Today we’re taking another drone for a spin. This time it’s the Holy Stone HS160. An extremely small drone, with blades that fold for extra portability. Being able to carry the drone around easily isn’t the only purpose of the portable design that HS160 sports. A small form factor means that it’s much easier to control the drone. Beginners can even fly them inside the house until they get their feet wet. Going outside right away is risky. A drone might end up lost, damaged, etc.
Another group of people who are the perfect target audience for Holy Stone HS160 are selfie lovers. Many similar drones are actually advertised as selfie drones flat out. True the camera might not be the best, but it’s something at least. Let’s dig in.
Holy Stone HS160 Review
Holy Stone HS160: design
Like it is the case with most of my reviews why don’t we start by talking a little bit about the drone design. Drone body itself, when the blades are folded in, measures just 2.6 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches. After I got the blades out the drone got bigger, wider and longer to be precise, 7 x 7 x 1.2 inches. The rectangular design has a nice black finish and it makes the drone look like an armored car.
Folding the drone hides its carrying arms directly under the side ridge. Propellers tuck away completely, so everything is nicely flush with the drone body, nothing sticks out. I haven’t heard any kind of plasticky squeaking while handling the drone, and nothing was loose. Build quality is decent enough. Holy Stone is China-based, but from what I hear, they offer good after-sale support.
Dimensions folded: 2.6 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
Dimensions unfolded: 7 x 7 x 1.2 inches
Weight: 2.925 ounces
Battery type/size: 3.7V 500MAH Lipo battery
Battery replaceable: Yes, 1 additional included
Charge time: 100 minutes
Fight time: 7-9 minutes
Camera: 720p, 0.3MP sensor
Camera adjustable: no, forward-facing only
Controller: Xbox like controller
Controller battery: 4 x 1.5V AA battery
Wifi technology: 2.4 GHz, 100ft
Special features: FPV, app control, altitude hold
What makes HS160 interesting?
Small size – small and compact design with foldable blades, easy to carry, store
Controller – two-handed controller that resembles an awful lot to the Xbox controller
Additional batteries – two replaceable batteries offer up to 20 minutes of flight
HD camera – 720p camera offers good quality video and photos, no wobble, bit grainy
FPV mode – video from the drone camera can be streamed to a smartphone, FPV mode is available
FPV control – next to view a video stream, it’s also possible to control the drone using the app
Altitude hold – barometric sensors will hold the drone at a set height without it falling
Adjustable speed – there are a total of 4-speed settings. Use left trigger to adjust the speed
Additional – gyro stabilization, flips and 3D rolls, and a protective bag
What could have been done better?
Limited range – the range is severely limited on this drone. FPV is lost after only 150ft
Too few pixels – camera pixel count could have been a bit higher
No headless mode – drone doesn’t have headless mode, and also no on-key return home
Holy Stone HS160: Camera
Holy Stone HS160 has a 720p camera which provides good looking video and photos. With that said, I have to say that the camera could have used a higher pixel count. At times a video can be grainy, and not very sharp. I wasn’t able to tilt the camera down, seeing how it is embedded and facing forward at all times. This might prove to be a limiting factor should you need to record video directly under the drone. Eachine 56, for example, has a camera that can be tilted down completely.
Holy Stone HS160 camera
FPV test flight and video sample
Here’s a short video sample of a flight using the HS160. As I mentioned earlier, camera could be better. From a marketing point of view, camera sounds amazing, 720p HD resolution, wow. In reality, the camera sensor is doesn’t have a high pixel count. I didn’t manage to find the info in a spec sheet anywhere, but it’s probably 0.3MP. That is quite low and it results in grainy video like this.
Another thing that’s annoyingly obvious is how the video feed has the tendency to cutout, drop off for a split second and then resume. This can be attributed to the short-range that the wifi used for FPV has. 100ft can be maxed pretty quickly and that’s when I started encountering problems like the ones you see on the video above. Still, photography isn’t that bad, but Holy Stone needs to get its act together and fix video quality in future models of drones.
Holy Stone HS160: Controller
I have no complaints about the controller. As I already mentioned, it is very similar to the Xbox controller. The only difference is that the joysticks are at the top and directional pads at the bottom. At the front, there’s one trigger button on each side. A smartphone clip is built-in atop of the controller, for holding the smartphone during FPV mode. The controller feels comfortable in hands and it doesn’t seem to of poor quality, despite feeling very light.
Buttons are not mushy, they have very pronounced clicks and are properly arranged. In the middle of the controller, you’ll find 2 status LEDs. One of them lit up after I turned on the controller and another after connection with the drone was established. All in all, the controller is slightly different from the kind of controllers you normally see on drones, but it works great, so no complaints from me.
Holy Stone HS160 review
Holy Stone HS160: Battery
Battery is where things get interesting with Holy Stone HS160. I was surprised to see two batteries roll out of the box during the unboxing. To top it all off, the batteries that did roll out are easily replaceable using the “unlock the security lock” and the battery is out the type of setup. Laptop batteries, at least on older laptops, had a similar system of switching out the batteries. HS160 batteries measure 500mAh 3.7V each. In actual use, I got between 7-9 minutes of flight time on a single battery, so a total of 20 minutes with both batteries charged.
Let’s talk a little bit about the additional bells and whistles that can be found in most drones. For starters there’s the altitude hold, which works quite well. You won’t have to worry about the drone dropping down if you release the controls. HS160 holds altitude very well, unlike Eachine E56, where I had problems with the drone force landing every time a sudden movement was made.
Adjustable speed will especially come in handy for novice drone pilots. I still remember my first time flying drones and how I was having problems with the drone simply being too fast. Every time I hit a control key the drone would fly away very fast. Drone was too fast for my beginner reflexes. Luckily, HS160 has 4-speed settings. Start slow and work your way from there as you get more comfortable with the controls.
One key start and lift off gets the drone motors spinning and puts the drone in the air, ready for flight. From that point on just use the left stick throttle to increase the altitude or to decrease it of course.
Holy Stone HS160: Flying experience
The drone is pretty easy to fly. One key start and lift-off takes care of turning on the motors and getting the drone in the air. It’s the left key on the left D-pad. I then used the left joystick to change yaw and to push the throttle, to see how high the drone can go. Controller or should I say transmitter has a decent enough range of about 230ft. Buttons are very responsive and everything just works.
Users need to enable FPV mode if they want to record video or take photos. Drone doesn’t have an SD card slot for saving images/video only using the drone. I had to use my phone to store them, but that’s normal practice on most of these cheap drones. Controller has dedicated buttons for taking still photos and for starting a video recording session, which is nice. I didn’t have to press a virtual button on the touchscreen of my phone to do those things.
Trim is adjustable using the right D-pad. Left trigger controls the drone speed (4-speed setting). Right joystick covers the usual roll and pitch. Start at the slowest speed setting if you never flown a drone before, because everything is quite fast at the highest speed setting.
Holy Stone HS160 Review
What is there to say about Holy Stone HS160. It’s a very small and portable drone, that is easy to store and carry around. It’s the perfect drone for beginners and selfie lover who are not very demanding when it comes to camera quality.
It has good, sturdy, build quality, a decent set of features who all work flawlessly, at least they did work for me. In short, everything works as advertised.
With that being said, there are those couple of issues that might be a deal breaker for some of you. Short range of only about 150ft for the FPV mode is very limiting. No headless mode is a bit disappointing. However, when you consider the price tag is only around $90, then it’s easier to overlook those few drawbacks. My opinion is that this is a great drone for a beginner.