Editors' note: Clarification was added in regards to the Blade Chroma 4K's GPS features as well as the absence of a visual positioning system found on competing quadcopters, which assists with indoor flight when GPS is not available.
The Blade Chroma 4K from Horizon Hobby is essentially a redesigned version of the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K, which I liked quite a bit. It shares all the same capabilities, has the same remote controller with a built-in touchscreen and the same 4K-resolution camera and three-axis gimbal for stabilization.
Priced at $1,200 (£1,100, AU$2,000), the biggest differences are in the actual design. The Chroma is much smaller than the Typhoon and is closer in size to DJI's Phantom 3 models; the Chroma's diagonal motor-to-motor distance is 400mm compared to 390mm for the Phantom and 510mm for the Typhoon.
The Chroma's smaller size and the fact that it can be quickly broken down makes it very travel friendly. The color-coded self-tightening propellers spin off easily, the landing gear simply unclip, and if you disconnect the gimbal's power cable and release another clip in front of the gimbal, you can slide the whole assembly right off. All of the pieces and the Yuneec ST10+ controller will all fit into a large messenger bag or backpack.
Now, while the Chroma has its fair share of advantages, it lacks the autonomous navigation features others in this range offer, namely DJI's Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional quadcopters. Those two as well as Parrot's Bebop 2 also have visual positioning systems made up of cameras and ultrasonic sensors that allow them to hover in place without a GPS lock. This allows you to fly more easily indoors and helps with stability when the drones are within several feet of the ground.
If you can live without those features in favor of things like a nice remote control, a more travel-friendly design and readily available parts and accessories -- not to mention good customer service -- put the Chroma 4K on your short list.
Design and features
The Chroma weighs in at 2.9 pounds (1.3kg) and a chunk of that is the 6,300mAh battery that locks into the rear of the chassis. The body doesn't look particularly strong, but being more compact makes it feel tougher than the Typhoon. Even if you did crash, Horizon Hobby stocks all of the parts, so it's no problem to make repairs. And if you don't like the white frame, the site sells adhesive skins to give it a new look.
You don't have to assemble anything when you open the box, by the way. The quadcopter is completely assembled. Just spin on a set of propellers (two sets are included), slide in a battery -- after you've charged it, of course -- and you're ready to fly. Along with the Chroma, battery, propellers and controller, you get a battery charger and a sunshield to make it easier to see the controller's screen.
Most of the camera drones I've tested rely on a tablet or smartphone for a live view from the camera as well as flight information. The Chroma skips this and instead the ST10+ controller has a built-in 5.5-inch touchscreen display to deliver the same information. There's a bit of lag between the camera and screen and the camera has an ultrawide-angle lens making it difficult to judge distance from subjects, so I don't recommend flying by FPV alone. For setting up shots and giving you telemetry data at a glance, though, it's great. It also means you only have to worry about having the controller charged, not a second device.
Having the fixed screen does mean you can't go with a larger tablet display, but since the drone doesn't support waypoint navigation -- where a larger screen to set up an autonomous flight path comes in handy -- and FPV flying isn't a great idea, it's not a big loss.
The controller also has buttons for starting and stopping video recording and snapping photos and sliders for setting the camera angle and limiting overall climb/descend and directional speed. A switch lets you move between flight modes: Smart, Angle and Home.
Smart mode is made for beginners. In addition to enabling a virtual barrier called a geofence to prevent it from flying more than 330 feet (100 meters) away from the pilot, the controller will always move the Chroma 4K in the direction the right-hand control stick is pushed relative to the pilot and no matter which way the nose is pointed. It's fine if you've never flown before and you use it just to get a feel for how the quadcopter will fly, but I don't recommend using it much beyond that. Smart mode relies heavily on GPS and if the Chroma should lose its signal, you'll have to pilot manually, which will be very difficult if you've flown exclusively in Smart mode.
However, Smart mode is the only way you can use two of the drone's main attractions: Follow Me and Tracking modes. With Follow Me, the drone uses a GPS signal from the controller to follow whoever or whatever is carrying it at an altitude and distance you set, staying at the same distance and angle from the controller as you move. Tracking mode works similarly, but keeps the controller -- or whoever's holding it -- framed in the camera no matter where and how it moves and the camera can automatically tilt according to the controller.