DRONES REVIEWS

Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma: 4K fun

Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma
Jack Brown
Written by Jack Brown

Horizon Hobby offers different versions of the Blade Chroma: there is the Chroma with the fixed GoPro camera mount which is cheaper, the 1080p model with the CGO2+ Camera, the 4K capable model with CGO3 Camera, or if you already own a GoPro and would like to use it with the Blade Chroma, a variant with a 3-axis Gimbal is available. So there is a nice collection to choose from.

The Blade Chroma flies great and the auto landing function is really handy; the drone descends fast and touches down smoothly. The RC also has a built in GPS, so if you activate “Return Home”, the drone will land at 5m near your actual position, so if you moved from your original spot, it will know where to go.

This GPS is also used for “Tracking Mode”. The GPS connection is fast and you also get a high number of satellites.

Product specifications:

Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma

  • Captures smooth, steady aerial video in stunning 4K definition
  • No-distortion camera lens eliminates fisheye effect
  • Easy to fly – no experience necessary
  • Everything in one box
  • 30 minute flight times

Check Price on Amazon

Build Specifications

Packaging

The Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma is a competitor of the Phantom drones from DJI. It has a lot of similarities, but also some differences, like the foldable GPS mast, for what seems be better signal reception, and a detachable 3-axis Gimbal with one cable attached.

The twin blade propellers (10 inch props, 1 inch more than the Phantom’s) are hand tightened; so taking them off is as easy as holding the motor in place and spinning the blades loose. Once tightened in place, there is no need for a fastener, because the propeller is continually being tightened by the spinning of the motor.

So even if there was no GPS, the Chroma would still hold its position in flight. The legs are just as easily detachable with a few clicks, leaving a nice flat surface for you to store away in your backpack or hard case, either of which would be a good choice to invest in.

On the RC side you also have the choice of whether you prefer their ST10+ which has built in Wi-Fi, if you want the simplest possible way to get video downlink, or if you already own something like a Spektrum DX4, you can buy a Bind-N-Fly version of the Blade Chroma.

Design & Durability

The white plastic body is a 33 x 33 cm square with a height of 9.5 cm if you unmount everything. The aircraft weighs 1.3kg. The blh8611 brushless motors used, have a voltage of 780kv, larger than those on the Phantom 3, and more efficient on 3 cell batteries (Phantom 3 uses 4 cells).

Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma

Thanks to the self tightening 10 inch props, the aircraft is very silent and very efficient. The Wi-Fi receiver is in the camera, so all the wireless transmission happens directly with the it, and just the motion controls are hooked up to the Blade Chroma.

It packs away easily, taking up little space; a real advantage when compared with the Phantom. It could be a good travel drone.

Camera

The CGO3 4K capable camera puts the Blade Chroma ahead of older drones, which use 1080p, or even ahead of direct competitors such as the Phantom 3 Pro which only has 2.7K video capability. The video quality, however, suffers from some over-sharpening. The colors are good, but you might want to play around with the white balance.

The CGO2 1080p camera has a distorted lens, so they use intelligent software to correct the image. This leads to the resulting image being noticeably pixilated.

Battery & Flight time

In the manufacturing process, the first batches of batteries for the Blade Chroma were mislabeled to be 5400 mAh when actually they were 6300 mAh capacity batteries. The included charger takes about 2 hours to fully charge the battery, and it has vents which, if blocked, will cause it to get hot.

The low battery behavior is that around 10.6 V it will issue a warning, and after 1 minute and a half it will automatically land, regardless of the point it finds itself at, so, caution is needed when flying over water or other hazardous areas.

Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma Battery

The flight time is fairly impressive, at a realistic 24 minutes at 500m from sea level (the higher up you are, the less effective the propellers become), mainly with hovering and smooth moving around. This is still better than the 20 minutes, which is the average for similar consumer drone models.

Controller

You can find YUNEEC written on the ST-10+ controller. That’s because they are the technology providers for Horizon Hobby; however, Horizon Hobby perform their own customizations and they offer excellent Customer Support, having been in the industry for a long time. This is something to keep in mind when buying an expensive piece of kit such as the Blade Chroma.

Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma Controller

The ST-10+ it has an Android OS build in unit for video transmission and control via a touch screen, which is something to take into consideration. If you already have an iPhone or iPad and you want to use it for FPV, then you may want to go the Phantom route. However, if you don’t have a good smartphone or prefer something integrated, the first option would suit you better.

