Phantom 4 Advanced Review
It’s kind of crazy to think that as DJI announced, they’re going to stop manufacturing the Phantom 4 (and probably already have by the time you read this). The unit only hit the market a year ago. But sadly and excitingly, it’s time to move on. The Phantom 4 models which will remain on the market are the Phantom 4 Pro and the new Phantom 4 Advanced.
Although many of us had set our expectations high for what a new model in the Phantom line would bring, the Phantom 4 Advanced is in fact not an improvement from the Phantom 4 Pro. Although the successor of the Pro, DJI rolled back some of the tech in favor of three minutes of extra flight time and 128GB SD card capacity. Instead of improving upon the Alpha-model, they made changes that both served as attributes to the design and reductions from it. In the end, it is user-preference and not concrete facts that separates the Phantom 4 Advanced from the Phantom 4 Pro.
Without further ado, here is the Phantom 4 Advanced. Note: those of you who can speak DJI’s tongue will notice rather immediately the striking similarities between the remaining Phantom 4 Models. For those of you who read it as unintelligible jargon, don’t worry, we’ll explain.
Design & Build
Aesthetically speaking, the Phantom 4 Advanced is identical to the Phantom 4 Pro and the 4. The plastic-based chassis is durable, sleek, and Phantom-looking. It’s equipped with sensors along the front and sides which serve as the eyes of the integrated obstacle collision avoidance system. It comes equipped with a 3-axis gimbal and an integrated camera (we’ll get to this later), one of which is not detachable. Again, if you’re familiar with the Phantom series, then you’ll notice immediately that DJI once again expressed their nature of consistency in the Phantom vein.
The duality between its beginner and advanced flight modes allow the pilot to adjust to the core of the Phantom 4 Advanced at an easy rate. In sports mode, the pilot can push the drone up to 45mph, but in beginner mode (and with obstacle avoidance active); it’ll fly at lower speeds with more autonomy and control. With all systems go, a full battery, and a clear day – the Phantom 4 Advanced will allot the pilot 30 minutes of flight. That makes the Phantom 4 Advanced the longest flying Phantom model (per charge) to date.
It has, of course, a GLONASS/GPS unit integrated along with a VPS system. It weighs less than the Phantom 4 Pro due to the use of titanium alloy and magnesium alloy, but not by a significant enough amount to really affect speed. They’re saying the range is improved with the Phantom 4 Advanced, but those who flew the Pro could take it 7km without a problem, which is what the Advanced claims is its range.
All in all, the Advanced is similar to the previous model. The Phantom 4 Advanced flies for 30 minutes, up to 45mph, up to 7km in range, contains an obstacle avoidance system, and has an integrated VPS system along with GLONASS and a GPS unit.
The integrated camera of the Phantom 4 Advanced can shoot in 4k at 60fps. It comes equipped with a mechanical shutter, and can take 20 megapixel stills. The ISO threshold for video is 100-3200, and it compresses with a H.265 Video Codec. Also, its burst mode bursts at 14fps. If you’re looking for a drone that can capture pristine, quality, professional footage, the onboard camera will deliver. After all, this is a Phantom 4: it’s designed and credited as the aerial photography alpha (for the respective price) in the consumer drone marketplace.
In terms of focus, the P4A, similar to the Phantom 4 Pro, incorporates tap-to-focus. This is basically a system in which the lens will automatically focus (at least it should) on the target subject, but it allows the pilot to tap on the screen to refocus. Sometimes you’ll hear stories about pilots forgetting to tap-focus only to realize their mistake once they’ve uploaded their footage, but those are rare occasions (as, more often than not, you’re going to notice beforehand in your FPV downlink).
Obstacle Collision Avoidance
As we would expect, this system was incorporated into the design of the Phantom 4 Advanced. It would have been foolish for DJI to yank the exact feature which gave the Phantom 4 Pro its true superiority. Now, they’ve both expanded and subtracted from it. No longer are there backward facing sensors, nor are there TOF infrared sensors on the sides. That means we can’t claim the Phantom 4 Advanced has 360 degree obstacle avoidance. It doesn’t. It has side-facing and front-facing detection capabilities.
However, DJI expanded upon the system, even if they did remove a few sensors. For one, the new range of these sensors has doubled to around 30 meters now. And two, the variation of objects the DJI P4A can detect has also increased. To focus on the backend of the system, the Phantom 4 Advanced carries the most intelligent version of obstacle avoidance in the Phantom series. We don’t know why the backward facing sensors are gone, but the newly improved system detects obstacles in its frontward trajectory and its sides at longer ranges and with higher accuracy.
