The DJI Phantom 4 is the newest addition to the Phantom family. The Solo quadrotor from 3D Robotics has been around for longer than that, but it is good enough to still be competition for the newer drone to take down. There are some key differences between the two, and it isn’t just on the outside either. The Solo is priced at $1000, and the Phantom 4 is a hefty $1400. Which one is better, if at all? Find out in the comparison below.
When it comes to the Solo and the Phantom 4, they are both classified as RC quadcopters, with 4 rotors. They both use a similar control system as well: a dedicated remote controller coupled with an attachable clip for a phone or tablet. Both drones were created for professional aerial photography and video. Both the drones have a dedicated mobile application that needs to be downloaded to the smartphone being used and connected to the drone as well before. In the Phantom 4, this is the DJI Go application, which has been used in previous models like the Phantom series and the Inspire line as well. Both drones are priced a little high.
The Solo drone is made out of hard plastic, as are the rotors. The material is cheap, light, and quite durable. It makes for a larger drone with less weight on it, which is a huge perk for battery life and performance in the air. It is available in a sleek black design with a revamped 3DR exclusive body design. The remote controller uses a smartphone with the 3DR SOLO application. It has a typical range of about 800 meters, and operates at a frequency of 2.4GHz. The application works on both iOS and Android. The range is much better than a typical drone, which has one of about 100 meters. The combination of both a physical controller and a smartphone in one makes for easier FPV on the drone (first person view).
The body of the DJI Phantom 4 quadcopter is made out of a magnesium alloy, not plastic. This does mean that it is that much heavier than the Solo though. The rotors are made out of carbon fiber. The Phantom is available in white color only, and quite frankly the color of the Solo look a little better. This is personal preference, of course. The controller supports smartphones like the Solo, but the transmission range is 5000m. This is a HUGE increment from the 800 meters that the Solo RC drone is capable of. The remote operates at 2.4GHz, and uses the DJI GO mobile application, supported on both iOS and Android.
There are some advanced features available as well, such as the drone being ready to fly out of the box. It is GPS compatible and has both altitude and position holding features, for hovering. planning with waypoint mapping is available on the smartphone app. There is a follow me feature available as well as return to home and automatic landing.
The Phantom 4 quadcopter is a step up from the 3DR Solo in this instance. While it has many of the same features as the Solo, there are some added technological advances that the other drone simply can’t match up to. One of the biggest is the autonomous collision avoidance feature. It makes use of optical sensors to detect obstacles up to 50m away and actively avoid them if the drone is headed towards one. This is very useful especially in such a pricey drone. There is also a new feature called TapFly. The user can tap an object or a location on the video feed of the smartphone on the Phantom 4 and the watch the drone fly out to it without question.
Size and Weight
The 3DR Solo design is a little on the large side when compared to the typical RC quadcopter. The wingspan (diagonal distance between opposite rotors) is 460mm. It weighs 1500g as well, which is due in part to the thick plastic covering most of the body. The Phantom 4 is actually lighter than the Solo. It weighs only 1380g, because magnesium is a stronger, lighter material than the same amount of plastic. It measures only 300mm across, meaning that it is a smaller drone overall. This makes for lighter, snappier.
Camera & Gimbal
There is no included camera on the 3DR Solo quad rotor. This can be a little bit of a turnoff to anyone interested in getting FPV right out of the box but it is compatible with most GoPro cameras in the Hero series. In fact, the camera mount was designed after extensive partnerships with the team at GoPro itself. The gimbal features 3-axis stabilization. The gimbal is also not included with the drone, although the officially purchased standalone gimbal was very effective in image stabilization.
The camera on the Phantom 4 is a lot more advanced in every sense. It comes with a built in camera that has a 12MP rating. It can record video at Ultra-HD 4K resolutions, and is extremely effective at stabilization. At this time, the camera shoots the best quality video on an attached drone camera globally. It is perfect for recording professional action video. The camera has a focal length of 20mm and a FOV of 94 degrees. The aperture size is f/2.8, and the sensor is 1/2.3”. Photos and video can be stored on the included microSD card, in DNG, DNG+Raw and JPEG formats. Time lapse, burst mode and HDR capture can be enabled on the camera. The FPV stream is at 720p and 60fps with a transmission frequency of 5.8GHz.
The 3DR Solo battery capacity is 5200mAh and weighs approximately 500g. It is a Li-Po battery with a power rating of 15V. This is above the typical size of a battery for a drone. The Phantom 4 battery isn’t much different, with a capacity of 5350mAh. It weighs only 462g, and is a 4S type of battery. Thee power rating of the battery is 15V.
In conclusion, the purpose to which the drone is being put is the only way to make a good choice. Buying the Phantom 4 when you are a casual flier is a bad choice, because the price is a little steep. However, it is better by far when it comes to added features and APV. If you are a hobbyist looking to have some fun, the cheaper Solo may be the way to go.