SmartHouse - - FIRST LOOK | DJI - Writ­ten by Fer­gus Hal­l­i­day

It’s been a rough cou­ple of months for the drone in­dus­try but there’s cer­tainly a case to be made that DJI have emerged from the ashes as the new leader for the cat­e­gory. Now that their Mavic drone is fi­nally in the hands of cus­tomers, the pos­i­tive im­pres­sions are rolling in. Like­wise, their up­com­ing but unan­nounced Spark drone is al­ready turn­ing heads. On the back of these gains, it’s telling that the Chi­nese com­pany aren’t just con­tent to deal in new prod­ucts but has also look­ing back­wards to re­fine their past achieve­ments.

Af­ter all, if it ain't broke – don't try to fix it.

DJI's new Phantom 4 Pro comes close to be­ing one of the best ex­am­ples of this mantra in ac­tion in re­cent mem­ory. It builds on ev­ery­thing that worked in the favour of the its pre­de­ces­sor and bun­dles in a few smart ad­di­tions that make a solidly com­pelling pack­age. Even if the high price-tag might hold it back from be­ing the drone that ev­ery­one buys, the ro­bust fea­ture-set on of­fer all but as­sures it'll prob­a­bly up be­ing the one that ev­ery­one wants to.

On its own mer­its, it's a solid drone that of­fers in­tu­itive con­trols, high-end per­for­mance and de­liv­ers the re­sults to match. How­ever, it's im­por­tant to look at ex­actly what it does to eke out an im­prove­ment on its pre­de­ces­sor.

With that in mind, the first thing to look at here is the de­sign of the Phantom 4 Pro. Lit­tle has been changed from the orig­i­nal Phantom 4's Ap­plein­spired quad­copter de­sign. Your mileage with this aes­thetic might vary (per­son­ally, I found it a lit­tle too plas­tic for my own tastes) but at the end of the day it feels like DJI have gone for func­tion over form here. The Phantom 4 Pro looks more or less how you'd ex­pect a drone to look, wrapped up in a style that may – or may not – be to your lik­ing. All told, these every­day build qual­i­ties means it sits a lit­tle closer to DJI's con­sumer-grade prod­ucts than their com­mer­cial-tier of­fer­ings.

Un­der­neath those con­sumer-level aes­thet­ics, the Phantom 4 Pro brings to­gether some pro­fes­sion­ally-tar­geted specs. It tops the bat­tery found in the orig­i­nal Phantom 4, up­ping the stakes to 5870mAh. It's an in­vest­ment by DJI that pays off to the sum of roughly 30-min­utes of ac­tive flight time on a sin­gle charge. They also throw in a sec­ond bat­tery to sweeten the deal al­low­ing you to hot-swap them and get more use out of it each ses­sion.

In terms of the cam­era, the Phantom 4 Pro is pack­ing a 20-megapixel sen­sor that de­liv­ers twelve lay­ers of dy­namic range. In both low-light and nat­u­rally-lit en­vi­ron­ments, footage shot with the Phantom 4 Pro looks crisply de­tailed and well-coloured. What's more, a lot of what you're get­ting here can be cus­tom­ized from within the tablet-con­troller hy­brid that comes with the drone – which of­fers up a sur­pris­ingly ro­bust set of set­tings to be tin­kered with.

In the rough­est of terms, this con­troller sits pretty close to that of the orig­i­nal Phantom 4. How­ever, rather than rely on your smart­phone of choice, DJI have now built an An­droid-pow­ered tablet dis­play into the con­troller it­self. While I was scep­ti­cal at first, this ul­ti­mately proved it­self to be a much more el­e­gant and in­tu­itive way of con­trol­ling the drone. It didn't take long for to win me over. It's easy enough to get the drone in the air and while we had some ini­tial trou­ble find­ing our way around the ‘fol­low' func­tion, there is a lot of smart in­te­gra­tion be­tween the tablet and the drone it­self that still man­aged to im­press us for the most part.

On the video-front, it's ca­pa­ble of shoot­ing 4K video at up to 60 frames per sec­ond. What's more, the Phantom 4 Pro de­liv­ers some of the smoothest drone footage I've ever seen. The cam­era hangs on a 3-di­men­sional gim­bal axis that can eas­ily ad­justed and smoothly con­trolled us­ing the Phantom 4's tablet-con­troller hy­brid.

All these pos­i­tive things said, we were a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed that DJI don't al­low you to make use of the tablet con­troller's on-board stor­age to hold onto footage. While any­one go­ing out to shoot footage is go­ing to prob­a­bly have an SD-card or two on hand, it is a lit­tle an­noy­ing that you can't make use of the space that's there if you hap­pen to for­get your SD card or run out of space.

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