prop, so it gets squished between the prop and the motor bell, and it also enters the USB connector on the board at a bit of an angle! It hasn't caused an issue so far... but there is no telling what would happen down the line! Not the best way to do it... but for the time being there is not better option!





    And last I want to say a few words on the camera image quality! Not the best... but sort of OK! After all you can't expect everything to be perfect on a budget!







    THE VERDICT


    Lets be honest here... once you zip tie the receiver antenna upright and make sure you do not re-flash the board (because it already comes setup and with Betaflight), this is one pretty good RTF system! The image quality of the camera is sufficient to get you started, and should you decide that you need more resolution and a higher quality image you can always upgrade that camera.


    In my opinion this is one very good and quality package for that price, especially considering that it is RTF, and you only need to provide 4x AA batteries for the radio! Over the course of a few weeks that I've been flying this it has proven to be quite tough, and the hard mounted short video antenna provides some protection to the camera in the event of an upside down "landing" situation!


    The provided battery is not bad for this copter and will give you at least 4-5 mins of flight time, depending on your skill. In flight the copter handles quite nicely with the stock PIDs, and you can definitely tell that somebody did put the effort to put this together and tune it before they decided to make it a product! I remember the very recent days where such models camer just assembled with absolutely NO setup done prior to shipping!


    The Falcon was a breeze to get going (considering for a moment I didn't foolishly re-flash the board with the exact same firmware it already had on it, and wiped all the settings clean!) and I would absolutely recommend it for anyone looking to get into FPV racing on a budget! You only need to add a set of video goggles and you are good to go! Absolutely worth the money, and I would buy it a second time if I had to... though since I already have a radio, I would probably go for a BNF version!
    Last edited by Arxangel; 26th May 2017 at 11:08 AM.

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    Reserved.

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    So, recently I got the new Eachine DVR03 all-in-one camera/Vtx/DVR module and after careful analysis I came to the conclusion that the Falcon 120 was the smallest copter I have that I could trust to reliably carry this technological wonder.











    First I have to get rid of the existing FPV system on the copter. This was easily achieved by removing only the top frame plate.





    These 3 items together weight about 35 grams! The DVR03 weights in at 7.4 grams, so that means so far I have lowere the AUW by roughly 27 grams, which for the Falcon is over 10% weight reduction!





    Since the stock video system is powered directly from the flight battery, either 3S or 4S LiPo, I had to come up with a way to provide 5v to the DVR03 at the lowest weight. Since the ESCs have a 1.5A UBEC powering the flight controller via the output rail, that is where I soldered a Micro JST 2-pin cable to the 5v rail, which in turn will provide power to the FPV module.





    Now I was almost ready to mount the DVR03 on the frame, but I needed something to protect the module and the antenna. Since the stock FPV antenna was hard mounted on the frame and very rigid in design it served very nicely as a camera guard. Sadly that is not the case with the DVR03.


    So, I printed out a U shaped piece out of Taulman 645 nylon material that fits in the top plate slots perfectly and would protect the FPV module very nicely. The material is extremely flexible yet tough and should survive a good deal of crashing. Along with it I also printed a 20 degree camera stand to give the camera some up angle, but since I am not a professional racer yet, 20 degrees should be just fine for the time being.





    On the bottom I used a toothpick to hold the piece attached to the frame, and I am hoping that in the event of a hard crash the toothpick will break rather than the frame, because I know that this nylon material will definitely not break!





    So, a few bolts later the frame was assembled back together, and since the printed parts added another 3 grams to the AUW, the copter was now 24 grams lighter than before, which is still a pretty good amount for something so small!





    I wrapped the DVR03's cable around the toothpick to tidy it up a bit and keep it out of reach of the props.





    The camera's manual gives a pretty decent description of how to operate it, so make sure you go through it before operating the module.








    While I was playing around with the DVR's functions I noticed that the ground power cable had come off of the solder pad and was touching the positing and shorting it!





    That meant that I will have to resolder it, but it also meant that I will be able to do a mod I've been thinking about ever since I got the Falcon - replace the cables and connectors with lighter ones to save even more weight.


    While I was removing the flight controller to get to the cables I noticed that during assembly the LED and buzzer bar has squashed one of the FC connectors on the underside. It is even torn from the board on one of the sides. I have no idea what that is for, and I hope I will never need to use it!





    So, shortly after I had an 18AWG cable soldered on there, rather than the 16AWG that was originally there. I also soldered an XT30 connector to it, as it is much lighter than the XT60. I put a piece of self-adhesive velcro between the two cables to make sure that even if one comes off of the soldering pad, it will not short in the other one.





    The change to a smaller connector and thinner cables both on the copter and on the battery is really noticeable!








    Each new cable is on average 5 grams lighter than the stock cables, so from the cables I saved another 10 grams.





    So, the total saved weight now totalling 34 grams, which is around 15% of the AUW of the copter, I was finally ready to go flying!





    So... here is my review... let us see how the DVR03 performed:


    Last edited by Arxangel; 28th February 2017 at 03:36 AM.

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    Hey guys, so after my experience with the DVR03, I finally decided it was time for this copter to get a decent quality camera, so I got myself a RunCam Swift 2. I can only say that I am absolutely amazed by the quality of this unit, and the available OSD and voltage readout are simply a killer feature for racing copters. I also mounted the VTX03 here, to keep the weight down.


    Last edited by Arxangel; 28th May 2017 at 06:24 PM.

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    Great review, thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by benz11 View Post
    Great review, thanks!
    Thank you!

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    OK, the Falcon is still alive and kicking, and is now sporting the RunCam Swift Mini... so it is lighter than ever!



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    Hi your review is in depth and amazing. I am a beginner and would like to get some help on how to start up with the 120. I will PM you for further issues as im facing some issues with my falcon 120.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tfernandes View Post
    Hi your review is in depth and amazing. I am a beginner and would like to get some help on how to start up with the 120. I will PM you for further issues as im facing some issues with my falcon 120.
    Sure thing mate, will try to help if I can!

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