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If this will be your first time ordering from Banggood, you should know a few things.

My favorite way to build this class is to target an all up weight of about 300-350 grams. This gives a disc loading similar to a very light 5” racing drone. So you get racing drone acceleration and handling with freestyle drone durability. If your goal is a more “flingable” freestyle build, shoot for about 400 grams. I’d avoid going over 400 grams in this size class.

All of the builds on this page should come out around 300-350g when paired with an 850 mAh 4S battery. To add weight, just use a slightly bigger battery.

A build in this class hasn’t got the power to carry a full size GoPro with authority. So I just don’t carry a GoPro! Since I don’t have to worry about breaking a GoPro, I can really cut loose and try tricks I might be too scared of with a five inch. The smaller size and weight of the 4” freestyle means it’s more durable than a 5”. But its 2004 motors give plenty of power, especially when paired with a slightly lighter battery.

The end result is a quad that has all the fun and performance of a five inch, with less of the worry about taking big risks and damaging things. The only tradeoff is that you have to settle for DVR recording instead of GoPro, and a lot of the time, that’s just fine by me.

BIND N FLY / RTF

CATALYST MACHINEWORKS SHOCKER 4″

Purchase at Catalyst Machineworks

The Shocker 4” is the quadcopter that made me realize the 4” freestyle class had finally come into its own. The frame is durable as hell, especially when you use the front cross brace (and you should). The weight is centralized for good handling. The frame’s design is thoughtful, and can accommodate a variety both analog and DJI hardware.

The main downside of the Shocker is the same as other Catalyst frames. They’re clever, but also a little complicated and fiddly. Repairs can require removal of an annoying number of screws. Keeping spare parts on hand can be difficult since the frame has a large number of different parts. If you buy this frame, buy a 2nd one while you’re at it, so you’re sure to have spares if you need them.

The CMW Shocker 4” is one of my favorite quads to own, and I find myself coming back to it all the time. If you’re looking to get the exact experience I described at the top of the page, the CMW Shocker is the one to get, since it basically defined the category for me.

FRAMES

Let’s start with the BQE RipSqueak 4”, the budget option in this category. It’s simple, incredibly durable, and super compact. The “short-body” version doesn’t fit a 20mm accessory in the rear of the frame, so if you need to use a 20mm vTX or Caddx Vista, you’ll want the “Digi Edition” (not yet launched at this time). The short-body frame is designed for a micro-sized vTX like the TBS Unify Pro32 Nano. Be sure to order the 4″ arms, since the body for the BQE is the same for all arm sizes. Incidentally, this means you can easily switch from 4″ to 3″ or even 2.5 or 2″ simply by changing out the arms, motors, and props.

The Catalyst Machineworks Shocker 4 is described above in the Bind n Fly section, so we won’t repeat ourselves here.

The Micro Apex takes everything people love about Mr. Steele’s favorite frame and shrinks it down from 5” to 4”. As with all ImpulseRC products, the fit and finish are superb. Durability is best in class. And flight characteristics will be as similar to a 5” as possible, due to similar geometry. It even comes with a full crash damage warranty for 1 year!

BQE RIP SQUEAK v2
4″ FRAME

CATALYST MACHINEWORKS SHOCKER
4″ FRAME

MOTORS

The 2004 was the motor that made 4” freestyle viable. It’s the perfect combination of light weight, responsiveness, and power for a 4” build around 300 grams all up weight. The wide, flat stator helps keep the motor cool. This means you get flight characteristics more like a 5” than a 3”.

The main downside of this motor size is its durability. The motor shaft tends to break or bend on hard impacts, but that’s sort of inevitable when a 2mm shaft is paired with a wide 20mm stator and a 4” prop. The longer lever arm puts excess torque on the shaft and it breaks. The BrotherHobby TC and the Axis Flying motors have a 3mm shaft, which improves durability a lot, but nothing is bulletproof.

