Hands-On: Pixy Selfie Drone From Snapchat Maker Is Fun (for a Few Minutes)

Snap Pixy
Pixy is a small self-flying drone made for taking photos and videos. TYLER HAYES

The new, modern solution for capturing a group outing is to let a palm-size yellow drone named Pixy hover in front of you and do it automatically. Besides just hovering, this cute little mechanical photographer is also capable of circling you, following you and expanding the scenery, all while recording the memories. I went hands-on with Pixy to see how it works—and whether it's as cool as it seems.

There are some notable limitations that should be addressed right off the bat. The drone can only fly for around 5 minutes on a single charge. Its image quality can be very hit or miss depending on lighting conditions. But, much like Instagram initially found a way to make grainy smartphone pictures scroll worthy with its use of filters, Pixy has overcome its hurdles by enabling anyone to be able to capture moments like never before.

Pixy is simplifying drone photography to the point of only turning it on, twisting a dial and then letting it take flight on its own. But, does it actually deliver enough to be useful?

TL;DR

Pros:

  • Simple to operate
  • Small, almost pocketable
  • Easy editing through Snapchat

Cons:

  • Very short battery life
  • Image quality is acceptable, but not great

Buy at Snap.

How Does Pixy Work?

Snap Pixy
To start Pixy, you select the flight mode with the twist dial and then press its single button. TYLER HAYES

Unlike other drones used for logistics or racing, Pixy is only made to use its camera. That's it. There's no controller to fly the drone. There's not even a shutter button to be able to tell Pixy when to start and stop recording. Its single focus is to record videos automatically.

It might sound narrowly crafted, but this is the type of product I've wanted for a while—and assume others would want one, too. Why? Because the first time I flew a drone almost a decade ago, I recorded myself flying it into a tree and falling on top of a car. Most people understand the appeal of drones, but even now they're still work to maintain, lug around and operate.

That's not the case here. Within 5 minutes of taking it out of its packaging, Pixy was flying around as a personal videographer. To start it, you twist the dial to select its style of flying and press its only button while holding Pixy in your palm. Front-facing lights will indicate once it starts recording. To reign it back in, you simply hold up your palm and it should detect it and land in your hand.

Is Pixy a Good Camera Drone?

Snap Pixy
Pixy can hover in front of you, circle you, follow you or pull back for a scenery reveal. TYLER HAYES

As a product, Pixy functions extremely well. I would actually argue that Pixy works so well that it makes all of its shortcomings extremely obvious. The most concerning aspect is the product's battery life. Its flight time, per battery, is measured in minutes you can count on one hand.

Once you start using it, you don't want to stop, but each battery gets tired quickly. When Pixy has had enough, it will float to the ground instead of returning to your hand, so you'll want to make sure you're in a safe place or have a fresh battery. I saw this happen when I let it fly from a second-story balcony. It took off and hovered for a moment before spinning to the ground. It didn't get damaged, and it had no real marks to show for it.

There's a five-dot battery indicator on the bottom of the drone, and popping a battery in and out of the slot is easy enough. It gets annoying to be juggling identical batteries constantly, however. Especially if you're hoping to be ready for just the right magical moment.

Snap sells extra batteries, and you probably shouldn't get this product if you're not going to buy the additional power. There's a Dual Battery Charger that comes with and can charge two batteries at the same time for $49.99. If you don't purchase that, you'll need to charge one battery at a time in the Pixy itself. Be aware that extra batteries will add to the overall cost—though not extravagantly.

Pixy Picture and Video Quality

Snap Pixy
In reveal flight mode, Pixy expands the view to expose the scenery around you. (This GIF has been downsized and should not be seen as an example of Pixy's video resolution.) TYLER HAYES

The other shortcoming of Pixy besides its battery life is its image and video quality—specifically still pictures. Each of its various modes can be customized in the settings to capture video only, or pictures and video. Because the pictures are so candid, however, I have not seen any that I wanted to save. I have leaned on using the device to take videos rather than pictures.

Pixy takes 2.7K resolution videos with up to 30 frames per second. It has a 12 megapixel camera that can produce some solid videos, but your results will really depend on lighting and weather conditions. If its camera is staring into the sun, it likely won't be able to overcome that obstacle. Windy weather will also disrupt its flights.

Nearly all of the videos I took were more than watchable. Some of them even looked really nice. There were a few in which people's faces were covered in dark shadows and the results were unfortunate.

The drone has 16GB of storage on board and will be able to store around 100 videos or 1,000 pictures. In practical terms that means you can swap the battery around 20 times before you'll need to clear its storage.

Snap Pixy
Each battery will provide Pixy with about 5 minutes of flight time. TYLER HAYES

Extra Notes

  • Pixy uses the Snapchat app for transferring photos and videos that can be automatically added to your phone's photo library, as well.
  • Snapchat allows you to trim videos, add music, add text and perform other editing tasks with minimal effort.
  • Pixy is not water-resistant.
  • The drone comes with a lanyard to carry it around your neck. It's neat, but I probably would have preferred a small, cheap case instead.
  • Pixy does not record audio. You would likely only hear the noise of the propellers anyway, so that's understandable.

Should You Buy Pixy From Snap?

Snap Pixy
Hold out your hand and Pixy should return to you and land on your palm. TYLER HAYES

Pixy is less a drone than it is a personal photographer. It really answers the question of why an average consumer would want a drone: for selfie pictures and videos.

Without a professional need, I'm not sure there is a good, ongoing use for most consumers to buy a drone. I've tried drones numerous times, and they always sit unused. The same has been true for other people I know. After a few weeks of curiosity, the excuses to turn it on run out, and it only gets used once or twice a year.

It's debatable whether the limited battery life and mediocre images are worth the price for all consumers, but regardless, Pixy can still be considered a success for people who want to add a dose of whimsical to their memories. As long as Snap keeps its foot on the pedal, the second generation of this product will be exponentially better. As it stands, Pixy feels like a fun breakthrough product that demonstrates the future of consumer photography.

Buy at Snap from $229.99.

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