HoverAir X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, or Trash?

There are countless influencer and sponsored reviews of the HoverAir X1 drone. This is not one of them. I'm going to tell you what's awesome about this drone, and what sucks about this drone and everything in between. I bought it with my own money about 4 months ago, and since then, I've put about 130 flights on this drone. As always, this review is not sponsored by anyone. Just as a prelude to that, here's 27 seconds of a compilation of what's upcoming in this review.

Now, reviewing drones in sports tech is my job, and I'm going to dive into who this drone is for, who it's not for, and whether or not it's worth it. If you're into drones or sports, the answers here might surprise you. So let's get some of the basics out of the way.

Pricing and Specs of the HoverAir X1

The HoverAir X1 is priced at generally about $350 for the base unit and about $400 for the combo pack with an extra battery and this charging kit right there. I say “generally” because this drone is perpetually on sale. You'll almost always find like an $80-$200 coupon code thingamajig on Amazon that you can tap to get money off.

In my case, I paid about $360 for it, including the combo pack which, as I said, has the extra battery that you see right here as well as this faster charger.

Hover X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash?

Starting off with the weight on the drone, it's specced at 125g according to HoverAir, but I find it like 128-129g or so, a little bit heavier than that. But keep in mind, that's half the weight of something like the or Mini 4, which is 249g or basically 250g.

Design and Durability

When it's not used, it's folded up like a book like you see right here, and then when you want to use it, you just simply unfold it like this. It literally fits in my running shorts pockets. Just to be clear on this, my iPhone right here weighs 240g, a GoPro weighs about 160-ish grams. So this is literally like the lightest thing I can put in my pocket, aside from some snacks, which obviously you have to have in there as well.

Hover X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash?

It's got four props that you see right there that are surrounded by this lightweight plastic cage. Now, you might think at first glance this plastic cage is cheap, but that's actually its kind of secret weapon of sorts. If you look really closely, what you'll notice here on this cage is that it's designed to have all these areas that flex. So you see, like this flexes down, it flexes – everything moves and is flexible.

In fact, if you look even closer, there are these little pins that pop up right there. These actually will separate. Like you just saw, I just separated this out. Let me show you this, a little tough there, that's separated out there. So in the event you crash into something very, very hard, instead of snapping or breaking, it simply unclicks, and then you just simply click it back in again. It takes like 5 seconds.

Hover X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash?

Controls and Modes

On the top of the drone, you've got two different buttons. The big one here powers on like this. You can see the little lights in the back turn on there. And the little one here changes the mode. You also see a status light on the front right there. See, it says the mode, and then as it turns on, it tells you the current mode. I can change the mode by using the other button right here to iterate through the different modes. So if I zoom out, follow, orbit – there's six different modes on here that you can iterate through, though the last one is a custom mode that you can kind of change what that particular mode is.

For all these modes, you can tweak them using the companion app. The companion app allows you to check settings and change settings, as well as download footage. I'll talk more about all the features later on, but one of the most important things is to look at the flight modes that you see right there. These are all the flight modes that are included on there: Hover, Zoom Out, Follow, Orbit, Bird's Eye, Manual Control, Snapshot, Dolly Track, Sidetrack, and Smart Control.

And one of the fun things you can do here, if you're watching other review videos, is to see how many flights they've actually taken with this thing. It'll list each flight for each category listed there. So you can see I've done 47 flights in the Follow Me mode itself, I've done Zoom Out flights, I've done Dolly Track 20 flights, and so on. So just keep that in mind when looking at other reviews to figure out whether or not someone's actually used the darn thing.

Hover X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash?

Settings and Pre-Flight

Now, tapping into a given mode, it'll tell you a little bit about that mode, basically what it's going to do. It also has a little video so you can see and kind of understand that particular mode. You can play that video and it just sort of shows you what's going to go on. However, if you go back to the Hover button there, choose Hover Settings, you can change the settings for each mode.