In this size category, a lot of people argue that there’s not much benefit to 6S batteries. Assuming you decide to go with 4S, choose something around 3150 kv. The equivalent for a 6S battery is around 2000 kv. Motors below 2000 kv are intended more for long-range cruisers or larger props, and are not ideal for freestyle, but might be a good choice if you want to trade top end power for longer flight time.

BROTHERHOBBY 2004
2100 kv / 3150 kv

Purchase at RaceDayQuads – 2100 kv / 3150 kv
Purchase at GetFPV – 2100 kv / 3150 kv
Purchase at Pyro-Drone – 2100 kv / 3150 kv
Purchase at Catalyst Machineworks – 2100 kv / 3150 kv

The BrotherHobby 2004 is the one in this category that I have the most direct experience with. If you want my personal endorsement, this is it.

FLASHHOBBY 2004
2100 kv / 3150 kv

Purchase at Pyro-Drone – 2100 kv / 3150 kv
Purchase at Amazon – 2100 kv / 3150 kv

FlashHobby (formerly DYS) is known for making extremely inexpensive motors. But you don’t get something for nothing! The build quality of FlashHobby motors is worse than the more expensive motors on this page. Then again, the durability of 2004 motors isn’t super high to begin with! So maybe you’ll be glad you’re only spending $12 when you replace one instead of $20!

If you get these motors, I suggest putting some of your savings into a couple of spares, just in case you get one with a problem. You’ll probably still come out ahead in the long run.

AXIS FLYING AF204
1810 kv / 2910 kv

Purchase at RaceDayQuads – 1810 kv / 2910 kv
Purchase at NewBeeDrone – 1810 kv / 2910 kv
Purchase at Pyro-Drone – 1810 kv / 2910 kv
Purchase at Banggood – 1810 kv / 2910 kv

Axis Flying was founded by some employees of T-Motor who broke off to form their own company. With a pedigree like that, you’d expect Axis motors to be the best! The company is still new enough that we can’t say for sure whether they deserve the premium prices they ask for their motors. But they sure look good on paper, if you’re willing to take a chance.

The Axis 2004 motor comes in slightly lower kv for this class. The 4S motor is 2910 kv, and the 6S motor is 1810 kv. As a result, these motors will make a bit less power than their higher rpm alternatives, but flight time will be a little longer.

FLIGHT CONTROLLER & ESC (ANALOG)

AIKON F7 FC &
AIKON PRO 20X20 ESC (DJI CAPABLE)

Purchase at RaceDayQuads – FC / ESC
Purchase at GetFPV – FC / ESC
Purchase at Pyro Drone – FC / ESC
Purchase at Catalyst Machineworks – FC / ESC
Purchase at Banggood – FC / ESC

Aikon has made some of the strongest, most durable ESC’s on the market for years. It’s no surprise that their 20mm Aikon Pro ESC is one of the few that can stand up to the abuse of FPV racing. The Aikon flight controller has an F7 processor with plenty of UARTs for peripherals. It’s got a built in 10v regulator to power DJI (if you choose to race on DJI, this is your pick) or your analog vTX. It’s even got a built in pit switch to let you power down your vTX with an aux switch. The main down-side of this FC is that the solder pads are very small, but that’s sort of true for all 20mm FC so maybe it doesn’t matter.

BRAIN FPV RADIX LI FC &
HOBBYWING 40A 4-IN-1 20X20 ESC

Purchase at RaceDayQuads – FC / ESC
Purchase at GetFPV – FC / ESC
Purchase at Pyro Drone – FC / ESC
Purchase at BrainFPV – FC / ESC

There are a couple of things that make the Radix Li unique. First, it’s manufactured by BrainFPV in Portland, Oregon, USA. If you’re American and want to support a small domestic manufacturer, this is one of your only options. BrainFPV hand-checks each board before shipping, providing a level of quality and customer service that giant companies shipping thousands of flight controllers can’t match. BrainFPV also uses a different gyro chip on their FC. The Bosch gyro is designed for automotive application and has built in filtering that some argue gives better results than the Invensense gyros on most other FC’s. (To be fair, some argue it gives worse results, but BrianFPV definitely has its fans.) BrainFPV pairs with a Hobbywing ESC, which has an excellent reputation for durability. It’s also the ESC used by Evan Turner (HeadsUpFPV) in his race builds as of this writing.

