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Ryze Tello Review

The best $100 model we have ever tested
Top Pick Award
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Price:   $100 List | $96 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive, simple operation, small and light
Cons:  Slightly choppy video, short range
Manufacturer:   Ryze Technology
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Apr 19, 2018
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59
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 8
  • Video Quality - 30% 4
  • Ease of Use - 20% 6
  • Portability - 20% 10
  • Flight Performance - 15% 5
  • Video Downlink - 15% 5

The Skinny

The result of a partnership with Ryze and DJI, the Ryze Tello packs a whole lot of technology into a very small and affordable package. This is a perfect drone for first time pilots or children that want a drone they can easily fly without crashing every few seconds. We were particularly impressed with the Tello's stability. We expect most drones in this price range to fly like a drowsy bumblebee, but the Tello easily and consistently locked into a stable hover, rarely drifting more than a few inches in any direction. The phone-based controls are not ideal, but they still provide a good flying experience. Plus, if you want the feel of actual joysticks the Tello app is compatible with a number of Bluetooth gaming controllers. There are some downsides, however. The Tello isn't quite powerful enough to fly outside in even a light breeze, and the camera takes decent photos but struggles a bit with video (when compared to the multi-hundred dollar models). That being said, other drones in this price range don't even come close to the Tello's quality.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Ryze Tello is far and away the most compelling drone we've seen in the $100 price range. If you're looking for a cheap introduction to flying, or want a cheap but capable quadcopter for your kids to have fun with, this should be on the top of your list.


The Ryze Tello vs. The DJI Spark


After doing a cursory review of the Ryze Tello's specs, it can be tempting to think that it is essentailly an incredibly cheap version of the DJI Spark. While we feel the Tello is an exceptional drone considering its $100 price, it is unfortunately not nearly as capable as the DJI Spark. The Tello struggles in even light winds, takes video that is of average quality and has some dropped frames, and can only fly 100 meters from its controller. The Spark, on the other hand, can handle most outdoor flying conditions, takes nice 1080p footage, and has a range when using the optional dedicated controller. Bottom line, the Tello is excellent for beginner pilots that want to hone their skills and as a children's toy, while the Spark is capable of much more cinematic feats.

Performance Comparison


Despite its small size and low price, the Ryze Tello did quite well in our testing, besting a few models that cost many times as much. In the sections that follow you can read about how the Tello's performance in all of our tests stacked up against the competition.

Video Quality


This is one area where the Tello is much better than any other drone in its price range and even some that are more expensive. However, it is clearly inferior to the fully fledged, much more expensive camera drones.


The Tello's camera is small and fixed. There is no gimbal to dampen vibration from the drone itself, and you can't angle the camera independently from the drone. The drone's flight is actually quite smooth, so the lack of a gimbal doesn't affect the stability of the footage too much, it generally looks quite smooth. The small, 720p sensor also creates impressively clear images, though they are clearly of a lower resolution than those from larger, more expensive drones.

The biggest issue with the Tello's footage is its choppiness. There is no internal memory where the Tello can save footage, your phone is simply saving the footage that it is sent. That feed from the drone to the phone often gets temporarily interrupted, which results in a lost frame in your saved footage. The frequency of this is variable, but generally for every 30 seconds of footage you should expect at least 2 or 3 points where the footage will suddenly jump forward.

There are also some difficulties with framing video taken on the Tello. Since the camera is completely fixed, you have to move the entire drone to change the framing of the shot. You also can't point the camera down towards the ground unless the drone is flying forward. This can lead to some difficulties getting the exact shot you want when compared models that allow you to move the camera independently of the drone.

All that being said, we still think the Tello's video quality is exceptional for a $100 drone.

Ease of Use


The bare bones of the Tello's user experience, from opening the box to getting it flying, is quite streamlined and simple. More advanced features, however, can be a bit more difficult. This combination earned it an average score in our ease of use testing.


As we said, getting the Tello set up, linked to your phone, and flying is quite easy. Charging the battery, downloading the app, and getting everything paired is straightforward and well outlined in the user manual. You can perform controlled takeoffs and landings at the push of a button, taking the stress out of some of the more delicate maneuvers. Actually flying the drone is quite intuitive as well. We think even technophobes will have it buzzing around and doing figure 8's on their first day.