So if I do the Follow one right there, you can see that the Follow Type, the duration – so it'll go for a set time period like 30 seconds or 60 seconds, or just go on forever, which is what I have there for “Continue.” You can change the distance – how far from you will it be? Will it be close, standard, or far? And you can change the altitude. Do you want it to be low, lowest, flat shot, or high? I found in general, the flat shot or high is going to get the best tracking results. You can do low and lowest, but then it gets into ground issues where it'll get too close to the ground, it'll stop, and so it's better just to keep it like middle or high, unless you're really on perfectly flat like pavement ground where there's nothing else around you.

Now, you see at the bottom there's both a Vertical option as well as a Video Quality option. I'm going to get into all those things later on in the video and show you comparisons with these drones right here, so you can see how that all looks.

With all that said, let's head outside and take off. It's very, very simple. You're going to hold this thing in the palm of your hand like this after you've powered it on. You're going to choose the mode that you want, and then you just simply press that button right there, and it's going to go and take off about 2 to 3 seconds after it's in the air.

You'll see that LED on the front, it changed from green to red. That's the one that you see right here, going from green to red, which means it's now tracking you. Just for context on how fast you can get it into the air, here's a case where I'm running into the frame. The drone is folded in my pocket. I'm not using the phone or anything like that, and I'm going to show you uninterrupted. Hold this down for, I don't know, 2 or 3 seconds tops. Here we go. It's got the green light on already. Double-checking the gimbal right now. You might be able to hear it. Current mode: Follow. There we go. Tap it one more time. Repeats it: Follow again to me. Takes off. And I'm waiting for the light to turn red. The light's red. Off I go.

Tracking Modes

The big thing to understand about this drone, though, is it's all about tracking someone while you're doing something. Now, you can of course do shots where you're just standing still. This includes the Zoom Out, the Orbit, the Bird's Eye mode. You can see right here, Bird's Eye, where it goes straight up from there. And then another shot here in Orbit, where it goes around. There's also the new Smart Control mode. This mode lets you just stand there, or whatever you want to do, stand there, and basically use your arms to tell it to go right, or you can tell it to go left, and it orbits around you in that direction. Or you can like, literally push it away using your arms. It'll go further away from you. It is super cool. But if you start walking away, it doesn't follow you. So it's basically just a static shot there.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 1

Instead, there are basically three core following modes. There is the simple Follow mode, where it's following you from behind. There's what they call Dolly, which is following you from in front – or not following you, but basically being in front of you as you're going somewhere. And then there's Sidetrack, which is tracking you from the side.

Most of the time, you're probably going to use the Follow mode, where it's following you from behind. In fact, here you can see my wife doing a run. It's just simply following along behind her. It's really easy for her to use as well. There's nothing complex about it. It doesn't even need any of the phone app stuff at all.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 2

At the same time you're watching that, I'm going to start a clip at the bottom. I took on Monday a trail run I did through the woods, and I'm going to let that clip play uninterrupted while I'm talking about all sorts of other stuff to keep you totally distracted here, just to show you how insane this thing is. That clip keeps on going till the very end, where I stopped the flight because it was getting low on battery once it cleared all the trees. Just keep watching there.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 3

And the important thing to know here is there's no obstacle avoidance on this drone. It doesn't avoid anything. It's just simply following you like a lemming off to its death. Now, at first, I thought that would be pretty darn useless, coming from, you know, these other drones that have some sort of obstacle avoidance, whether it's good or not is besides the point. But they've got something there that will at least miss the big things, the big trees. But the HoverAir X1 does not have any of that. You look at the front there, there is nothing there that's going to obstacle avoid anything. It's got its camera, but that camera is totally focused on tracking you.

And while I was concerned about the lack of that, what I realized is it's turned out to be its strength in a way, because it's so lightweight and so crash-resistant, it doesn't care. It says like, “YOLO” to everything, crashes into everything, and you just simply pick it up, put it in your palm, tap the button, and off you go again. It is as simple as that.

