So you want to own a drone?  Whether you’re a newbie or a novice, one thing’s for sure… Drones, or rather “Quadcopters” (to be more accurate) are becoming increasingly popular and more accessible to those who are looking to fly and put a camera in the sky.  Among the many brands out there, two stand above the rest and aim to give their customer base an affordable, highly advanced, and easy to operate solution.  DJI and 3DR have set the bar with their latest quadcopters which are to be released in May.

There are many factors involved when opting in for a new quadcopter: design, cost, ease of use, camera specs, gimbal, and flight time – just to name a few.  So what are the differences and similarities between these two that make for the better buy?  While some of what I’ll be discussing is my own opinion based on past experiences with DJI and 3DR, I will also be taking a hard look at the specs from each quadcopter and break them down so you can ultimately decide which one is right for you.

Breakdown

dji phantom 3 professional vs 3dr solo_busted wallet reviewDesign:

DJI Phantom 3 has not changed its design much from previous versions.  In fact, the design is the same. In my opinion, it’s basic but functional and people simply recognize phantoms by their look.

On the other hand, 3DR Solo has upped its game from their previous versions.  I for one,  love the look of the Solo and appreciate the time spent in design.  From it’s sleek curves and defined edges to the bold black and solid frame, I’d give this round to 3DR.

Round #1:    3DR: 1   VS.   Phantom: 0

Flight Capabilities:

Let’s get to the good stuff!  Both quadcopters have increased their flight capabilities to offer more feature rich flight controls so you can get the perfect shot. The Phantom 3 has a max flight time of 23 minutes and can reach speeds up to 35 mph in ATTI mode with no wind. The Solo on the other hand has a flight time of 25 minutes (20 with camera and Solo Gimbal) and can reach speeds up to 55 mph.  DJI claims that the Phantom 3 can go twice the distance as the Solo (one mile vs the Solo’s half mile) with its Lightbridge technology that handles all communication to and from the Phantom.

dji-phantom-3-flight-patterns-app-interface_busted-walletWhile both drones are capable of flying indoors accurately without GPS, only the Phantom comes ready to fly with its visual and ultrasonic sensors.  The Solo does not come ready to fly indoors.  3DR took a different approach and created an accessory bay from which Solo can continuously evolve.  To be clear, the Solo’s Optical Flow Sensor for indoor flight is still in development but will be accessible and compatible with the current Solo in the future as well as with other sweet add on’s such as swappable motor pods, LED lights, and ballistic parachutes.

3dr solo phone app_busted walletAs far as auto pilot and smart flight patterns go, both quadcopters are almost the same.  Both have a “Follow” mode where the drone can track and follow you if you are moving. Both have auto take off, return home, and failsafe modes.  Both also have a Point of Interest flight mode (known as “Orbit” for Solo) where the camera locks onto a specific point or location while you fly the quadcopter in any direction (orbiting or pull in/out) allowing you to get a more dynamic shot.  The one flight feature Solo has that Phantom 3 does not (currently, but could be possible with a firmware update in the future) is the “Cable Cam” feature which is basically a virtual cable in which the quadcopter flies from point A to Point B automatically so you can operate the camera worry free for the perfect shot.

This category is a close call and I would give it to the Solo if it was currently ready for indoor flight, but the Phantom scores a point.

Round #2:    3DR: 1   VS.   Phantom: 1

Camera and Gimbal:

DJI has worked with GoPro in the past with their earlier gimbal options. However, they decided to bring this step in house to create their own proprietary camera that would work with their own transmitters and gimbal.  This was a choice that made sense for them and since then, they were able to produce a 4K camera that allows full HD streaming to your monitor or device.  Nevertheless, 3DR picked up where DJI fell short.  They were able to integrate GoPro cameras to work seamlessly with their own gimbals.  I feel this was a brilliant move on 3DR’s behalf since the GoPro has more features than the current DJI camera as well as a better processor and sensor. Their process also allows full HD streaming.