One major gotcha of this FC and ESC combo is that its 5v regulator is sized only for powering a camera and receiver. It can’t power a vTX. And many micro-sized vTX are designed to run only off of 5v, which means they can’t be used with the Radix Li. If your vTX is one of these, then the Radix Li is probably not the best choice for your FC and ESC.

If you look closely at this flight controller, you might guess that it’s actually made by Aikon and sold under T-Motor’s branding. The layout is very similar and the features are nearly identical. No matter who makes it, T-Motor has a great reputation for quality and performance. But mostly, I’m including it as an alternative in case the Aikon is out of stock. It’s also the FC used by Evan Turner (HeadsUpFPV) in his race builds as of this writing.

Unlike the other entries, this one is going to start with the ESC, not the FC. Redux Air makes what might be the toughest, highest performance 20mm ESC available today. It uses the same larger, higher-rated FETs used on 30mm ESC’s. How do they fit? The board spills over the sides of the 20mm mounting holes, so you’ll want to make sure it’ll fit into your frame. In my opinion, this is one of the best 20mm ESC’s you can buy today. If you can find it in stock.

This ESC can be paired with almost any FC, but you will probably have to re-arrange the order of the wires in the harness connecting them together.

This is the FC if you want something inexpensive that will get the job done. At the time of this writing, the other FC on this list go for about $60; this one is closer to $40. And it’s got an F7 processor too! What’s it give up? It’s only got four UARTs instead of five, but racers typically don’t need a lot of UARTs anyway; it lacks features like vTX pit switch; it’s only got a 5v regulator, so your vTX needs to run on 5v if you want the cleanest video possible; and it doesn’t have a plug or regulator for DJI (not really relevant to most racers).

You might expect me to pair this up with the Foxeer Reaper ESC, but I’m not. The Reaper looks great on paper, but it’s still too new to have proven it’s reliable and tough enough to make it onto this list. The Reaper is priced the same as the best ESC’s out there. You might as well just buy one of them.

VIDEO TRANSMITTER (ANALOG)

The Rush Tank Ultimate is the most powerful 20mm vTX you can buy, with up to 800 mW of output power. Build quality is excellent. Some would object if you put it on par with TBS Unify, but in flight, you probably couldn’t tell the difference. When I want maximum range and penetration in a frame that only supports a 20mm vTX, this is my choice.

TBS Unify Pro32 is widely considered to be the best vTX you can buy. The Unify Pro32 Nano squeezes its performance into one of the tiniest packages available. It weighs less than 1 gram! The 500 mW output power is not the highest in this category, but if you’re concerned about saving weight, the Unify Pro32 Nano is the one you’ll choose.

The AKK FX3 Mini outputs up to 600 mW of power: respectable, but not the highest in this category. The main reason you’ll be interested is the price! They don’t have quite the same durability and consistent performance as more expensive brands, but they’re good enough for a lot of pilots on a budget.

This vTX is the go-to of Ahren Ciotti, who specializes in micro-sized builds. He says, “I’ve had amazing luck with the (better than the 2x more expensive Unify Pro32 Nano to be honest) and they even have a microphone on board!” That’s good enough for me.

FPV CAMERAS (ANALOG)

MY PERSONAL FAVORITE
RUNCAM PHOENIX 2 JB EDITION

I believe that an FPV camera’s job is to communicate information to the pilot so that they can fly better. That means the best image for FPV is not always the one that looks the best to spectators. I worked with Runcam to customize the Phoenix 2 to deliver the things I look for in an FPV camera.