The Wi-Fi connection is not Lightbridge, as opposed to the DJI Phantom higher priced models. This causes the later to have less latency and more range. The video latency on the Blade Chrome is about 400ms, which isn’t bad for this kind of drone that can return home on its own.

For flying in the sunlight, a suction cup mounted sunshade accessory is provided for the controller, although you may find it a bit flimsy. Maybe some other option such as Velcro straps would have made more sense. It does, however fold very nicely.

Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma Controller

The sticks on the controller return to their original position, so if you release both sticks, the drone will hover, which is what it was meant to do. Up in the right side corner of the controller, there is a toggle switch for “Safe Flight” mode, “Arial Photography” mode, or “Return Home” mode.

Up to each side corner there is a record record video button on the right and a take photo button on the left. On the side there is a speed slider, with a max possible value of 25km/h. If you take the Blade Chroma out of GPS mode, with a bit of tail wind, speeds of 70km/h are possible.

The controller itself has a rechargeable battery, and if you take out the battery, you find a SD Card slot, with the possibility of inserting an SD card to store telemetry data, a very interesting feature if you are afraid of losing the drone.

Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma Controller Charging Place

The radio itself is well built and it feels like a good fit. One minor issue might be that the display is at the bottom of the radio. Maybe it would have made more sense ergonomically for it to be at the top. The controller is 25x19x11 cm in dimension. It comes in white.

Flight Performance

The Blade Chroma comes with built in flight parameters such as a maximum altitude of 400 feet (in accordance with the FAA in the US) and has a range of 640 feet in any direction. This is a good feature for new users to gain some needed flight skills, but the experts can throw all that out the window by downloading the Chrome GUI application and extend the geofence border up to 8200 feet (2500 m).

This is however beyond the signal range, so a more reasonable value would be preferred. On a clear day, it takes 2000 feet of distance with no obstacles in between for the transmission signal to blur, and 1000 m in more congested areas.

Beside the manual flight settings, the SAFE® Plus flight control technology of the Blade Chroma also has a “Smart” mode for automated flying. This gives access to “Follow Me” and “Tracking”. With the first, the drone just follows the controller, while “Tracking” also rotates the camera to point to the user at all times.

The “Smart” mode also has the feature of moving the drone in the exact directions received from the controller, regardless of where the nose of the aircraft is pointing. This is similar to the “Home Lock” feature of DJI drones, and again helps novice fliers.

If you want to use “Follow Me” or “Tracking” mode, this needs to be set on the ground. You cannot change these modes in mid air. On the other hand, it is possible to change between “Smart”, “Agility” and “Return Home” while flying.

If range is important, this drone might be very limiting for you, although the maximum range in most countries is 500m and the Blade Chroma should be capable of reaching that limit.

Value for money and guarantee

You can find a Flight-Ready Blade Chroma Drone with Stabilized CGO3 4K camera and ST-10+ Transmitter for $1,099 on Amazon. Horizon Hobby, LLC (Horizon) does warrant to the purchaser of the product that the Blade Chrome will be free from material or manufacturing malfunctions for six months.

Unique features

From Horizon Hobby you get a very well supported device in the Blade Chroma, something that is regarded as a huge advantage by many people in RC groups. Also, all the parts of the Blade Chroma are usually in stock, which means you don’t have to go back to the manufacturer or wait for availability.

Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma

The ease of use for beginners is also a plus factor. You don’t have to take the Chroma out of the box, only to find that you have to fight with getting Wi-Fi to work. You just turn on your ST10,  turn on your Chroma, and it will ask for a password the first time around. You just type in 1234567890, your controller will bind with the drone, and you’re good to go.

Similar models

DJI Phantom 3Phantom 3

The Blade Chroma is designed to be a competitor for the DJI Phantom 3 which also comes in different versions; three versions for that matter: DJI Phantom 3 Standard, DJI Phantom 3 Advanced and DJI Phantom  3 PRO.

You can pick up the DJI Phantom P3 STANDARD Quadcopter with 2.7K HD Video Camera for €399 on Amazon. It includes everything needed for beginners who require a ready-to-fly platform with intelligent flight modes.

It’s a very capable aerial photography drone, with a transmission distance of over half a mile, and the possibility for video downlink directly to your mobile phone, using the DJI Go app.