Now, one kind of funny little quirk is that when this thing records a crash, it stops the video recording like right there, like at the moment it hits something, the impact. It doesn't actually record the crashing to the ground part. I would have personally liked to see that carnage. I mean, I think you would have wanted to see that carnage too. There's some epic falls to the ground from trees, relatively high up and hitting other things.

In any case, out of the 130 flights that I've taken, probably 30 to 40 of them have ended up in crashes. Now, obviously a portion of that is because I'm pushing the limits of this drone, which isn't to say that someone hasn't broken it. Obviously, you have. But I mean, after 130 flights and 30 to 40 crashes, it's still in one piece.

Lack of Spare Parts

I do wish there was better access to parts. If you go on Hover's site, there's like no ability for you to buy an extra cage or motors or props. Maybe if you contact support. But there's not any like easy button for doing that, whereas there is an easy button for showing how much you're appreciating this video, which is simply hitting the like button or subscribe. I've got a comparison video coming up between these two things, showing you kind of how they compare and where one does well and where one doesn't, and so on. So definitely hit subscribe for that. It really does help with the video and the channel quite a bit.

Now, I want to dive into the tracking modes a little bit more, since that's obviously what most people are buying this drone for.

Follow-Me Mode

As I mentioned, the very first one is that following behind mode, like you see right here. This is by far the most foolproof mode. It just works super darn well. And as long as you don't hit anything, it's surprisingly difficult to lose this drone, whether you're running or cycling or whatever the heck you're doing in between there. This drone will follow you very, very well, and it does it for a very long time until the battery runs out. Like you're probably still seeing along the bottom there of the video.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 4

Dolly Track Mode

The second mode they have for tracking is what they call Dolly Track, or basically tracking in front. This is the one where it stays in front, like you see right here. This works also very, very well, especially depending on which settings that you have. You want to do mid or at least further out. If you do it very, very close, it doesn't seem to work as well. It just gets lost, especially if you're moving fast. If you're hiking or walking, no big deal. But running quickly or cycling, it tends to struggle a little bit more if you've got it too close to you.

But what's cool, though, is if it struggles to follow you in this mode, it'll simply zip around and follow you from behind. It's actually the same behavior that most do as well. When it fails a front or sidetrack, it simply slides behind you, because that's the safest and the easiest way to track you.

Side-Tracking Mode

The third option is sidetracking, and this is actually a new one that was just added in a , I don't know, a few weeks ago or something like that. And this will follow you off from whichever side you place the drone on. This is pretty cool, and it tracks a little bit faster than the front one does, not as fast as the following from behind. And then just like with the in-front track, if it encounters any sort of issues or is just concerned about speed, it'll zip in behind you as well and just keep on following there. Eventually, it will actually get back out to the side if you were to stop entirely. So it does eventually get there if you need it.

And again, remember, in the app, you can go ahead and change the distance, how far away it is for each one of the different modes, as well as the altitude. Also, the app controls this custom option, this little star right there. If I go down to Custom, listen, Custom Sidetrack, it's showing the custom mode here, which is Sidetrack. These are the four custom modes that you can choose right now: Snapshot, Dolly Track, Smart Control, or Sidetrack.

I wish I could have more custom modes there, because I don't really use the Orbit and like the rocket thing going straight up all that often. But I do use the Dolly Track and the Sidetrack quite a bit. Still, I appreciate the fact that I don't have to have my phone at all for flying. It is again just purely this thing, it's just this by itself, which is kind of cool.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 5

Tracking Performance is Very Impressive

Speaking of which, from a tracking standpoint, in case it wasn't clear by now, it's astonishingly good. I mean, just check out the section right here where I'm running behind a tree every like one and a half to two seconds, and it keeps tracking perfectly fine. It's very, very impressive.