The Phantom 2 had a major gimbal flaw that many have ran into.  If you have a rough landing that causes the gimbal to pop off its magnetic joint, then most of the time it’ll rip the cable ribbon.  From what I can tell, the Phantom 3 has the same design flaw.  The Solo looks to have a stronger build but I am still uncertain as to how the video cable is setup.  Once we have it in our hands we will do a follow up for a better comparison.

phantom-3-gimbal_vs_3dr-solo-gimbal_busted-wallet_3

While both devices can now record 4K video at thirty frames per second and snap 12.0MP stills, the DJI Phantom 3 can only be used with the pre-installed gimbal and camera, while 3DR’s accessory bay will allow Solo to use a variety of accessories.

This is another close call but because of the GoPro integration and ability for future expansion, I would have to give this one to the Solo.

Round #3:    3DR: 2   VS.   Phantom: 1

Software, Hardware, and Development:

solo-callouts_busted walletThe Solo comes to life with its twin Linux computers that produce amazing processing power.  This technology enables the advanced autonomous flight and excellent camera control as well as wireless updates (say goodbye to those usb cables).  3DR is well known for their open platform for development. This allows for future expansion on the Solo and other platforms. However, DJI has also integrated an SDK (software development kit) so you or others can develop their own app that can control the camera, flight data, ground station, flight paths, and more.  This is a big step for those who are looking to get the most performance out of their quadcopter.

 

solo-controler_vs_phantom-3-controller_busted-wallet-review

While both DJI and 3DR have made huge progress in creating user friendly remote controls, it is 3DR that steps out into the lead by providing more functionality including the ability to stream directly to external screens through its HDMI port. Both platforms are highly advanced, however, 3DR’s processing power and remote steal the show.

Round #4:    3DR: 3   VS.   Phantom: 1

Price:

phantom-3-flying-vs-3dr-solo_busted-walletDJI has been providing an out of the box “ready to fly” quadcopter for a while now and it’s popularity has been proven again and again.  So it comes to no surprise that the Phantom 3 is ready to fly starting at $1259.

3DR Solo has taken a slightly different approach by providing a base price with options for add ons.  The Solo starts at $999.95.  But if you want to match the 4k specs and 3 axis gimbal as seen on the Phantom 3, then you’ll have to buy the Solo Gimbal $399.95 and the GoPro Hero 4 Black edition $499.99 for a total of: $1899.89 (unless you already have the GoPro Hero 4)

As far as “out of the box” readiness for price, I have to give this one to DJI.

Round #5:    3DR: 3   VS.   Phantom: 2 

Support:

For those that already own a DJI product, then you are aware of their poor customer support.  I am one of many that has spent countless hours on hold and digging through forums to fix my issues.  3DR prides themselves on excellent customer support.  They’ve even added more support by equipping the Solo with its own flight journal.  The processing power enables it to log over 500 flight parameters 10 times per second while in flight. Plus, with the added computer in the controller, each flight log is saved right to the controller instead of the autopilot on the quadcopter itself.  This is crucial in the case that you have a “fly away” or dump your drone in a volcano.  You always hold the Solo’s “black box” in your hand if anything goes wrong.  3DR even made the Solo self aware. In the case that something has gone wrong, you’ll be prompted to submit a service ticket from the app with a single tap.  This will then upload the flight data right to 3DR’s support team where they can start to work on the issue.  If the error is on 3DR, they will replace your copter, gimbal, and even the GoPro for free!  That right there is a huge peace of mind if you’ve ever took your copter for a swim or had a fly away.  Hands down, 3DR wins this topic.

And the winner is…

3DR: 4   VS.   Phantom: 2 

Conclusion:

While I’m sure many of you reading this have your own opinion or if you are new to the aerial game, it all comes down to what you want in a quadcopter and what you can afford.  If you are new to the game and want something that is ready to fly out of the box for a good price then I would recommend DJI’s Phantom 3.  If peace of mind and customer service is important to you, or you have some experience and are looking for a quadcopter that can offer more and grow with you, then I would pay a little extra and opt in for 3DR’s Solo.