The contrast and brightness on the JB Phoenix 2 have been tweaked to maximize dynamic range, so you see details in shadow and highlight. Sharpening has been lowered to reduce haloing and shimmer. Finally, I asked Runcam to add digital camera control capability, so you can tweak the camera settings using your flight controller, instead of having to carry a camera joystick with you to the field.

The only way to truly know if this camera is best for you is to take a look at the image in my review.

This camera is “nano” sized (14mm wide). But all the frames on this page are sized for “micro” cameras (19mm wide). So why are we recommending it? It’s super lightweight, has an excellent image, and isn’t too expensive. You might need to get or make some 3D printed parts to fit it into the frame, but it’s worth the hassle.

VIDEO ANTENNAS FOR VTX AND GOGGLES

There are three important things to know about video antennas. First, they come in left-handed (LHCP) and right-handed (RHCP) varieties, and you must put the same variety on your quadcopter and your goggles. Most pilots fly RHCP, and that’s what I recommend you start with too. There isn’t any performance difference, but having the same type as everyone else will let you watch them in your goggles.

Second, they come with different connectors. Video transmitters typically have U.FL or MMCX connectors, due to their small size. These may plug in to a “pigtail” wire that ends in an SMA or RP-SMA connector. For racing, it’s most common to buy an antenna with an MMCX or U.FL connector, because it saves size and weight compared to a pigtail. These antennas are typically held to the frame with 3D printed accessories. Keeping the antenna close to the frame vs. out on a long stalk shortens the range of the video signal (not really an issue for racing) but increases durability.

Third, you should never power up your video transmitter without an antenna attached. This can damage or destroy the video transmitter.

LUMENIER AXII 2 U.FL & MMCX

Purchase at RaceDayQuads – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at GetFPV – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at Pyro Drone – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at Catalyst Machineworks – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at Banggood – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at Amazon – U.FL / MMCX

TBS TRIUMPH PRO U.FL & MMCX

Purchase at GetFPV – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at NewBeeDrone – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at Pyro Drone – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at ReadyMadeRC – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at Amazon – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at Team Blacksheep – U.FL / MMCX

LUMENIER XILO AXII U.FL & MMCX

Purchase at GetFPV – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at Amazon – U.FL / MMCX

FOXEER LOLLIPOP U.FL & MMCX

Purchase at RaceDayQuads – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at Pyro Drone – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at RotorRiot – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at ReadyMadeRC – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at Banggood – U.FL / MMCX
Purchase at Amazon – U.FL / MMCX

BATTERIES

Because the weight of this class of quads is limited to about 300-400 grams, the battery selection is also fairly limited. The ideal size for this category is an 850 mAh 4S with an XT30 connector. A larger battery around 1000 mAh will give longer flight time and more “flingable,” less nimble flight style; you’ll also have to switch the quad to an XT60 connector, since packs this size seldom come with XT30.

If you’re determined to fly 6S voltage, the equivalent size battery would be around 550 mAh, but here’s the issue: there are almost no 6S packs sold in that size. And frankly, we’re not convinced there is as much advantage in 6S at this size of motor and prop.

RDQ
850 mAh 4S XT30

Purchase at RaceDayQuads

RDQ
6S 650 mAh XT30

Purchase at RaceDayQuads

PROPS

Normally, I try to include a variety of products in each category. But this is the rare case where a single product is the clear winner over everything else available. If you’re building a quad based on the parts on this page, this is the only prop I recommend. There are a few other great 4” props, like the Emax Avan, but they’re made for motors with 5mm shafts, and all the motors on this page are T-mount to save weight.

To be sure, I asked Ahren Ciotti, the self-proclaimed Micro King. He said, “The Gemfan prop is good enough that if it’s the only one you mention you’re actually helping. Great mix of weight, power, and durability.