In fact, my six-year-old daughter has been playing with it a bit as well, and it's silly simple for her to use, obviously while I'm there. But she loves trying to hide from it, trying to like run away from the drone, and it's nearly impossible for her to escape it. It's crazy. She can operate it just fine without any like verbal guidance from me. I'm just watching how she knows the modes, how to take off. Like it's all really, really simple.

And since there's no exposed props, like she's not going to get hurt. Even in cases where it's run into her, it just bounces off of her. Like it's silly. Like she just giggles and thinks it's hilarious.

Likewise, my wife has also used it on runs, because it is so easy to use. Again, no phone involved, just take it with you, throw it in the air, and then it follows you. When you're done, you just simply stick your hand out, which is a good time to talk about landing.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 6

Landing and Footage Download

All you do is stop, you put out your hand, it sees that, and it lands on your hand. It's as simple as that. Now, after the flights, you can use the app to download the footage straight from the drone to the app. You can also just simply plug this into your computer and download the files directly if you want to. Either way, it's quick and efficient.

I like the fact that it shows me which ones I've downloaded and the exact moves that I've done for that particular one. Now, there are some challenges with this drone, and I'm going to walk through those first, then we're going to get into the video stuff.

Challenges and Limitations of HoverAir X1 Drone

By far, the biggest challenge you're probably going to have with this from a sports standpoint is the max speed. The max speed of this drone is 17.6 mph or 25 km an hour, which is a fair bit slower than these drones and most other drones out there, either the top speeds or tracking speeds.

So to start off, for tracking things like walking, hiking, and running, there's generally no problems at all. It handles those speeds just fine. Cycling, it's a little bit trickier. For flat mountain biking or uphill mountain biking, generally no problems with speed.

You're generally below that speed threshold. Even if I accelerate, as you see right here on this flat terrain, it starts to kind of lose me, but it doesn't lose me. It keeps me in range the entire time. And when I slow down, it will catch up.

Now, if I go beyond that point where it keeps on tracking, so maybe, I don't know, 50m out or 75 meters out, it'll simply just stop there. And eventually, you'll just land right there. Do keep that in mind. If it lands somewhere where someone else might come along and run it over, that's where we get to road cycling.

Road Cycling and Skiing Challenges

This is a little bit trickier. So if you're easy pedaling, it's not too much of an issue. You can see that right here. I'm just cruising along. It looks nice, it's clean, its stability is great. No problems at all. But as I accelerate, the thing eventually drops.

At that point, it's going to hang out there and eventually it would land on this road. There's no cars coming at this point in time, so I'm good. But if a car did come along right here, the drone would probably get squished.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 7

By the way, I've gone both downhill and uphill, and there's no issues with like descending or ascending in terms of the tracking, as long as it's somewhat gradual. And the reason is, this thing has a max ascent or descent limit of 1.5m a second.

And where that gets trickier is skiing. I've tried a few attempts skiing and eventually kind of gave up on it. I'm a relatively advanced skier, so I can ski pretty fast. And this thing would quickly lose me every single time. And even when I went relatively slow, like you see right here, it still lost me because I descended too fast for it.

And when you lose it on skiing, it's exponentially worse than for every other sport mode, because you have to hike your ass up the snow, in this case about 20cm of fresh snow, to go get said drone, which is now hovering up there or now landed somewhere else, assuming you even knew that it stopped behind you.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 8

Thus, if you're skiing, it's best to have a buddy follow the drone, not follow you, and so they can retrieve the drone when it decides to stop, which it will pretty quickly. If you watch all the reviews out there of people skiing, they're all going pitifully slow. And I don't mean that in a negative way. I'm just being like realistic here. Don't buy this for downhill skiing. Cross-country skiing, probably just fine.

Wind Resistance

The next bit is wind resistance, how well this thing handles in the wind. Officially, this drone has a wind resistance of 17.9m a second, which translates to 17.7 mph or 29 km/hour.

For better or worse, I live in the , which means that if you've seen all my other drone testing videos, you know I routinely test drones in wind conditions of like 70 km an hour. It's sort of a thing I do. It's what people come to the channel for sometimes.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash?

