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Hands-on Gear Review

DJI Phantom 4 Pro+ Review

Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $1,800 List | $1,695.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Top quality, stable video, great flight performance, built in controller screen
Cons:  Expensive
Bottom line:  Perfect for those looking for professional quality video and that appreciate the convenience of not needing to connect a smartphone
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   DJI

Our Verdict

DJI really upped the ante with the release of the Phantom 4 Pro+. With the updated camera, video downlink, and integrated controller screen it is clear that this is a professional level camera drone masquerading around in the body of a Phantom. It is at the top of the field in essentially every metric, including video quality, flight performance, video downlink, and ease of use. This across the board dominance made it the clear choice for our Editors' Choice Award for the best overall camera drone. If you have any aspirations to turn your movie making hobby into a career, or just want your amateur films to have a professional level cinematic quality, you can't go wrong with the Phantom 4 Pro+.

Want to save a little money and don't mind having to connect your smartphone to the controller? The Phantom 4 Pro gives you the exact same drone as the Phantom 4 Pro+ but its controller does not have an integrated screen, and thus lists for $300 less.


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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Max Mutter


Last Updated:
Monday
February 13, 2017

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Performance Comparison


The graph below shows how the Phantom 4 Pro+'s overall performance in our testing (in blue) stacked up against that of the other models we tested.


Here we delve into the details of how the Phantom 4 Pro+ performed in each one of our individual tests.

Video Quality


We don't give out perfect 10 out of 10 often, but DJI has upped the ante to such a degree with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro+ that we just had to. This score of 10 in our video quality testing was far above the bottom score of 3.


DJI nearly quadrupled the size of the sensor in the Phantom 4 Pro+'s camera, and it shows. The footage this 4K rig produced in our testing was crystal clear with bright, vibrant colors. The gimbal stabilization was likewise superb. Even when we flipped it into sports mode and tried to recreate our favorite scenes from Top Gun the camera stayed locked in with the horizon and didn't shake or bounce. The only minor weak point was some propellor intrusion when turning at higher speeds, but generally this happened at speeds far above what you'd reach in normal aerial videography (unless you're trying to get a follow shot of the Millennium Falcon).



Why are People Complaining of Soft Footage?


We've seen some complaints in online user reviews that the Phantom 4 Pro+ is producing 'soft' footage that lacks the crystal clear clarity one would expect. DJI included a new focus feature in its new drones (including both Phantom 4 Pros and the Mavic Pro) that allows you to touch the controller screen to focus on a specific area. This is only useful if your subject is close and you want a blurry background effect. For wider landscape shots (99% of what most people film with drones) this can create focus issues, so make sure you set the focus to 'infinity' before you take off.

Increased Frames Per Second, Aperture Control


One major improvement in the Phantom 4 Pro+'s camera is the ability to film 4K resolution at 60 frames per second (fps). All of the other models we tested max out at 30 fps. This higher frame rate results in incredible, high resolution slow-motion footage and gives you the flexibility to slow footage down if you captured that panning shot going just a bit too fast. Another upgrade to the mechanics of the camera is the ability to adjust the aperture (from F2.8 to F11), which allows you to point the camera at the sun without lens flares dominating the entire image. This feature is generally only found on professional level camera drones.

The Phantom 4 Pro+'s updated camera provides better performance and more flexibility.
The Phantom 4 Pro+'s updated camera provides better performance and more flexibility.

Mechanical Shutter


Finally, for all of you camera geeks out there the Phantom 4 Pro+ opts for a mechanical shutter with a maximum speed of 1/2000s, which should eliminate any rolling shutter distortions. But this probably isn't something you'll need to think about until Steven Spielberg finds your Vimeo account and recruits you to capture his next aerial shot.

Ease of Use


Generally we've found that DJI provides a great user experience out of the box, and the DJI Phantom 4 Pro+ is the cream of the crop. It shared the top score of 9 in our ease of use testing, putting it well ahead of the low score of 3.


Out of the box getting the drone and controller charged up was simple, and using the large touchscreen made creating the required DJI account easy. The propellers also installed easily with a simple push and quarter turn, as opposed to other models that use a screw and require lots of spinning to get the propeller secured.

All of the Phantom 4 models include a carrying case.
All of the Phantom 4 models include a carrying case.

Best in Class Controller


Where the Phantom 4 Pro+ sets itself apart is the controller. Like most other DJI controllers it has nice, long joysticks with beveled edges that provide a solid grip. The joysticks have just the right amount of resistance to allow precise, controlled maneuvers. The pièce de résistance is the integrated 5.5" touchscreen LCD, which is so bright that images look sharper even when in direct sunlight. Not only is this screen slightly larger than most smartphones, it eliminates the need to bring extra cables to connect a smartphone. That larger size also better accommodates the additional interface for controlling the aperture. Additionally, smartphone batteries tend to last only 3-4 flights, or less in cold weather. Having your phone die in the middle of a flight could leave you flying somewhat blind. The built in LCD mitigates these types of issues. Also, it's nice to save your phone's battery for things like making phone calls, or instagramming your amazing filming location to hype the release of your next amazing drone footage cut.

