Review: Superlight 4R Frame from Catalyst Machineworks

The Speed Addict Superlight 4R frame is one of the several in an exciting new drone racing class of hybrid featherweight designs. In this review we will check out this new 4-inch mini quad frame.

This review is written by guest writer Justin Nishida.

Catalyst Machineworks and owner Neill Whitely have been around the mini quad scene for some time now. A small family run business in Texas, USA that has taken “Made in America” to heart. It’s a refreshing treat to see local manufacturers making products on home soil with many others following suit.

The speed addict frames have been a hometown hero for a long time and now are gaining lots of attention around the world. You don’t have to be an art lover or engineering guru to appreciate the sleek design of this new series of frames. There’s even already a poorly made clone out there of the very frame were about to take a look at.

The Speed Addict series comes in 3″, 4″, 5″ and even 6″ sizes. The Superlight 4R in this review is the 4″ version that has a 168mm diagonal motor to motor distance, 130mm long x 105mm wide with stretch-X layout (not as aggressive as some designs).

To learn about the basics of mini quad frames such as sizes, arm layouts, please check out our guide: Mini Quad Frame Basics.

There are 2 optional use arm braces included in the kit along with a ton of accessories including 2 camera mounting options for full size and micro cams.

There’s a 3D kit as well for the antenna mounts (RX and VTX), micro PDB mount, top plates for both cam styles and enough hardware to almost build another quad. I got the 2.5mm kit and an additional 3.5mm bottom plate and with a few standoffs, I was able to build 2 complete frames with everything that comes in the 1 kit. Talk about getting bang for your buck!

At 40g for the 2.5mm and 50g for the 3.5mm version of the frames, these are some of the lightest 4″ frames on the market at the moment. These 4″ frames were based around the tiny but big power 1407 series motors and can accommodate standard 30.5×30.5 or 20×20 fc’s. The perfect balance of weight and power, on paper the SL4R should achieve a healthy 11:1 power to weight ratio.

The 2.5mm was rigged up with a Piko FC, XS20 ESC’s, 1407-3500kv motors, HS1177 FPV camera and FX VTX, I ended up going with a simple wiring harness for the power distribution (I know old school right?). I also opted to use the arm braces on the 2.5 version as the thin carbon can experience a lot of flex during high G maneuvers even with as little mass as it has.

The 3.5mm was setup with a Raceflight Revolt, DemonRC Core PDB, XS20 ESC’s, 1407-3600kv motors, a micro FPV camera. While it is suggested to use certain components to ensure fit and the manual includes instructions for the various setups and components, I found no issue with fitting almost every combination of electronics and gear I had into both of the frames (some just won’t fit so double check your gears dimensions and plan carefully). It is a very tight fit at times but hard wiring and taking the time to do a slim, clean stack will help everything fit nicely.

My first couple of flights were very sketchy as I had the PIKO FC in a previous micro so the tune was way off. I put the default settings back on Betaflight 3.1 and was immediately impressed with the responsiveness and acceleration from this tiny little machine. The 3.5mm running RF1 was impressive with a bit smoother flight but just as fast, both equally impressive in their own ways.

I was able to get the AUW’s (without LiPo battery) from 155g-190g depending on the gear I used (someone even got as low as 145g!). I’ve never flown anything this powerful and light so it’s taking some getting used to the feel but oh my gosh is it a bullet train at full throttle! I ran 870 and 1300 4S Adrenalines and it carries both with ease, the 870 having an extra special kick from hell when pushing the throttle. It reacts like a lightning bolt in corners and can stop on a dime due to the lack of mass. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m told that this machine is a cheetah hopped up on meth after eating a bag of crack on 5S so I’m getting some packs to try it.

This frame is one of the craziest things I’ve flown in a while, carbon quality is on par with what you expect from a high end brand. The size of this frame and the fact it runs 4″ props is crazy, you can throw 3″ props on to tame her down a bit but why would you want to do that?

Some drawbacks I found were the camera sticks out if using HS1177 or similar but there is a 3D printed cam hood now available on the catalyst site. The antenna mount placed the antennas vertically on the frame which chopped my antennas in a crash so hopefully we’ll see a different printed option for that soon.

Some slippers or guards for the front arms would also be nice as the 2.5mm front edge of the arms won’t take much abuse in an underground garage or outdoor parking lot (mine are ground down to the motors from ripping in concrete jungles). The limited space may pose challenges to first time builders but the very detailed instruction manual will give the aid needed to handle this build. I

f your looking to try out a feather-lite build this year, the Superlight 4R should be on your list as this has awoken a whole new class of FPV racing quads. Catalyst has built a thoroughbred racing quad line up with the Superlight series and proven they are leading the class in innovation for frame design. That being said, the SL4R just may become the king of the track this year.

The Speed Addict Superlight 4R is available at Catalyst Machineworks.

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