DJI is considered as one of the leaders in the consumer quadcopter drone market. The Phantom product line is the living proof that this Chinese company knows their way around aerial video technology. After all, the Phantom family led the charge of consumer drones in the mainstream market. Their latest drone, the Phantom 4 series, is out now with significant aesthetic and feature improvements – from collision detection to redesigned propellers.
However, the Phantom 3 still has a lot of good stuff to remain relevant this 2016. For a long while, this series was regarded as the pinnacle of consumer drone technology when it comes to overall flight performance and experience. This is why a lot of users refuse to upgrade to the Phantom 4, which comes with a hefty $1,399 USD price tag.
But is the Phantom 3 still worth getting? What about for those looking to own a drone for the first time? Those are questions this DJI Phantom 3 Drone Review answers.
First of all, keep in mind that there are four variations of the Phantom 3 – namely Standard, 4k, Advanced, and Professional. Sure enough, the versions above Standard offer more features. But take note that this review focuses on Phantom 3 Standard, which is the entry-level drone for this series.
Despite being almost a year old and looking almost exactly the same as the Phantom 1, the Phantom 3 Standard features great build quality. Comparing the two side by side, the Phantom 3 looks much smoother and more streamlined. Feeling the drone with your own hands can tell you a lot about DJI’s quality standards. It’s impressive to think that the Standard costs significantly less than its competitors.
The Phantom 3 is slightly stocky as compared to other drones like the 3DR Solo and Inspire (another drone from DJI). It weighs 8.2 pounds and comes in the Phantom’s trademark white. Unfortunately, this can sometimes make the Phantom difficult to spot, especially on high altitudes with plenty of clouds. However, the white colour is actually beneficial for regulating the internal temperature of the drone.
One of the things that made the Phantom 3 so special is the fact that it’s so easy to operate. The drone controller is simplistic and simplified – coming with a mobile device holder and a high-powered antenna for achieving the maximum range. The lanyard loop is also a nice addition that’s often overlooked.
For first-timers, you only have to press one button for automatic takeoff and landing. Flying the drone is almost intuitive. The movements are spot-on and the drone has great mid-air stability. The DJI app also works well for monitoring and flying your drone, including a “return to home” function which will automatically bring the drone back. However, it may take a while for you to understand the user interface. Locating your drone based on the GPS map is also quite intimidating and confusing at first.
On the downside, the controller only supports smartphones as the mount is not big enough for tablets. This means you’ll be limited to smaller screens when using the DJI app. Furthermore, flying the Standard is not really suitable for altitudes above 400 feet.
Although the quality of the video feed is much higher than the Phantom 2 Vision+, the Phantom 3’s video quality is not exactly top-notch. First of all, you cannot replace or upgrade the gimbal without voiding your warranty. While it’s possible, it can be very difficult and scary to detach the hard-mounted cameras.
Despite this, the camera is quite reliable and can deliver decent image quality. It can record with a resolution of 2.7k at about 30 frames per second. Just remember that you can lower the resolution to increase the video’s FPS. The 1280×720 resolution is by far the best option if you want smoother playbacks.
Another issue with the Standard’s video features is linked to its controller. For the Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional, the controller features Lightbridge technology, which allows a maximum range of up to five kilometres with better image transmission. On the other hand, the Standard is stuck with a Wi-Fi range extender (2.4GHz) that performs less reliably. Although the chances are still minimal, the Phantom 3 Standard is more prone to signal loss, choppy video, and delayed input.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the Phantom 3 Standard is not really best for professional use. Its video capabilities are simply not powerful enough to obtain the best quality images and videos achievable with the Phantom 3 Professional and some of its competitors. It also lacks video features
To compensate for the lack of video features, the Phantom 3 Standard has a slightly longer battery life than other variants. On average, you can fly your drone for a solid 25 minutes.
The first thing you will notice with the Phantom 3 Standard is the lack of documentation. A quick start guide is available, but it mostly covers steps for setting up the controller and installing the DJI app. Furthermore, there is no troubleshooting information available for the Phantom 3 Standard. Should you run into problems, your best hope is to contact their customer support.
The best way to learn more about the product is to either test it in a safe environment or browse tutorial videos on YouTube. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available from the Phantom 3 community.
Another issue with the Phantom 3 Standard is that the firmware updates can be dodgy. You simply cannot operate your Phantom 3 Standard with an outdated firmware. This wouldn’t be a problem if you can update all the time, but sometimes the updates do not install correctly. This is mostly because the Wi-Fi connection isn’t always stable. Overall, this can affect the product’s usability and user experience.
For first time droners, it is clear that the Phantom 3 Standard is a great start to experience the joy of piloting. The lack of documentation can actually be seen as an advantage. As opposed to the Phantom 4 which pretty much pampers new users into flying, learning how to fly the Phantom 3 is a much more fulfilling experience.
Overall, the DJI Phantom 3 Standard is a great deal thanks to its price. To help you decide if the Standard is for you, here is a wrap-up of its pros and cons:
- Aesthetically Appealing and Durable
- Great Mid-Flight Performance; Easy Takeoff and Landing
- Great Price
- Very Easy to Learn and Control
- Video Quality is Dated
- Firmware Updates can be Problematic
- Camera is Hard-Mounted & Cannot Be Replaced
- Cannot Use a Tablet with Controller