If you purchase certainly one of DJI’s Mavic 2 drones – the very good Mavic 2 Zoom or the even higher Mavic 2 Pro – you’ll be able to pilot it utilizing the bundled controller connected to a smartphone or pill working the DJI Go app. But now there’s one other approach to fly: the DJI Smart Controller.
Priced at a whopping £579 (or the equal of £430 if purchased alongside both Mavic 2 mannequin), the Smart Controller is a quality-of-life accent that replaces the usual mobile-device-and-controller setup with one thing somewhat extra skilled, somewhat extra ergonomic and somewhat extra hard-wearing.
Is it value all that additional money, although? After just a few days with the Smart Controller in our mitts, we’re able to inform you.
Design and construct high quality: so stable
Made largely of powerful, non-flexing plastic, the Smart Controller appears like a premium piece of package – consistent with a high-end DSLR or pill. It’s utilitarian slightly than fashionable, however given its pro-centric pitch, that’s to be anticipated – it is a workhorse for drone photographers and videographers, not a tool for gadget peacocks to parade down the pub.
To that finish, it’ll work in excessive temperatures – all the pieces starting from -20ºC to +40ºC. It’s a reasonably large system however feels quite a bit higher in your fingers than the usual smartphone-and-controller setup. The buttons are spaced far more generously, which makes management much less fiddly, and there’s some pleasingly grippy textured materials across the again to maintain it securely in your grip.
There are a few a screw holes on the backside, which we imagine are there to accommodate future add-ons like neck and wrist straps. The controller feels weighty in a great way, however DJI has stored it pretty slim: unscrew the 2 steel thumb sticks (they are often saved behind the fold-down antennas) and it’s simply 40mm thick, with no protruding elements to get snapped off. In phrases of the buttons and dials on supply, you don’t get far more than you’ll on the usual bundled controller.
There are two new buttons that largely relate to the UI, however other than that the choice is precisely the identical: two sticks for controlling flight; wheels for controlling digicam zoom and tilt; picture and video triggers; a sliding management that toggles between three flight modes; buttons to make the drone return to residence and cease instantly in flight; two customisable buttons on the again; and a joystick-like nib for shifting cursors round on-screen.
Screen: the longer term’s brilliant
Central to the Smart Controller’s enchantment is its 5.5in 1080p touchscreen which, at 1000 nits, is round twice as brilliant as a smartphone’s show.
This means the Smart Controller fares quite a bit higher in sunny outside situations than an ordinary telephone or pill. We’ve personally skilled how a brilliant, sunny day could make drone images periods powerful work, with glare rendering particulars arduous to see, and the Smart Controller’s display offers quite a bit higher with these sort of situations than the units we’re used to utilizing.
There are cheaper alternate options, after all: DJI itself affords a monitor hood that shades your telephone or pill display when you’re utilizing the fundamental controller, and it prices simply £20; there are extra inexpensive third-party choices; or you’ll be able to simply end up a shady spot to sit down in. The display works higher than all these – but it surely does come on a controller that prices nearly £600…
Features: skinny air
Given its value, you is perhaps forgiven for pondering the Smart Controller provides a boatload (droneload?) of recent performance to DJI’s drones – however you’d be incorrect.
It makes use of the identical OcuSync 2.Zero transmission expertise because the controller packaged with the Mavic 2, so the management vary stays the identical (as much as 8km in concept). In phrases of recent options, there’s just one to talk of: Go Share, a built-in app that allows you to rapidly wirelessly switch movies and photographs to a smartphone or pill, or live-stream video out of your drone to social media platforms (through a tethered companion smartphone, because the Smart Controller has no SIM of its personal). It’s useful, we suppose, however not precisely important stuff.
You do get loads of battery life courtesy of a 5000mAh energy plant that may final for as much as 2.5 hours per cost. With a Mavic 2’s battery lasting about 30 minutes, that’s some severe time – realistically, you’ll be able to depend on a fully-charged Smart Controller to deal with a day of drone flight. The battery helps quick-charge tech too, so topping it up with the bundled adapter doesn’t take very lengthy.
The controller runs on a re-skinned Android 7.1.2, and whereas all the pieces you want is put in from the get-go, you may also obtain and use third-party apps like Snapseed and Facebook to share and edit photographs and movies you seize along with your drone. With no Play Store app on board, nevertheless, getting these apps onto the controller requires a little bit of lateral pondering – it’s actually not preferrred having to fiddle with doubtlessly dodgy .apk information simply to get Instagram working, so hopefully DJI will add the Play Store as an possibility in future updates. There’s 16GB of on-board area plus a microSD slot permitting you so as to add as much as 128GB of extra storage. That’s most likely a should for those who plan on transferring full-size 4K movies onto the controller for enhancing, as these information are typically big.
Connectivity-wise, there’s a USB-C port for battery charging, in addition to an HDMI port for outputting 4K video to a TV or monitor – each for a reside feed of no matter your drone is filming, or enjoying again content material it’s already recorded. There’s no backwards compatibility right here. The Smart Controller works solely with fashions that use OcuSync 2.0, so DJI drone homeowners with something older than a present Mavic 2 mannequin gained’t have the ability to use it in any respect. That even applies to pretty new (and very talked-about) DJI fashions like the primary Mavic Pro, the Mavic Air and the Phantom 4 Pro. DJI has steered that the Smart Controller shall be suitable with all of the drones it releases sooner or later, nevertheless – even those who use later variations of OcuSync
DJI Smart Controller verdict
There’s little question that the Smart Controller is a perfectly made add-on for Mavic 2 drones. It’s powerful, simple to make use of and comes with a display that works fantastically nicely in all climate situations. With all that in thoughts, it’s arduous to flee the truth that it doesn’t actually add something new to the expertise of flying a Mavic 2 – it simply makes it much less of a trouble than with the usual smartphone-and-controller setup.
If the Smart Controller was £100, it’d be simple to suggest it as an incredible quality-of-life accent, but it surely’s £579 – nearly half the worth of one other Mavic 2 drone. If you’re an expert video maker, this outlay is maybe justifiable. For the common buyer, it merely doesn’t characterize worth for cash – you’d be significantly better off spending your money on additional batteries or a journey case. None of this stops the Smart Controller from being spectacular and fascinating – simply arduous to justify shelling out for.