The Phantom 4 Pro+'s controller feels supple and ergonomic  and is topped off with a high quality built in touchscreen.
The Phantom 4 Pro+'s controller feels supple and ergonomic, and is topped off with a high quality built in touchscreen.

First Flight


Despite the butterflies inherent in putting a $1000+ investment into the air, first flight with the Phantom 4 Pro+ feels seamless and easy. Takeoff is accomplished by pushing a button and sliding a slide bar on the built in touchscreen. The rotors then start up and the drone is automatically brought to a hover at about eye level. The joysticks have a good tactile feel and quickly start to feel like a natural extension of your hand. The large, bright screen makes it easy to frame the shot you want, even at the first go, and is so immersive you might feel a bit of vertigo. Even after just one flight you'll probably feel confident as you pilot the drone back towards home and bring it to a hover above where you'd like to land. Then another push and swipe on the touchscreen and the drone performs an automated, controlled landing.

Flight Performance


The Phantom 4 Pro+ shared the top score of 9 out of 10 in our flight performance testing with its predecessor, the Phantom 4. Both models clearly lead the flight performance pack and are nearly identical in this regard. This score put the Phantom 4 Pro+ a good bit ahead of the lowest scoring gimbal model, which scored a 6, and even further ahead of the non-gimbal models, which both scored 5.


All aspects of the 4 Pro+'s flight is incredibly stable, from takeoff and landing to smooth, panning landscape shots to breakneck flybys (the 4 Pro+ can reach 45 mph in sport mode). Its autonomous flight functions were similarly stellar. Both the orbit point of interest and cable cam functions provided superb and stable footage. Like all of the models we tested the follow mode was somewhat lackluster, you'll get much better results using a pilot to manually follow a subject. We had no issues when testing the 4 Pro+'s automatic return to home function, but we'd like to stress that this is a feature that should only be used if some sort of malfunction prevents you from flying the drone back yourself. This model also got a souped up new battery that gives it a field-leading maximum flight time of 30 minutes.

Leading Obstacle Avoidance System


One area where the Phantom 4 Pro sets itself apart is its obstacle avoidance system. It has obstacle sensors that point down and out from all four sides of the aircraft (the old Phantom 4 only has front facing sensors). We certainly wouldn't recommend testing the limits of this system, but we tested it from all five directions and found it to work well.

Video Downlink


The Phantom 4 Pro+ was the clear frontrunner in our video downlink testing, earning another rare perfect score of 10 out of 10. The bottom scoring gimbal model earned a 7 in this metric, and the non-gimbal models scored 3 and 4.


This perfect score was largely due to the built in LCD display on the 4 Pro+'s controller. This 5.5" screen displays the downlink in full 1080p high definition. This large, high resolution image lets you get the perfect framing and can make you feel like you're riding shotgun in the drone, right next to the camera. Even in our 300 foot flight test the video quality never wavered and never had any latency. The screen is plenty bright enough to be seen in even bright sunlight and was definitely the best performer in this aspect (DJI claims the screen is twice as bright as that of a smartphone, and we're inclined to believe them). Sure, this built in screen adds a decent chunk to the 4 Pro+'s price tag, but it provides an unparalleled video downlink experience.

The Phantom 4 Pro+'s downlink is vastly improved by the bright  high definition  built in controller screen.
The Phantom 4 Pro+'s downlink is vastly improved by the bright, high definition, built in controller screen.

Customer Service


Despite being the leader of the consumer drone world and being the manufacturer of all the drones that we would recommend, DJI has very poor customer service. It received the low score of 3 in our customer service metric, well off the top score of 9. There is no help line, so all correspondence must be done via email. In our experience these emails don't get a prompt response, and when you do get a response it tends to simply ask for additional, often unrelated information instead of actually dealing with your issue. This shouldn't dissuade you from getting a DJI drone, we just suggest you purchase it through a reputable dealer that can provide better customer service than DJI.


Value


At a list price of $1800 the Phantom 4 Pro+ is one of the most expensive drones we tested (only the DJI Inspire costs more). However, what you're getting is essentially a professional quality rig. So if you're looking for the absolute best quality, or want something that you can grow into in case aerial videography becomes more than a hobby, then the Phantom 4 Pro+ is a great value.

Conclusion


The Phantom 4 Pro+ is a professional quality camera drone in a package that will be familiar to anyone who has used any of the many iterations of DJI's Phantom series. Whether you're a professional or an amateur, if you want professional level footage without having to shell out multiple thousands of dollars for a specialized pro rig, this is the drone for you.


Accessories


Phantom 4 Pro Battery
  • Cost: $169


Phantom 4 Propellers
  • Cost: $18


Phantom 4 Charging Hub
  • Cost: $90
  • Can charge 3 batteres at once
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

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