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DJI Spark Review
Price: $500 List | $396.00 at Amazon
Pros: Portable, easy to fly, fun
Cons: Mediocre video quality, shorter flight time
Bottom line: The perfect balance of portability, capability, and fun for those looking to take some photos and enjoy flying
The DJI Spark is the smallest member of DJI's drone family, and it takes the littlest sibling role to heart. This little firefly buzzes around with enough maneuverability to keep kids and adults entertained, provides instagram worthy photos, and can take some decent video. Its light weight and portable form factor make it the easiest drone to travel with, and thus the one you're most likely to have with you when the opportunity for a perfect aerial selfie arises. It doesn't have the chops or camera quality to get the epic, cinema quality aerial shots that larger drones are capable of, but it's great for fun, photos, and adding a bit of flare to home movies.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
If you're looking for something that is fun and easy to fly that can also provide you with some nice photos and some basic video, then the DJI Spark is for you. It is the easiest and most portable option available for buzzing around the backyard, grabbing some aerial selfies, and taking some home movies.
Should I Get the Spark or the Mavic?
We know that many of our readers will be choosing between the two most portable options offered by DJI, the Spark ($500, $650 with a controller) and the Mavic ($1000). So which is best for you? It really depends on what you want to do with the drone. The Spark is fun and simple to fly, takes good photos, and produces decent video that will look great when viewed on a phone. However, due to its small size it's not very stable in wind and isn't great for big, panning landscape shots.
The Mavic, on the other hand, can produce footage that looks stunning even when viewed on a 50 inch flat screen. It also has a longer flight time and more flying power in general, allowing you to get bigger and more ambitious with your shots.
Bottom line: Get the Spark if you're new to drones and want something simple and fun that the kids can enjoy as well. Get the Mavic If you have bigger filmmaking aspirations on the horizon and want something that you can grow into.
The DJI Spark received an average overall score in our testing, but noticeably scored much higher than the two other drones that fit the same niche, the YUNEEC Breeze and the Parrot Bebop. Below we discuss the Spark's performance in all of the different tests we used to calculate our overall scores.
The Spark's score of 5 out of 10 in our video quality testing was about average, but again better than the other small, fun drones that we tested.
The Spark's camera is 1080p, and it's video is noticeably less crisp than the more cinema oriented 2.7K and 4K cameras. However, the video did have slightly more clarity than the Parrot Bebop's 1080p footage, and was much crisper than the grainy footage of the Yuneec Breeze. Bottom line, the Spark's camera is about the same quality as an iPhone camera. The Spark also outperformed these other small drones in terms of image stabilization. Its 2-axis gimbal was much more effective than the gimballess designs of the other small drones, but it wasn't able to dampen jerky maneuvering (especially rotating to the side with the yaw control) as much as the larger drones. We did experience some minor problems with propellor intrusion when filming with the Spark, but only when we really tried to fly it aggressively and when the wind was really strong.
This video compares footage from the Spark to the Mavic (DJI's other portable drone) and the Phantom 4 Pro+ (DJI's top line consumer drone).
Ease of Use
DJI generally provides a great user experience, and the user friendly Spark is no exception. It earned an 8 out of 10 in our ease of use testing, putting it near the top of the leaderboard.
Out of the box setup was fairly straightforward. Downloading the DJI GO app and pairing the drone was easy. You can fly the Spark with just a phone or tablet. The touchscreen interface for this flight mode is well designed and includes an auto takeoff button, but it's kind of annoying because you have to cover the video feed with your fingers to steer the drone. This is fine if you just want to get the drone in position for a selfie, but does feel a bit limiting if you want to fly it around and get some video.
Optional Remote Control
DJI does sell a separate remote control for the Spark that adds the convenience of joysticks to the flying experience. This upped the fun factor at least 5 times, as it allowed us to buzz the Spark around in a much more intuitive manner. If you're looking to do anything beyond selfies, we would recommend getting the remote control (link at the bottom of this page).
The Spark can also be flown using only hand gestures. Unfortunately you can only take photos in this mode (no video), but it will make you feel like a magician. If you hold the Spark in you palm and stare longingly (or just normally, it's up to you) into its camera it will recognize your face, then take off and hover right in front of you. You can then raise your hand up and move the drone to the side by moving your hand (basically it lets you be a Jedi). You can move the drone forwards and backwards with your hand as well, but not as reliably as the sideways hand motion. If you make a box with your fingers the Spark will take a photo of you (after a short delay so you can get your hands out of the photo). If you put your hand beneath the Spark, it will gently lower down and land in your palm like the beautiful butterfly that it is.
We were able to complete the above hand gestures fairly easily. There are other, more advanced hand gestures available that we could just not get to work. Supposedly you can wave at the drone and it will back up and then enter an automatic tracking mode. Making a hands up 'touchdown' gesture will then bring the drone back to you. In our testing we just waved like idiots while the Spark stared back at us, unmoved and unfazed. We were never able to get it far enough away in the hand gesture mode to even try the touchdown-come-back-home gesture.
The Spark earned an impressive score of 7 out of 10 in our flight quality testing, putting well ahead of the other small drones we tested. What really set it apart was the takeoff and landing. Whereas the Parrot and the YUNEEC tended to drift a bit when first taking off from the ground, we had no qualms with letting the holding the Spark right in front of our faces and letting it take off, as it was always rock solid.
We loved the Spark's ability to take off and land in the palm of your hand.
The maximum speed of 31 mph is far faster than the YUNEEC and just a bit slower than the Parrot. This is more than enough speed for taking photos and flying around for fun. However, when compared to larger models like the Mavic The Spark is noticeably slower. Where the Mavic could easily overtake a mountain biker with the push of a joystick, the Spark's relative lack of acceleration left it lagging behind for a few seconds before it could get up to speed.
The Spark's 16 minute maximum battery life again left it in between the YUNEEC (12 minutes) and the Parrot (25 minutes). Seeing as you likely won't be flying the Spark very far away, this feels like an adequate battery life, but having a spare battery isn't a bad idea.
The Spark's video downlink was always smooth and never lagged in our testing, but the video was a bit grainy when compared to the downlinks of larger models. This earned the Spark a fairly mediocre score of 6 out of 10. The video quality of the downlink was comparable to that of the YUNEEC and Parrot, but we did experience some lagging and pixelation issues with both of those models.
The Spark's downlink gets much better when using the remote control instead of just a smartphone, simply because you can fly without having to cover the video downlink with your fingers. When using the remote control the Spark has a range of up to 1.2 miles (though we would be VERY reluctant to take a drone this small with only 16 minutes of battery life out that far). When using a smartphone alone it is essentially communicating via a wifi network, severely reducing the range (DJI's claims a maximum of 262 feet).
When you're the best drone manufacturer by leaps and bounds, you don't have to provide good customer service to convince people to buy your drones. At least that's DJi's attitude, and we reluctantly agree. While we've had very poor experiences with DJI's customer service, we wouldn't let it dissuade us from buying one of their drones (they're generally just so much better than the competition). Just make sure you buy through a reputable retailer with a good return policy in case something goes awry.
With a list price of $500, the Spark costs the same as other 'mini' drones on the market, but offers much better performance, making it a great value if you're looking for a small drone. Adding the remote control brings the total cost to $650, making it a bit more expensive but still reasonable given its performance. However, at this level of investment many will wonder if they want to make the leap to the Mavic, which lists for $1000.
The DJI is the most fun and most capable small drone we've tested. If you're new to drones and just want something that can take photos, some basic video, and is fun to fly, the Spark is perfect.
DJI Spark Remote Controller
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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