About The Author

Digital Editor

Media specialist, fitness junky, and adventure seeker. Geno has a variety of skills that make him a product testing Ninja when it comes to Busted Wallet. Not only is he a black belt in karate, but he kick's ass when it comes to reviewing and putting these products to their limits to make sure they are a great buy for our readers. His career as a Director, Producer, Camera Op, Editor, Animator, VFX artist, and Web Developer have enhanced his keen eye and thirst for quality. There's no better way to showcase his passion for the latest and greatest adventure and high quality tech products than through Busted Wallet.

28 Responses

  1. Anthony

    Thanks for this great review.

    Can we expect the SOLO to fly a Sony RX100 ?
    If so, probably only 15 min … but it would be awesome.

    Also, which one this 2 babies is the easiest to travel with ? I’m doing a world tour now, and would like to get one of them to carry all over the world with me

    Reply
    • Geno Mallo

      Hi Anthony! Thanks for the compliment. I have to say that it really comes down to how much weight the motors can handle. The GoPro camera (without gimbal) is only 3.5oz. The Sony looks to be almost 3 times that (8.47oz). I haven’t seen anything on the weight limit for the motors yet, but I’ll be sure to reply once I find out more. But yes, that would be great to fly the Sony RX100 or the Black Magic Micro Cinema Camera with the Solo. If the Solo could handle the weight, you would still need a gimbal that is compatible with the camera as well. I have to bet that we will see lots of new gimbals and adapters once the Solo is out on the market for a few months.

      As far as easiest to travel… I would say either one, as long as you have the right case.

      There’s a variety of cases available for the Phantom: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=bl_sr_photo?ie=UTF8&field-brandtextbin=Koozam&node=502394

      Since 3dr has cases made for their previous models (https://store.3drobotics.com/products/x8-case), it’s just a matter of time before they have one ready for the Solo. I would assume it will be ready when they deliver their first batch.

      Or you can just buy a pelican case and cut the foam yourself to fit either one (with some time and patience).

      Reply
      • Anthony

        Thanks for your quick reply, and all those infos.

        Well, I think the best for me is to wait for the SOLO to be released, then see the accessories coming out.

  2. Peter

    Your comments about DJI customer service are inconsistent with my experience, which was unbelievably good, with DJI customer support. I’m aware of all the “information” out there to the contrary, but I wouldn’t just assume because of what you’ve read…

    Reply
    • Geno Mallo

      Hello Peter,
      Thanks for your comments. I’m glad your experience with DJI customer service was better than mine. It has been a couple months since I’ve had to deal with their support but my previous experiences with them were not as good. Hopefully their customer support will continue to increase in size and get better with time.

      Reply
  3. Julien

    Thanks for your neutral review.

    I was going to order myself a phantom 3 pro yesterday. But landed on the DJI forum and after reading for a couple hours about great story I ended up in a thread regarding horror story of bird falling from the sky… and poor customer service… made me reconsider.

    I will wait for the SOLO to be out and then I will check the review… it look good. However Im still not sure were to go… DJI seems to be the ”leader” in the industry… Im fairly new to all this but all I could see is DJI all over.

    As a matter of fact I wasn’t even aware they had competition 😐 Im glad I found you.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Geno Mallo

      Hello Julien,

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, DJI definitely owns the market right now but that’s not to say they are the only ones with the best solution out there. With that said, DJI does make a great quadcopter for the price, but there are many other deciding factors involved as you read above. If you’re not in a super rush to get a quadcopter I do think your best bet is to wait a little longer after their release to see the majority of peoples experience. I do feel that the SOLO is the first serious contender when compared to the latest DJI Phantom 3. However, for what it’s worth – both are a great choice for what they do.

      In the coming months you’ll also see some newer quadcopters coming out with similar features (even waterproof). We hope to review a few more coming out soon so stay tuned!

      Coming soon:
      Lily: https://www.lily.camera/
      Air Dog: https://www.airdog.com/products

      Reply
  4. FPV Portugal

    And about the fact that the DJI camera can record DNG Raw pictures? And the sensors are the same, in the fact the dji camera has better low light capabilities.
    About the gimbal stabilization? DJI has the lead….

    I dont think this side by side review is fair… And there is already a cable cam from a 3dr party app to the Phantom 3.