The Hover won't do that. You can't even like take off in that. Well, technically, it allows you to take off in those higher winds. I tried like a 50 km/hour day. It took off and immediately was like, “Nope,” straight back down again. Like it literally just landed immediately at that point. It said, “No.”

However, for winds up to the threshold, it's surprisingly okay. Here are some beach shots I did on a windy day, because it's the Netherlands and it's the beach. Like there's no day in the Netherlands where the beach is not windy. And so I'm riding along here and it's doing just fine tracking me in the winds.

Also, just look at this from like an epic shot standpoint. These are beautiful shots at sunset here. The lighting is really, really solid. So not only is kind of low light, sunset scenarios not a problem, but Dutch winds aren't a problem as long as they're not super strong.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 9

Lack of GPS and Over-Water Cautions

The other thing to note here is there is no GPS in this device. Now, a lot of people might say that's actually a huge advantage, and I would generally agree with that. It's merely using spatial awareness and object recognition to fly along.

The thing to understand, though, is there's no return to home. Return to home is what most drones do if it loses connection with you or tracking you. It'll eventually just go up and go back to wherever it took off and land. This won't do this. When this thing loses, it's like, “We're done right here, right now. We're landing.” It's as simple as that.

Thus, I will never fly this drone over water. And I am the king of stupid over-water drone flights. Like, there's no one out there that does as many stupid over-water drone flights as I do. This? No way, Jose.

In fact, just this past Monday, when I was riding along and it was tracking me from the front to the side to try to flip around to the back, it got itself over like just the edge of a canal. And it started landing. And I grabbed it at the last second, close to the edge of the canal. I'm not sure if it would have landed in the water or if it would have landed on the land and then tumbled down the hill into the water. But either way, just keep this thing away from water, because it's not going to end well. Again, the second it loses tracking for you from any reason, it will simply stop where it is and land.

Manual Control Mode

So then what about manual control? See, the thing is, this really isn't designed for that. But it does actually have a mode for manual control on the app. You can go ahead and connect to it via Wi-Fi, and you can use a screen on your phone to control the drone and see what you're doing.

It is painfully slow and cumbersome though. Like very, very slow. It's like slow-mo across the board. But it does let you get some of those establishing shots if you want to. You're limited to about 100-125ft away from you, so not that far, like 30 to 50 meters in a best case scenario. But it's enough to like get just above the trees, like you see here, and stuff like that. No problems with that basic stuff.

If, however, you want like sweeping panoramic scenery shots where you're moving long distances, this isn't the drone for you. Get this over here instead.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 10

Camera and Gimbal

As noted earlier, you get 2.7K at 30 frames per second, or you get 1080p at 60 frames per second. In all my filming, I just went with 2.7K. I just wanted the resolution over not having it. And if you go to vertical mode, then you're limited to 1080p as opposed to the 2.7K.

Now, in the front, there is a gimbal. You can see this right here. It's moving up and down to keep the image and the scene level. It's going to keep it silky smooth, even in windy conditions. This shot on the mountain bike – sorry, the road bike – was actually pretty windy at this point in time. And it looks beautiful from a stability standpoint, from a gimbal quality standpoint. Like, really no problems at all.

Keep in mind, this thing has hit trees dead on, 30 to 40 times. And it's been spot on there.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 11

Storage and Battery Life

Also built in is storage. There's 32 gigs of storage built into this, and it's non-expandable. That's probably one of my bummer things here. You can't put a larger SD card in there. For context, one minute of footage at 2.7K is roughly 700 megs, or basically 7/10 of a gig. So you get 45 minutes of footage on this drone at 2.7K.

That might not sound like a lot. But keep in mind that, unlike these larger drones that are going to fly for 30 to 45 minutes, most of your flights on this are going to be like 2 to 3 minutes. It has more battery, which I'll talk about in a second. But from a flight time standpoint, you're following you tracking for usually a short period of time, and then you go ahead and stop and do something else.