You can attach as many different devices to the camera as you like, there are no restrictions. The DJI Go app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store. In addition to the ST10, the phone or tablet will give you added options to set up the camera.

Although the frame of the drone is very stable in the air, when sitting in one spot, there is a lot of noticeable camera vibration. That being said, it is more nimble than its rival, making flying the Blade Chroma feel like driving a bus.

The Phantom 3 also has a POI mode (point of interest), in which you set a location and a radius, and the Phantom will continually orbit that location, giving the opportunity to do some really cool things with this feature.

There is also the possibility of picking up the Phantom 3 Professional at €799 on Amazon, if you desire 4K capable camera, outstanding transmission range of 3.5 km and with DJI Lightbridge Wi-Fi for faster video downlink.

Yuneec Typhoon Q500Typhoon Q500

Another model that the Blade Chroma comes into direct competition with is the Yuneec Typhoon Q500. It has many of the same features as the Chroma, plus the ST10+ transmitter, as well as the fact that the body of the aircraft itself comes in a refreshing gunmetal gray color.

The price is, again cheaper; you can find a ready-to-fly version for around $800 on Amazon. It also comes with an extra battery, which is a big plus, not having to wait for a full recharge after one flight.

The same CGO3 camera with 3-axis Gimbal provides 4K ultra high resolution video at 30fps, or 1080p/120fps slow motion convertible video, and is slightly behind the camera on the Phantom 3, but not by much. You can also take 12 Megapixel photos with a no-distortion lens.

The props are also self tightening, just as is the case with the Blade Chroma, and the legs of the aircraft provide clearing space for the underneath mounted camera.

The electronically limited speed of the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 is set to 15mph, although with GPS turned off,  it’s a different story; you can find youtube videos where the aircraft whizzes over the landscape at a whapping 35mph.

Again, because the manufacturer is Yuneec, excellent customer service can be expected. All of it can be packed nicely in an aluminum case which also comes with the package.

Parrot Bebop 2Parrot Bebop 2

The Parrot Bebop 2 drone, has a few issues, making it not quite the ideal drone in the competitive landscape, where people buy all these camera equipped quadcopters.

This new version is a lot better than the original: it has overall better building materials, it was put together in a better fashion and it has much improved battery life.

What makes it competitive is the new price of around $600 you can find on Amazon, keeping in mind that the Parrot Bebop 2 has a rather toy like appearance, if you consider the menacing exterior of the Yuneec Typhoon Q500.

The design of the Bebop 2 is similar to the first, occupying a slightly larger surface, with arms which are now angled outwards for a more stable landing.

In terms of build materials, most of the body is comprised of fiberglass, which makes the Bebop 2 very durable and capable of taking a beating, as long as you avoid crashing nose first, which is where the camera resides, making the area a major weakness.

One other thing which was improved over the original is the battery design, requiring no more Velcro straps to keep it in place; also the capacity has been turned up from 1200 mAh of the previous desing, to 2700 mAh currently. Battery life now allows for over 20 minutes of flight time with no aggressive flying, and it drops no lower than 10 minutes for a more adventurous flying style.

Where this aircraft could really be a letdown is the camera specs department; with a 14 Megapixel camera able of 1080p at 30 fps video streaming. If video quality is a big issue, it will leave you wondering about 4K.

Overview

Let’s see Pros and Cons of Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma.

PROS:

  • CGO3 camera for 4K videos at 30fps or slow motion capable 1080p videos at 120fps
  • “Smart” flight mode for beginners
  • Uses ST10+ transmitter with built in Android operated display

CONS:

  • The Wi-Fi connection is not Lightbridge
  • Lacks some useful functions such as POI (point of interest) and Waypoint flight, found on the Phantom 3

If you want a fast, maneuverable RC drone for pilots, the DJI Phantom 3 fits the description.

If you just want to shoot video, or if it’s your first drone and you don’t see yourself moving on to next generation drones, the Blade Chroma is an excellent choice.

About the author
Jack Brown
Jack Brown

Jack is the Chief Pilot at MyDroneLab.com bringing experience, expertise and knowledge in this quite new industry. He is a graduate of the Drone/UAV Pilot Training Certificate program and member of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Besides having all the necessary technical knowledge when it comes to drones, Jack and his team love to spend the time outside by the ocean, working on new features and teaching others how to pilot these amazing and exciting new robots.

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