Review: TRNDlabs FADER drone
Overall, TRNDlabs’ FADER drone is a terrific little drone that has one glaring weakness.
Aww yeah, I finally got another drone in to play with – which is always a good time because I’m an absolutely terrible pilot. Typically when I fly, I wind up running the thing way too far up in the sky and praying it won’t fall to its immediate demise, or I’m too nervous to make it move and accidentally run it into things. While TRNDlabs FADER drone isn’t the cheapest of the small plastic drones, it’s considerably easier to fly than the others I’ve tested in this price range. To say that I’ve not enjoyed abusing this thing would be a lie, the FADER is an absolute blast to play with.
The TRNDlabs FADER is yet another small, lightweight, plastic drone that’s meant to be a more economically affordable drone while still giving you a lot of performance for the money. Equipped with a 720P camera and its own smartphone app, the FADER allows you to take photos and record video in real time. I liked being able to watch the camera in real time, but I found recording to be a little bit more challenging than it should have been.
The right bumper on the controller takes photos (and videos too, I think) but the app has icons on the touch screen which seem to be a much faster way to choose between whether or not you want to simply snap a photo or record video. I crashed the drone quite a few times trying to get my iPhone X’s touch screen to activate the options, and I’m not sure if it was operator error or if the app wasn’t as responsive as it could have been. Perhaps it was the way the phone holder mounts your phone on the controller that was acting as a dummy touch, or maybe it was just me hectically trying to push buttons while keeping the drone in the air, but I sucked at capturing media.
I decided to take FADER’s learning approach seriously by following the instructional videos and materials in the manual. Unfortunately, the videos basically just read the manual, so they’re mostly irrelevant – but I did pick up the auto-calibration setting which I missed when reading the manual. This made drone stability much more comfortable to balance for the initial flight, and I like the flight safeguard by not only having to rotate the stick up then down to prepare for flight but then having to press the auto land button to engage the rotors which would then allow the drone to take off.
It took me a few flights to fully understand how the auto-takeoff function worked, but once I realized that slightly pressing up on the throttle would jump the drone about three feet into the air before gliding back down to a much lower altitude, I had a considerably easier time learning the basics of flight. Rather quickly, I was able to turn FADER’s sensitivity up to the highest setting, and for the first time in reviewing a drone, I was able to perform the automated flip functions reliably. FADER allows you to press down on the right stick, and then the drone will barrel roll to the left or right, or front/backflip with the flick of the direction. This is a ton of fun and made for some impressive flying considering my skill level to anyone who happened to walk by while I was derping around outside with it.
While I did learn how to be a much better drone pilot due to FADER’s instructional materials and overall ease of use, I think some of my earlier struggles in capturing media had to do with being conscientiously aware of the FADER’s incredibly short battery life. Clocking in around seven minutes of flight time, FADER’s fun is unfortunately over by the time it gets started. I’m sure this is because the drone is continually streaming a WiFi signal and video, even if you aren’t connected or actively using the companion app.
Seven minutes of flight isn’t terrible, but it takes around 45 minutes to charge the battery. Quite honestly, seven minutes is barely worth walking outside for. You can purchase additional batteries for the FADER directly from TRNDlabs, but even with their three-pack of additional FADER batteries being on sale for $29, you’re immediately up to $129 for the cost of this drone which starts to bring it out of the impulse purchase zone and more into “do I wanna pay $100+ for a toy I might fuck up in 10 minutes”.
Even if you buy three more batteries, you’ll be getting around 28 minutes of flight time while looking at 180 minutes of charge time. I wouldn’t exactly call that the best time investment trade, but the drone is really fun to fly in spite of being crippled by the battery. Perhaps in the future models, the capture button on the controller could be used to enable/disable the streaming video/WiFi feed which could extend the battery life – likely doubling it for people who just wanna have fun flying their drone and don’t wanna invoke their inner Casey Neistat.
That being said, remember a few sentences ago when I said people might be afraid they’ll tear this little thing up? I have to admit: The FADER is remarkably durable considering it’s lightweight plastic. While I learned that because there’s not much weight to the drone and it struggles to maintain any sort of control in a decent strength breeze, it can also withstand smashing into a tree and being submerged in a creek for over 10 minutes while we looked for it. I figured for sure that I’d murdered it, and it acted a little odd when I tried restarting it after being submerged, but letting it sit overnight, it worked flawlessly without any electronic drying gimmicks. There’s a slight film on the inside of the plastic where the camera is, but that’s a small price to pay (and I could probably disassemble and clean it if I wanted to) if it still works after something that would have killed drones that cost twice as much.
Overall, TRNDlabs’ FADER drone is a terrific little drone that has one glaring weakness. It’s a ton of fun to play with, and it’s got a lot of options which make it an attractive drone for beginner and intermediate pilots. Durability and control are the strong points, but the battery is the Achilles heel. It likely should have come with an extra battery or two (or three) due to the short flight time. If it had come with a battery charging station that could accommodate four batteries (I use that because they sell the three pack of batteries) so that it would take 45 minutes to recharge for 28 minutes of flight time at around $150, the weak ass battery would have been much easier to forgive but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
The TRNDlabs FADER drone is available for an MSRP of $99, and was provided to KnowTechie for review by TRNDlabs.