The P4A does come with beginner and advanced modes of flight. Aimed at the novice pilot and the experienced pilot alike, the P4A will be no more difficult than on any of the pervious Phantom models. Along with the plethora of different flight modes serving different purposes, the Phantom 4 Advanced will contain all the intelligent DJI features we admire: everything from Draw, Gesture, TapFly, Tripod, Terrain Follow, ActiveTrack, Return Home, Position Lock, and more.
For those unfamiliar with how these modes work (although some are pretty self-explanatory), we’ll describe a few below. Remember, these modes are designed for optimal flight and autonomy, so, in simpler language, the drone can do the work of the pilot and the pilot can focus on photography.
Draw: when Draw is activated, all you have to do is draw a line on your screen (whatever you’re using for the FPV downlink) and the P4A will follow that trajectory keeping a consistent speed and altitude.
Return Home: when a rendezvous point is calibrated, the P4A will autonomously return back to it and land on its own. This can also take place at any given point in the flight, and when the P4A is low on battery and needs to land before losing power
ActiveTrack: when this mode is activated, all that is required from the user is to select a target subject on the screen and the P4A will autonomously track it. There are variations of this mode as well (different types of tracking that allow for different methods of camera work).
Gesture Mode: one made for the iPhone children, this mode signals the P4A to take a selfie of the user with nothing but a physical gesture. If you’re looking for some self-footage, Gesture Mode makes it easy.
The rest of the descriptions can be found in-depth on the DJI website. All of these flight modes are activated through the DJI GO application.
One of the newly added perks of the Phantom 4 Advanced is the upgraded controller. Optimized for simplicity and daytime use, it sports a 5.5” ultra-bright screen that can display beneath punishing suns (for all of you who never bought a sun guard). This display will stream both in-flight data and the FPV (in high-definition 1080p). It also contains a micro SD card slot, GPS unit, compass, and integrated HDMI port which will allow you to stream the screen to any device of your choosing.
This new controller is exclusive to the Phantom 4 Advanced; it won’t work with the Phantom 4 or the Phantom 4 Pro. It’s important to note that it does not come with the standard Phantom 4 Advanced package. Rather, you’ll find it in the Phantom 4 Advanced+ package which retails at $1,649 on the DJI website.
In terms of frequency, the Phantom 4 Advanced is stuck at 2.4GHz. There is no option which allows the user to toggle between 2.4GHz and 5.8 GHz, which suggests that depending on the specific environment, interference could be more or less a problem. This of course could be a pedantic point, but that all depends on the area you fly your drone in.
Since the Phantom 4 Advanced is similar to its predecessor, there are a plethora of third party accessories that will fit the P4A, as they do the Pro. This means for those of you purchasing the Phantom 4 Advanced you won’t have to wait until some new accessories are released
Also, we should note that the stock model of the P4A is actually about $150 less than the stock model of the Phantom 4 Pro. This is probably due to the discontinuance of the Phantom 4. DJI may be seeking to provide a ‘middle’ model for the customers who were willing to dish out the coin for a Phantom 4, but not a Phantom 4 Pro. This is clearly reflected in some of the downgrades in the new P4A.
For those of you who speed-read, here’s an overview of the Phantom 4 Advanced:
-An ISO threshold of 100-3200
-Burst mode at 14fps
-4k video capture at 60 frames per second
-H.265 Video codec (better compression rates than the stock Phantom 4)
Design & Flight
-Titanium alloy and magnesium alloy create a lighter chassis
-Flies for 30 minutes per charge
-Maximum speed of 45mph in sports mode
-Obstacle Avoidance System can detect objects up to 30m, with auto-brake feature implemented: making it the most intelligent OAS in the Phantom line, despite not being 360 degrees
-7km Flight Range
-Everything we’ve seen in the Phantom 4 series, with optimized and upgraded versions of the features found in the DJI GO application (Draw, TapFly, ActiveTrack, Gesture, Return to Home, etc.)
Newly Upgraded Controller (with “+” package only)
-Optimized controller now has 5.5” ultra-bright luminance display (for both FPV and flight data)
-SD card port
-Integrated compass and GPS unit
-Frequency strictly 2.4GHz with no option of 5.8GHz
All in all, the Phantom 4 Advanced sits between the Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4. Although in some areas it lends itself as the superior machine, overall most would agree that the Phantom 4 Pro still takes the cake. Despite that, with the Phantom 4 Advanced+ you’re basically purchasing a Phantom 4 Pro with an incredible controller (one that can fly for 3 minutes longer and detect obstacles at double the range. The Phantom 4 Advanced isn’t a new golden prodigy in the Phantom world, but it’s still an astounding machine engineered by DJI to be an alpha aerial photography unit. DJI never ceases to impress us.