Phantom 4 Pro vs. Phantom 4 Advanced

Phantom 4 Pro vs. Phantom 4 Advanced

Are you ready to say goodbye to the Phantom 4? It is due to be yanked from the market come the end of April, so by the time you’re reading this it has probably become obsolete. Now the machine which was once the staple of consumer drone engineering will be available only in its upgraded forms: the Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4 advanced. So before we continue to explain the differences between these upgraded models, here’s a farewell to the Phantom 4:

Thank you, DJI, for dropping one of the most intelligent, revolutionary, and capable drones of the last decade. Thank you for paving the way for other drones of similar capabilities, and thank you, most of all, for making it affordable. The Phantom 4 will be remembered as the consumer drone that truly brought the vision of sUAV technology to life.           

If you’re wondering why the Phantom 4 is going bye-bye, it’s because, simply put, it’s outdated. Crazy, right? Especially since it was released at the end of the first quarter of 2016. That just goes to show you how quickly drone technology is evolving: enter the Phantom 4 advanced (and the Mavic Pro – but that’s not what this article is about).

If you’re unfamiliar with the Phantom 4, it was basically the first drone that streamlined the aerial photography process, and brought a new degree of flight autonomy that no one had seen before at the price point. To be fair to the guy (the Phantom 4) it’s still a fantastic drone when put side by side with most units of its caliber on the marketplace. It’s not like a propeller plane has been replaced by a jet engine, just that DJI wants to move on and continue making better products.

So maybe you’re reading this because you want to buy a Phantom 4 and you’ve heard there’s a new kid coming to town, or maybe you’re just curious about the hype of the Phantom 4 Advanced and you want to know if it’s really worth it. Either way, we’ll compare them for you.

Here’s the Phantom 4 Pro versus the Phantom 4 advanced.

The Build

One thing people complain about with the DJI Phantom series is that there hasn’t been much creativity with the structural design. In other words, all the drones look the same. If you’re familiar with this line of products, then you know you’re getting a sleek white plastic-based chassis that is both durable and light. Between the Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4 advanced, at first glance there are no noticeable differences.

However, in terms of actual design, the Phantom 4 Advanced does not have backward-facing sensors as the Pro does. Nor does it have infrared TOF sensors on either side. Except for those two changes, there are literally no differences. So for those of you who wanted a new looking bird, you’re not going to find that. If you love the aesthetics of the Phantom series, DJI proves to be consistent yet again.

The Camera System

The actual cameras on the Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4 advanced are identical. They are both equipped with the same hardware and they’re literally the same unit (sporting the 20MP 1” Sony Exmor Sensor – for those of you who know your tech: that hasn’t changed).

If you’re well-versed with the specs of the Phantom 4 Pro camera, then skip this next part. If not, here’s the main overview of the camera on both the Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4 Advanced.

  • An ISO threshold of 100-3200
  • 20MP stills
  • Mechanical Shutter
  • 4k video capture at 60 frames per second
  • H.265 Video codec (better compression rates than the stock Phantom 4)

So as far as the camera goes, there are no changes. So, we’ve covered the camera system and the structural design and you’re probably starting to realize there are very few differences between the Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4 Advanced. We wish we could say that you’ll see dramatic changes further along in this article, but we can’t.

Controller

Ah, we see an improvement. There are some decent differences between the controller that comes with the Phantom 4 Pro, and the controller that comes with the Phantom 4 Advanced. The P4A controller has a built in screen that allows for a higher luminance display (for those of you who always wanted better brightness in daylight). In the words of DJI, the new display monitor ‘gives the users a live HD view from the main camera as well as essential telemetry data, even in direct sunlight.’

Is that phenomenal? No. Is it nice? For those of you who never shelled out a few bucks to buy a shade prop for whatever tablet you were using, then yes. The idea of having a built-in screen to serve as a flight data log and an FPV stream isn’t revolutionary in the drone world. Either the pilot greatly appreciates the integrated screen, or he prefers his own device.

The new controller does have an integrated GPS unit, a compass, a micro SD card slot and an HDMI port to stream the screen elsewhere. Thus you have the Phantom 4 Advanced+, which is a bundle including not only the Phantom 4 Advanced, but the new, ultra-bright display controller as well (the bundle sells for $1,649).

Lastly, the controllers are mutually exclusive to either drone. You can’t run a Phantom 4 Advanced controller on a Phantom 4 pro, and vice versa.

Flight Modes

Again, expect all the flight modes from the previous Phantom 4 Pro. That means you’ll be able to run Draw, Gesture, TapFly, Tripod, Terrain Follow, ActiveTrack, and more. While some of these flight modes have indeed been upgraded, that doesn’t mean they’re exclusive to the Phantom 4 Advanced, so we can’t technically label them as differences between the two units.

If you’re not familiar with DJI intelligence and want to know what those features do, our quick summary of the main features below will help you.

