DJI Phantom 3 Standard review: An entry-level drone that's much better than basic

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The Good The DJI Phantom 3 Standard is a ready-to-fly quadcopter with a built-in camera that captures good 2.7K-resolution video that's very stable thanks to an excellent integrated three-axis gimbal. It has the Intelligent Flight Modes found on the company's higher-end models.

The Bad The camera can't be removed or upgraded; landing gear doesn't collapse and isn't easily removed for travel.

The Bottom Line For its $499 sale price, the DJI Phantom 3 Standard is the best beginner quadcopter you're going to find for the money. If and when the price jumps back to its original $799, the Standard will be a much tougher sell against DJI's other excellent models as well as the mounting competition.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Battery 8
  • Features 7
  • Ease of Use 9

DJI's ready-to-fly Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional camera drones are remarkably simple to operate, which makes them great for people entering the hobby. What's not so great: their prices.

To help out your poor credit card, DJI introduced the Phantom 3 Standard, a quadcopter that looks a lot like its linemates, but at $799 in the US, £649 in the UK and AU$1,299 in Australia, it costs hundreds less. Also, to celebrate the company's 10th anniversary, DJI has cut the price to $499, AU$859 and £449 with no end date set for the promotion.

At its price, the Standard is tough to beat. You might be able to find a quadcopter with similar features from someone else, but it won't be as polished a product -- from unboxing to flight -- as the Phantom 3 Standard.


The Phantom 3 Standard is the entry-level model.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

That said, the Standard is the entry-level model and as such it has fewer features. For starters, it lacks the Visual Positioning System that the other Phantom 3s have that would have let you more easily fly it indoors without GPS. Similarly, the Standard uses only GPS for positioning outdoors, while the Professional and Advanced use GPS as well as GLONASS, a secondary satellite system for faster and more accurate positioning provided by GPS alone.

The biggest difference is its controller, though. The one that comes with the Advanced and Professional models features DJI's Lightbridge technology for better video image transmission between the sky and ground as well as having a range of up to 5 kilometers (3.1 miles).

In place of Lightbridge, the Standard's controller uses a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi range extender for transmitting the live view from the Standard to a mobile device, so the potential for a delay or loss of signal in the video downlink is greater. Plus, transmission range is cut down to a maximum 1,000 meters (0.62 mile). The remote controller operates on 5.8GHz frequency.


The Standard's controller.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Also, the higher-end controller has camera controls like buttons for starting and stopping recordings or taking snapshots in addition to two that are programmable. The Standard's controller is limited to an adjustment wheel for tilting the camera up and down with all other camera settings and controls handled via DJI's Go app for iOS and Android. There's also no discrete Return-to-Home button; one of the controller's switches can be used instead. (Here's where you can see the full feature breakdown by model.)

As for the Standard's camera, it uses a similar distortion-free, 94-degree, wide-angle f2.8 lens to the Pro and Advanced, but it has a maximum recording resolution of 2.7K HD video at 30 frames per second. That's the same maximum resolution as the Advanced, however that model can also do 1080p at 60fps; the Standard taps out at 1080p at 30fps.

The Standard can also snap 12-megapixel photos in both Adobe DNG raw and JPEG formats. The Go app also lets you manually change shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO and you can set it to do burst shooting, exposure bracketing and time-lapse photography.