Fimi X8 Mini drone review
The Fimi X8 Mini is an entry-level drone with some serious capabilities. While it’s relatively affordable, beautifully compact and lightweight enough to be classed alongside toy quadcopters, it’s no child’s plaything: the camera supports 4K video and the battery supports 30 minutes of flight – over a range of up to 8km, no less.
With a simple but effective companion app and well-designed remote controller, Fimi has created a strong all-round package here. This drone can be flown in blustery conditions, grabbing strikingly sharp and stable footage as it does so, and its folding design means it can be tossed in a small backpack or handbag every time you head out for the day – just in case you happen across something that deserves to be photographed or videoed from the air. It can also be charged from any USB port, thanks to its battery’s USB Type-C port.
Design and controllerOne of the main selling points of the Fimi X8 Mini is its sub-250g weight. According to our digital scales, it’s 244g with a memory card inside – which means that in some regions (like the US) it won't need registering.
The controller is a lot more solidly constructed than the drone, feels fine in your hands, and boasts some clever (if not entirely original) design touches: the thumb sticks can be removed and stored in little recesses on the bottom edge, while the entire thing can be stretched out to accommodate pretty much any size of smartphone (and even some smaller tablets). It comes with adapters for Lightning, USB-C and micro USB devices, and just like the drone is charged via USB-C. With the thumb sticks and any devices removed, it measures 165 x 89 x 47mm and weighs 260g: nicely portable, we think.
The controller has a simple control layout. Under the left stick is the power button and a four-LED battery indicator, while under the right stick you’ll find a return-to-home button: tap this if you lose sight of the drone or it becomes disconnected from your phone and it’ll fly back to its take-off point. On top, your forefingers have easy access to a wheel that adjusts the camera tilt, a shutter button and a button that toggles between still image and video capture.
Features and flight
Fimi claims the X8 Mini has a theoretical transmission range of up to 8km from the controller. That’s a little less than the 10km offered by the DJI Mini 2, but it’s all academic really: many countries' regulations state that a drone has to remain visible to the pilot while they’re flying it, so anything beyond a few hundred meters is breaking the law.All we can say is that during our review process the controller, our iPhone and the X8 Mini maintained a solid connection roughly 99 percent of the time. It has real-time GPS tracking to ensure it can return to home in the event of a signal drop, and the app uses no-fly zone geofencing to prevent take-off close to airports and other restricted areas.
The X8 Mini has downward-facing sensors, which aid take-off and landing, but launch it straight into a wall or tree and it won’t do be able to stop itself.
It does offer the same level of wind resistance as the Mini 2, though: level 5, which means it can withstand a “fresh breeze” of 8.5-10.5m/s. In practice, we found it pretty stable, even on a blustery day on a coastal clifftop where the wind speed definitely exceeded that.
It did tilt too much for the camera’s gimbal to fully compensate, but in terms of actual flight stability we had no real problems getting it where we wanted it to go. It’s a nippy, responsive flyer that controls nicely and can move at a fair clip when pushed: up to about 16m/s in fact (or faster with the wind behind it).
With up to 30 minutes of flight time on a full charge (this will vary depending on wind speed and other factors), we have no complaints about battery life either. You’ll get a warning through the app when power is ebbing, and the aforementioned return-to-home button can be tapped to take the leg (or thumb-) work out of the retrieval process.
The Fimi Navi Mini app is an essential part of the flight process, and we’re happy to report that, while it’s a little rough around the edges in comparison to DJI’s imperious Fly app, it does everything it needs to in a reasonably tidy fashion. The UI is clean and simple, doesn’t feel loaded with extraneous options and confusing menus, and the app never crashed on us in the middle of a flight.
It even offers a 5.8GHz Wi-Fi flight mode that lets you ditch the hardware controller and create a direct connection between your phone and the X8 Mini, flying it using touchscreen controls. While this is a much less comfortable way to control things (and cuts the range to just 100m), it’s handy to have as a backup option.
The app includes a handful of automatic flight modes, which let you set a tracking point by dragging a box around an on-screen object (you, for example) and then have the drone fly an automated route while keeping said object in the centre of its frame. We’ve included the spiral mode in our sample video below (note that we’ve sped it up in post-production). What the drone won’t do is, say, follow behind you while you ride a bike or jetski by tracking the controller location.
Video and image qualityThe Fimi X8 Mini is no slouch in the imaging department. Its 12MP Sony CMOS sensor and 3-axis mechanical gimbal form a solid foundation for aerial video and photography, enabling the capture of 4K footage at 24/25/30fps, 2.7K at 24/25/30/50/60fps, 1080p at 24/25/30/50/60/90fps and 720p at 100/120fps.
In addition to standard AVC/H.264 encoding, HEVC/H.265 encoding is supported (great for owners with beefy computers), and the option to shoot with a flat F-log profile gives color graders plenty to work with in post-production.