HobbyKing™ Bix3 Trainer/FPV EPO 1550mm (PNF) Review

Review by Adrian Apodaca, RealRCReviews Owner

Equipment Used:

- Stock Bix3

- 3s2200mah Glacier Batts

- Fatshark 200mw VTX

- Fatshark 600 Camera

Pros:

- Good size

- Comes w/ FPV and LOS canopies

- Relatively Inexpensive

- Landing gear is optional

- Good design

- Nice and Floaty

- Easy to land

- Newbie friendly

Cons:

- Motor SUCKS

- Motor shaft is way too long

- Propeller is grossly out of balance

- Motor makes loud grinding sound

- Underpowered

- Flaps don’t come with servos

- Flaky paint

- Feels a little cheap

Intro:

I know the Bix3 and Bixler 1 and 2 have been reviewed a million times over, but I don’t think I have ever seen a review from a site or channel that I trust 100%.  2016 has been a year that I started doing a lot more FPV flying, so I decided I needed a decent size plane with good flight times and stability to get some longer distance and higher flights.  Oddly, I found that my normal sources for planes, Horizon Hobby and Tower Hobbies didn’t have their own FPV specific planes that fit the bill.  Of course you can put FPV gear on almost any plane, but I had something specific in mind. I knew I didn’t want to hand-launch and I also wanted something with slow flight ability. Since FPV is not my main hobby, I also didn’t want to have to buy new batteries just for this plane.  When it came down to it, it was either the Bix3 or the Volantex Ranger. I flipped a coin on it and I ended up ordering the Bix3.

 

Unboxing and build:

Up until now, I have only ever ordered batteries and a couple clone receivers from HobbyKing. In my circles at least, HobbyKing does not have the best reputation when it comes to planes. That and I have always felt they did a lot of copying and very little innovating... but I digress. I ordered from one of their US warehouses and the plane got to me in about a week. It arrived well packed and double boxed. I was excited to install my gear so I started the build right away.

 

The Bix3 came well packed and secured in the box. Small parts and other stuff in nicely sealed bags and a small manual.  I hadn’t planned on using flaps with my plane, but they don’t really give you an option to not install them. The flaps are already cut free and there is no way to secure them. I happened to have a couple 9g servos that fit the bill, so I used those. Oddly, you have to install the flap hinges yourself. During this process I noticed how much paint was flaking off the wings as I handled them. Assembly of the Bix3 is pretty easy even if it’s your first plane.  After installing my receiver, the last thing to do was program the plane and install the propeller. I got the prop, adapter, and collet out and started to install them when I noticed just how long the prop shaft was.  I went on a few forums and pretty much everyone told me that was normal.  The collet itself  is really low quality, it feels like it was molded from a few fishing weights. I doubt it is anywhere near balanced. Which brings me to the prop… WOW… I think a spoon from my kitchen would have balanced better on my balancer. In my almost 6 years of RC, I have never run across a propeller that was this sickly out of balance.  I spent quite a time balancing it, installed my FPV gear and got it ready for it’s first flight.

 

Flight (Line of sight):

I took my Bix3 to the field on a pretty nice day, moderate wind and just a few other pilots there. I know a lot of FPV pilots prefer to remove the landing gear, but I love landing gear... I went on ahead and put the wheel pants on also.  As I taxied out, I noticed the horrific grinding sound the motor makes. Ugh. I just told myself, the plane is cheap, don't worry about it. On take-off, I noticed a little torque pull to the side, but being having plenty of tail dragger experience, a little rudder correction kept me straight and after 10 so feet I was airborne. I hit full throttle to gain some altitude and wow, the motor sound got even louder.  I know this plane isn't a speed demon, so I eased up on the throttle and pretty much flew around like a glider. With stock settings, the Bix3 will roll.... sloooowwlly. Loops are pretty painless, and inverted flight is pretty decent once you get it to roll lol.  For my next outing, I do want to make some adjustments to get a little more aileron throw, the stock amount is good for training purposes, but I want to open it up a tiny bit more. As cheap as the plane looks, feels and sounds, it does fly nice and smooth. I programmed spoilerons with my flaps and wow, this thing couldn't be easier to land. For one of my first flights, check out first video below.


Flight (FPV):

For my first FPV flight, I decided to go the less common route of taxiing and taking off with my goggles already on. It had worked well with my Nano Sky Hunter, so why not try with the Bix3, at least it's a cheap plane so no big loss if I cream it!  Well, taxiing was a bit bouncy looking, but not as crazy looking as the jello-effect that kicked in when I hit full throttle to climb out! Holy cow! Remembering my line of sight flights, I eased up on the throttle once I got to a decent altitude. You'll see the transition on the second video below. What I do know is that the prop is balanced perfectly. I spent quite a lot of time getting to balance at all angles on my Dubro balancer. I am assuming that the remaining, Jello-effect causing vibrations are from the low quality collet and the excessive length of the motor shaft. I think if those issues were taken care of, the Jello would go away at those higher speeds. Complaints aside, flying the Bix3 FPV was rather enjoyable. Stability is not an issue, you can fly on pretty low power, and turns are a cinch. As I had taken off goggles on, I wanted to see what landing goggles on was all about. I must say, it's almost as easy to land FPV as it is LOS. Kinda crazy, but it felt pretty good.

 

Conclusion:

I have mixed feelings here...the plane is a good design, but the execution is pretty poor. I would pay at least $50 - $75 more if they used better electronics on this thing. I think if I had it to do again, I would order the kit, and source my own motor. A guy I met at my field said he had heard all the negativity about the stock PNF version and for that reason went the kit route. He said his was really a much better plane the way he built it. That's another sucky part about the PNF, unlike most other planes, you cannot access the motor area without some serious surgery... so you're pretty much stuck with the crappy motor.  If you are used to the quality you get from companies like Horizon Hobby, Multiplex and others, you are not going to like the Bix3 PNF. If you must have one, do yourself a favor and get the kit and add you're own electronics. You can still go budget on the servos and esc, but spend a little more on a decent motor. I'll probably keep mine until I find a better plane to stick my FPV equipment into, though I am considering selling it and going the kit route. I know there are folks that have had good luck with HobbyKing planes, but this first attempt for me has left me less than impressed. I also feel that the other reviewers that have hyped it so much are being a bit dishonest with you. Then again, they probably got theirs for free :) then again, I'm honest as heck even on the rare occasion that I do get a plane supplied to me for testing. Must be why it doesn't happen often lol.  If you have had good experiences with another HobbyKing plane, let me know, I'm willing to try again!

 

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