    Reply
    • Geno Mallo

      Thanks for your comments. You are correct that the DJI camera can record DNG raw photos. There’s no denying that having RAW capabilities for your photographs make a big difference. Hopefully we’ll see this integration in the GoPro 4 within the next firmware update. I’m not sure I can agree 100% that the DJI camera has better low light capabilities for video mode though. The fact that GoPro has a range of ISO that is twice that of DJI is impressive. (GoPro= 6400 vs DJI = 3200). Granted it is still digital brightness, there is that added range that helps in post for color correction (just need to remove some of that digital noise). Plus the GoPro has an Auto Low Light mode that automatically adjusts frame rates according to lighting conditions for enhanced low-light performance. Frame rates are adjusted in medium- and low-light conditions.

      To your gimbal point – both Solo and DJI gimbals are 3 axis that help for video stabilization. The fact that you can take the GoPro off the Solo and use it how you please is very beneficial when a Drone shot is not possible. But if you’re willing to spend the extra cash and get the Inspire 1, you’ll have the option to remove the camera and use it in the field. The DJI Inspire 1 camera mount does look awesome.

      Either way, both camera systems are very impressive and the fact that you now have manual control over sharpness, exposure, color, and ISO is even better.

      Reply
      • Earnest

        I read on one review where the solo looked more awesome more features with the expansion bay as u mentioned and maybe even a parachutte or laser or LED lighting in future.However,the video was not smooth as the P3 and all videos online from the Solo u could tell it was done by digital stablization.It is said 3DR is holding off the Gimbal to get it stable with the Hero 4..video is a big part of this with this much money involved..

  5. David

    I thought the follow me feature was still in development for the phantom 3. I don’t think it will have it out the box

    Reply
  6. Owen Heuston

    What about the Yuneeq Typhoon Q500+? The Solo is not even a proven entity, it has not been release yet. Also you did not mention that while the Solo uses the Gopro, you fail to mention that the Solo gopro will have a fisheye effect with its lens, while the DJI Phantom 3(and the Typhoon Q500+ for that matter) use a rectilinear lens. The fisheye effect can be taken out in editing software but it takes time and can leave the video soft. Other than those points, I like your review\comparison.

    Reply
  7. Geno Mallo

    Hello Owen,
    The Yuneec does look interesting but at first glance it looks like it does not have as many flight modes nor does it shoot 4k. We’ll have to see if we can get our hands on it to test it ourselves. The GoPro fisheye can also be reduced in camera by simply switching it to Narrow FOV. The whole point of GoPro’s barrel distortion is to give you a wider range FOV (170 degrees) vs. the Phantom’s 94 degrees. Personally, I’d rather shoot wider in 4k for more post stabilization, but to each their own 😉 Thank you for your comments. Cheers!

    Reply
    • Owen Heuston

      Actually there is a 4K Yuneeq model coming out June 1st(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IswIWNLpYWE). The gimbal on the Yuneeq models are very stable and they are upgradeable. I was originally interested in the Solo but the initial cost was too high for an unproven platform. It will be interesting to see how the new models fair when they are all available in June.

      Reply
      • Geno Mallo

        Nice! Now I’m intrigued. Thanks for the info Owen. We will be reaching out to Yuneec and hope to do a follow up with this review.

  8. Owen Heuston

    Sure let me know when you have an article up. I have the Q500+ on backorder, but have been waiting on the 4k to see how it is. I saw that they already have a CG03 app up for the new 4k camera on Itunes.

    Reply
  9. Den Nis

    Solo and Phantom 3 are both nice platform, however i think the selling price way too much for these unproven platform.

    Reply
  10. mike duran

    Dude, your review doesn’t make much sense. All the actual videos of 3dr are showing shaky results. How can you give it a better mark on performance related items?

    Reply
  11. David

    Gene it just killed me to see you say “piece of mind” rather than “peace of mind” not once but twice. So I felt it necessary to give you a piece of my mind about it. Less martial arts, more grammar belts! This isnt MMA

    Reply
    • Josh Herder

      You can blame that on his editor (me). And he goes by Geno 😉

      Reply

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