WHEN IT COMES to consumer-level drones, one model rules the skies. DJI’s Phantom drone, the Phantom 3 in particular, is the flying machine of choice for professional videographers, drone enthusiasts, and increasingly, mass-market consumers.
But erstwhile competitors are beginning to emerge. One of the latest comes from Chinese aircraft maker Yuneec, the Typhoon Q500 4K.
Though similar in size, weight, and price, the Typhoon is no Phantom knockoff. It’s not a Phantom killer, either. Both have their strengths, and which one is best for you depends largely on what you plan to do with it. The Typhoon’s camera produces excellent results, and while the drone is slower and more sluggish than others, it’s remarkably easy to pilot. It’s a drone for people nervous about trying to control a $1,200 piece of flying equipment.
The Typhoon looks a bit more aggressive than DJI’s shining happy drones, with sleeker lines and a back end that resembles the head of the space-creatures in Alien. It’s also larger than the more familiar Phantoms, and made of plastic far flimsier than I’m used to seeing. That’s partly due to the fact that the Typhoon landing gear (and gimbal) can be snapped off with no special tools and stored in a much flatter package.
Unlike DJI’s offerings, the Typhoon’s base controller ships with a built-in screen in the form of a small Android device sporting 480p resolution. On one hand, it’s nice not to have so many different parts to keep track of. But there’s no way to add a bigger, clearer screen when, for example, a new iPad mini is released (the mobile device I currently use with the Phantom 3).
The screen is bright, though flying in direct sunlight remains difficult. To be fair, that’s true of every screen I’ve ever used to fly a drone. Yuneec helpfully includes a sunshade that attaches, awkwardly, to the controller with suction cups. It doesn’t completely solve the problem, but it does help.
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