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I'm a fickle person by nature, so you can rest assured that when I say, "This is my new favorite drone," I'll have a new new favorite before the month is out.
Right now, however, this is my new favorite drone. Actually, I should clarify that: It's my new favorite entry-level drone. It doesn't have advanced features like follow-me and orbit mode, but it does offer all the important basic features -- and the price is just ridiculous.
Here it is: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Tomtop has the Visuo XS809W foldable drone for $37.99 shipped. That's after applying discount code RM7953LCX at checkout.
Much as I tried to get this same price via Tomtop's US warehouse, currently all the inventory lies in China -- meaning delivery will take seven to 20 business days, or up to four weeks. In my experience of ordering from Tomtop, however, the stuff that comes from China usually arrives in a week or two.
What's so special about this drone?
The XS809W checks all the important boxes: handheld remote, auto-hover, headless mode and a built-in camera with tilting lens and live-streaming via Wi-Fi.
One thing I especially love: The remote has labeled buttons for things like takeoff, land, speed and flip. Other buttons -- photo, video, return-to-home and so on -- use clearly identifiable icons. This may not sound like a big deal, but every other entry-level drone I've tried made you memorize which button did what, making them that much more challenging for novice fliers.
Another nice perk: The cartridge-style battery is good for up to 10 minutes of flight time (not 7-8 like most), and you can get a pair of spares for just $12. Even better, the batteries employ a Micro-USB connector for recharging. Although the included charging cord has a red LED that turns off when charging is complete, in a pinch you could use any compatible cable. I also like the super-easy insertion and removal of the battery.
Even the instruction manual is unexpectedly nice: It's large, with images and diagrams you can actually see, and the writing is actually clear. (Sorry to say, most manual translations are extremely poor.)
As you can see in the photos, the XS809W has arms that fold for easier transport. With the arms extended, the 'copter is a little larger than a dinner plate. Clip on the propeller guards and it's bigger still.
However, it's still extremely lightweight, meaning any outdoor breezes higher than 4-5 mph will make control difficult. Though not impossible: I found that if I toggled the speed setting to max, I could cut through the wind well enough.
What's not so special?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the XS809W's camera is its weak spot. Although the 2-megapixel sensor and fish-eye lens are decent, the lack of any kind of stabilization makes for some shaky video. (Take a peek at this video to see some sample footage.) Obviously you're not going to get a gimbal at this price point.
Also, the return-to-home function won't bring the drone back to your feet, only back in your general direction -- which, admittedly, is the important thing if it flies beyond your line of sight. If you switch over to headless mode, the remote beeps loudly -- something I've encountered in other drones and don't entirely understand. The drone is way more fun, and much easier, to fly in that mode; I wish the beeping option could be disabled.
Those gripes aside, I seriously dig this drone. It's easy to pick up and fly, fast, agile and just an incredibly good deal at $38 landed.
Bonus deal: If you use social media to promote anything -- a blog, a business -- you want to look good doing it. And that means learning Photoshop so you can create those slick-looking promo images, right?
Nah. Stencil (formerly known by the terrible name Share as Image) supplies you with a boatload of background images, fonts, icons, templates and more, then gives you super easy tools for creating pro-level marketing images -- all with the intention of landing you more likes, tweets and shares.
Stencil's Unlimited Plan normally runs $18 a month (when paid annually, so be prepared to pony up $216), but for a limited time, AppSumo is offering a lifetime Stencil Unlimited subscription for $49. Assuming you have need for a service like this, that's a killer deal and too good to pass up, in my humble opinion.
This is available while the licenses last, and I don't know how many AppSumo has to sell. I do know that there's a 60-day money-back guarantee, which is very unusual and very excellent.