Sleek, easy to fly and eminently affordable, the Syma S-107G has been a mainstay of the RC helicopter hobby for years. With a durable metal frame and free-swinging rotor blades, it’s rugged enough to handle falls from several stories up, though its stacked rotor construction keeps the flier highly stable in flight. It doesn’t have the best transmitter and should only be flown inside, but for under $20, the Syma S-107G is a steal and ranks among the best – and cheapest – Christmas gifts for 2015.
Generally speaking, helicopters aren’t the easiest RC devices to control. Come Christmas morning, you want your gifts to be easy to understand lest they be tossed aside for other toys. Syma’s helicopter strikes a delicate balance: It’s both delightful to play with and simple to pick up and use. It’s not for young children, but any youth over the age of 9 or 10 – or adults that can still tap into their inner 10 year olds – will enjoy its simple flight dynamics. That ease of flight is primarily due to the Syma’s co-axial rotor system, which stacks two rotors one atop the other and spins them in separate directions. Co-axial rotors are super-stable, especially in the hands of beginner pilots who might be prone to overcompensating.
Granted, if the person holding the Syma’s transmitter is a first-time pilot, crashes are guaranteed. The S-107G helps mitigate damage in two ways: metal construction and swing-wing rotors. Most helicopters this size are built entirely from plastic that tends to crack or snap if it hits the ground too hard. While the S-107G’s hull is still made of a semi-flexible plastic, it’s screwed to an all-metal frame that took tons of punishment during our testing yet was never worse for the wear.
When damage did occur, it tended to center on the rotor blades, which are guaranteed to hit something hard whenever you crash. Fortunately, Syma’s mitigated damage here, too, by making each blade pivot freely from the center pylon. When the helicopter is in flight, the blades are kept straight by the centrifugal force from the pylon’s rapid spin. Since they’re not locked in place, though, they can freely bounce back if they hit a wall, which greatly reduces potential damage and keeps the rotors from shattering. The end result: It’s surprisingly difficult to damage the Syma to the point that it’s unflyable, and if you do, you’ll probably only need to replace the cheap rotor blades.
There are of course a few downsides to the Syma, but that’s to be expected from a device you can buy for just $20. First, the transmitter uses infrared technology rather than 2.4GHz radio, which means it only operates in line-of-sight and can’t be flown outdoors – the sun plays havoc with infrared signals. Even inside, the slight breeze from an air vent can be enough to blow the Syma off-course, so you want to make sure there aren’t any fans blowing. Of course, once you get good enough you can hover the Syma directly overhead and enjoy the lovely breeze of the copter’s downdraft.
The Syma S-107G is an RC helicopter for RC newbies. You can crash it without worrying too much about it breaking and steer it without needing to be an expert at the controls. It might not be the world’s most capable miniature flier, but it’s tough to beat for the price and is unquestionably among our favorite Christmas gifts for the 2015 season.