Now, the battery lasts about 10 to 12 minutes of real-world battery life. But the batteries are so ridiculously small and lightweight in this that it just doesn't matter to carry extras. I mean, look at that. That's 43g. So when I go off for a run, I'll take the drone in my pocket and throw this in the pocket as well. It's just easy to have there. And again, takes 2 seconds to swap out.

The charging time for these batteries are 35 minutes if in the hub, and then about 55 minutes if it's in the drone itself, which you can charge on the USB-C port right there on the side.

Drone Footage Comparisons

So let's talk about footage. This entire video, it's all unedited footage. I've not edited it, corrected it in any way, shape, or form. In fact, I'll stick a little Dropbox share down in the description there with some more original raw clips, if you want to download them.

For comparison, I've got a couple quick clips I want to show you between the HoverAir X1 and the DJI Mini 3 and 4, so you can just see these side by side. As mentioned though, I've got a full comparison video where I'll dive into many more aspects of comparative stuff.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 12

But in the meantime, three quick clips. First up, in the mountains, to show how well it handles bright snow conditions and sun and all that kind of stuff. I put these two drones side by side so you can see that, in basically the same framing, as close as I could possibly get it.

Next, I've got the shot right here. I wanted to show you, the sun is coming from the left behind this tree. So the side that you see is actually the shadowed side of the tree. And that's going to be darker. But I threw myself in there in a red shirt to show you how it lit me as well in this whole scenario. This is a somewhat complex scene to light – or to shoot properly, anyways, not to light, obviously. The sun is lighting it. So I wanted to include it.

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And then we've got the shot here, a static shot, where I'm running two in from it. I didn't want to have multiple drones chasing me at the same time, because frankly, that's just a mess. It always goes wrong. Drones cross into each other. It's just, it's really hard to get the same shot anyways.

Hoverair X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash? 14


Anyways, with all that said, let's just do a quick wrap-up. Overall, this thing is awesome. It's become my de facto drone when running, because again, it's half the size of these other things. It doesn't require a controller like these other things require. And it just fits in my pocket and goes running. It's easy enough for my six-year-old daughter to use, for my wife to use, without any technological barriers. Zero phone required, all that stuff is great.

And of course, it's durable. It's incredibly durable. As you've seen this video here, I haven't killed it yet, surprisingly, despite all these flights.

That said, Hover doesn't have any information at all on their site about how to get spare parts, like a spare cage or props or motors for this. I wish they'd do a better job of that, because right now it's pretty darn fuzzy, other than submitting a support ticket and hoping for yourself.

Ultimately, if you want to get shots of yourself, your friends, doing things, this is by far the easiest drone to use and the one you're least likely to break or get in trouble with. Inversely, if you want shots of epic scenery or cityscapes or stuff like that, or shots far away, this isn't the drone for you. Get this over here instead.

Hover Air X1 Definitive Review: Tool, Toy, Or Trash?

As someone who has literally almost every single consumer drone on the market, I thought this thing would be a toy when I first ordered it, that's not worth using. But the reality is, most of us are producing content for social media platforms, and the quality coming out of this is more than good enough for almost every one of those platforms in almost every situation.

So while it doesn't have the range or all the extra features of something like this, this is simply another tool in my toolbox of things I can use.

At 125g, it's light enough that when I go on trips, I can take it side by side with one of these other drones, use this for big, pretty establishing shots and all sorts of other fancy, complex shots, and then use the HoverAir X1 in tight spaces where I just want a very quick and easy to use drone to throw in the air, get the shot I want, and then be done with it.

With that, thanks for watching, and don't forget to hit the subscribe button there for plenty more sports technology goodness, including that comparison video that I talked about

Have a good one.

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Ray DC Rainmaker
Ray DC Rainmaker

I write about sports tech and endurance sports. I also put together some pretty detailed product reviews about drones and sports watches along the way...stop by the site to check it out.

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