Draw: basically you’re guiding the drone along at a fixed altitude by drawing a line on your display. If the Draw mode is activated, you can use your finger (or whatever tool) to draw a line across the FOV, and then the drone will autonomously fly in that direction. This then gives you the flexibility to focus solely on your camerawork while the drone ‘flies itself’.

ActiveTrack: when this mode is activated, all the pilot has to do is click on a target subject and the drone will follow it. Now that it has been upgraded, expect a higher range of subjects that can be followed, and a smoother flight pattern when tracking.

Gesture Mode: this one is for the iPhone generation. When this mode is activated all the pilot has to do is make a physical gestures, which triggers the drone to take a selfie of the user.

Again, these modes are not exclusive to the Phantom 4 Advanced.

Obstacle Collision Avoidance.

The Phantom 4 Pro actually has the Advanced beat here, since it contains forward and backward facing sensors and the infrared sensors on either side. While the Phantom 4 Pro contains a 5-sensor obstacle avoidance system, the Phantom 4 Advanced does not. You might be wondering why exactly these sensors were taken off, as it seems an overt regression from the previous model.

It’s important to mention that the Phantom 4 Pro infrared sensors only work when the tripod mode and beginner mode are activated (these modes are less commonly utilized). So these sensors are not the most important ones. However, the absence of the backward facing sensors is an interesting choice, as those were fully utilized on the P4P, and will be sorely missed. A lot of fantastic shots can be created while the drone is moving backwards. This doesn’t mean that you can no longer achieve them, just that you’re not going to be able to have your obstacle avoidance system active and find comfort in the safety net provided by the backward facing sensors.

All in all, if you’re looking for that 360 degree obstacle avoidance, the Phantom 4 Pro is the better option. As of now, we have no indication that DJI plans on releasing a new Advanced model which will include these back sensors, and we wonder if that won’t be a big drawback for those weighing the two models (especially since otherwise they’re so similar).

Live View Frequency

Again, the Phantom 4 Pro takes the cake here. With the Phantom 4 Pro the user has the choice of switching between 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz, whereas the Phantom 4 Advanced does not. Simply, the Phantom 4 advanced is stuck with its generic 2.4GHz. That is not the biggest issue, but if pilots fly in areas where they experience a lot of interference, having the ability to switch between frequencies can be immensely beneficial.

Other Mentions

In terms of pricing, the Phantom 4 Advanced with the standard remote controller is around $150 lower than the Phantom 4 Pro. If it were priced above the Phantom 4 Pro, that would be altogether confusing. However, the Phantom 4 Advanced+ comes with the optimized controller with the ultra-bright built-in screen.

The Phantom 4 Advanced is actually a tad lighter than the Phantom 4 Pro, and can fly for an extra 3 minutes on paper. How that checks out in the air depends on the systems being run and the payload added.

Other than that, there are no differences between the two models.

Overview

Here’s a quick summary of the differences between the Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4 Advanced:

The same:

  • Pretty much everything

The differences:

  • P4A does not have backward facing sensors or infrared side sensors. While the infrared side sensors are hardly utilized, the backward facing sensors means you’re not going to be able to ‘safely’ fly backwards with the obstacle collision avoidance system is on.
  • The controller is the biggest difference. The P4A+ comes with a new controller that has a built in ultra-bright screen to provide the live stream of FPV, flight data, and can sustain its brightness despite the sunniest of days. It also contains an HDMI port, SD card port, integrated GPS unit, and a built in compass. For the pilots who did not like using their own tablet/smartphone paired with the original controller, this is certainly a game changer.
  • The Phantom 4 Advanced is lighter and can fly for 3 minutes longer
  • The Phantom 4 Advanced cannot toggle between 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz frequencies, and rather only operates at 2.4GHz. This could be problematic depending on the areas in which the drone is flown, and the average amount of transmission interference.
  • The Phantom 4 Advanced as a unit with the standard controller is cheaper than the Phantom 4 Pro, but the Phantom 4 Advanced+ which includes the optimized controller is more expensive.

Conclusion

As you can see, the differences are slight. There’s no upgrade in the camera department, and there isn’t a new range of autonomy. In fact, a lot of the tech has been rolled back with the Phantom 4 Advanced, which begs the question: why did DJI engineer it?

Would it not have made more sense to simply optimize a new controller and designate it to the Phantom 4 Pro, rather than producing a new drone at (basically) the same price and rolling back some of the tech (the obstacle collision avoidance system is the biggest red flag here)? On paper, is 3 minutes of flight time a more important attribute than 360 degree obstacle avoidance and 5.8GHz frequency capabilities? We’d reckon most experienced pilots would say no.

Despite the odd release of the Phantom 4 Advanced and its capabilities, it’s still a Phantom 4 machine with the Phantom 4 Pro camera. That means it’s a drone engineered for superiority, and DJI-engineering is generally superior. All in all, the Phantom 4 Advanced isn’t meant to be ‘the better Phantom 4 Pro’ rather another variation of the Phantom 4 with the same upgraded camera we love so much.

 

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