Using a touchscreen based controller isn't ideal  but Tello flies so predictably that a suboptimal controller isn't a huge deal. Also  the app is compatible with some Bluetooth gaming controllers.
Using a touchscreen based controller isn't ideal, but Tello flies so predictably that a suboptimal controller isn't a huge deal. Also, the app is compatible with some Bluetooth gaming controllers.

The phone-based controller is nice and responsive, very similar to the phone based controller you can use with the DJI Spark. However, we had to knock the Tello a couple of points here due to the inherent limitations and difficulties of flying a drone with a touchscreen. First off, your thumbs will be blocking a large portion of the live feed from the camera. Second, touchscreens don't give any sort of tactile feedback, which is crucial if you want to do really precise maneuvers. This can be rectified by getting one of the multiple Bluetooth gaming controllers that are compatible with the Tello app.

The Tello app's flight controls.
The Tello app's flight controls.

The app also lets you adjust many advanced settings, letting you experiment as your piloting skills and interest grow. However, most of these settings are not saved when you exit the app. So, if you find some new settings that you prefer, there's a good chance you'll have to go back in and adjust them everytime you fly.

If you encounter any issues, you can initiate a chat with a customer service agent directly from the app. We love this feature, as you can usually get some form of assistance within a few minutes of having an issue.

Portability


The Tello is very small and weighs only 0.18 pounds. That's so light that it doesn't even need to be registered with the FAA. However, partially due to that small size, the Tello is easily pushed around by even light breezes. Though you can take it almost anywhere, you won't be able to fly it almost anyhere.


Flight Performance


The Tello flies quite well, but lacks the autonomous flight features, power, and long range of the more expensive models. In the end, we awarded it an average score.


The Tello is clearly the best flier of all the $100 drones we've seen. Whereas most models in this price range require a lot of joystick feathering and intense concentration to get them to hover in place, the Tello can achieve that without any user input. It also moves through the air with a similar stability, making it easy to fly in straight lines or to execute flowing turns. This really makes it a perfect training drone for those thinking of upgrading to a more expensive model, as its flight characteristics match that of high end models very closely. You can takeoff/land by pushing a button, and even perform tricks like barrel rolls as well.



The Tello can also do a 'throw takeoff' shown in the video above. This fun little feature is sure to amuse kids and adults alike.

However, the Tello is lacking some capabilities when compared to the models that cost $100s more. First off, it does not have an internal GPS, so it can't perform autonomous flight functions or automatically return to its starting point. The maximum battery life is 13 minutes, which again is far superior to any other $100 drone, but is slightly lacking when compared to most of the more expensive models.



The biggest downside of the Tello's flight performance is that it lacks the power to effectively deal with wind. This means you'll only want to fly outside on very calm days and/or at very low altitudes, lest the Tello turns into a kite and soars off to an untimely demise. Luckily its accurate sensors and porpellor guards make it great for flying indoors.

Video Downlink


The Tello's 720p camera provides a decent quality video downlink to the Tello app. We certainly wouldn't call it high definition, but it is more than serviceable for trying to frame a video or photo. However, the downlink does drop some frames occasionally, so don't be surprised if the video cuts out for 1-2 seconds every so often. The range is limited by the wireless network emitted by the drone, so you can only fly it a maximum of 100 meters away from the controller. Here again, this is much better than the incredibly choppy and pixelated video downlinks you get with most $100 drones, but is a clear step behind the what the $400+ models can do.


Value


In our opinion, the Tello provides the most drone you can get for $100 by a couple orders of magnitude. For those seeking a low cost introduction to drone flying, or a good toy for their kids, this is far an away the best value around. If you're looking for a proper movie making tool, however, you're going to have to spend quite a bit more.

Conclusion


The Ryze Tello is the best $100 drone on the market. It's not quite capable of producing truly cinematic footage, but it is perfect for honing your pilot skills and for kids that want a fun flying toy.


Max Mutter and Steven Tata