In January 2019, DJI released the smart controller, which is compatible with many of the DJI drones. From the looks of it, it’s more convenient since using a smartphone has its issues.
But it costs more than $700, almost the cost of a whole new drone. And this has got many drone pilots wondering whether it’s worth spending that much on a controller. So, is the DJI Smart Controller worth it?
Yes, the DJI Smart Controller is worth it, especially for those with several DJI drones. A smart controller performs better, it’s more durable, has a larger display, has fewer interruptions, and its multi-drone compatibility is a major plus.
Please keep reading to learn more about the DJI Smart Controller and who it’s best suited for.
Is it worth it to get the DJI Smart Controller?
The smart controller is totally worth it, especially when you have more than one DJI drone. As already mentioned, the DJI Smart Controller is designed to be used with more than one drone model.
You don’t have to use a smartphone or carry several controllers. However, even if you only have one drone and regularly use it for professional work, the Smart Controller would still come in handy due to its advanced features (more on this later).
It’s important to note that a smart controller has a learning curve, especially when you’re used to the standard controller’s setup. Besides the cost, some drone users avoided the smart controller because of the connectivity process and the time it takes to figure it out.
But this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Once you figure everything out, it more than makes up for its slightly higher complexity level with what you are able to do with it.
Read this article to learn how to update your DJI Smart Controller »
What are the advantages of the DJI Smart Controller?
Below are more reasons why you need a Smart Controller.
This is one of the main reasons people get the smart controller. Most of the DJI remote controllers aren’t interchangeable, except for a few drones within the same series. And as a professional drone user, I know that one drone is never enough since they all offer different features. But imagine you have 4 drones, and you have to carry all the controllers, batteries, and drones in your bag.
That’s too much weight to carry around. And when you get a chance to minimize this weight and still use all the drones, you should take it. Currently, the DJI Smart Controller is compatible with the following drones:
- Mini 2
- Mavic 2 Zoom
- Mavic 2 Pro
- Mavic Air 2 and Air 2S
- Mavic Enterprise Series
- Phantom 4 V2.0
The DJI‘s Smart Controller is more rugged than a standard smartphone or tablet. If you use your drones in areas with extremely cold or hot temperatures, you’ll be better off with the smart controller. Why? It can operate in temperatures as low as -4 degrees F and as high as 104 degrees F.
A standard smartphone can’t operate in temperatures below 0 degrees F or above 100 degrees F. Even though some drones’ controllers can handle these extreme temperatures, they lack the screen functionality if your smartphone bugs out.
Easy to use and more functionality
Smartphones and tablets require you to download an app for every activity, including streaming your footage to social media. While downloading apps isn’t a huge problem, the Smart Controller makes the whole process even easier thanks to the SkyTalk app.
With the Smart Controller, you don’t have to transfer your footage between devices to share it to your channels. Instead, you can stream your flying session live to your audience.
Another feature that’s integrated into the device is the ability to split the screen so that a friend or producer who accompanied you can view the live footage as you fly.
This is made possible by the HDMI output that allows you to connect to another device where they can view the footage without interfering with the flying process. You may not have realized it, but the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom, Mavic Air 2, and most DJI drone controllers lack HDMI output.
Other features you’ll find useful that you won’t find in other controllers are the microphone and the speakers.
Combining a monitor and a controller was one of the best things DJI did with the Smart Controller. And even though this screen isn’t as advanced as you’ll find in other devices, it’s very bright – twice as bright as standard smartphones. This brightness makes it possible to view the screen or the live footage even when it’s very bright outside.
Smartphones are sometimes difficult to use when it’s too bright. Some drone users even have to rely on a sun hood on their smartphone when it’s too bright, and these hoods can affect your overall flying experience. But you won’t need this hood with the Smart Controller, as the screen is bright enough to easily see even on sunny days.
This is another major reason you should consider the Smart Controller. As mentioned earlier, smartphones and tablets come with interruptions. Often you’ll find that issues such as a failed connection between the drone and the controller, are often due to some background apps running as you fly. When you receive a call or a WhatsApp message, it might interfere with the drone’s operation.
One option is to use the smartphone while in flight mode, which isn’t the best idea since people may need to contact you. The DJI Smart Controller eliminates all of these concerns by being dedicated to the drone alone.
The battery will last longer since you won’t need to use it for anything else, and the pre-installed apps and the ability to add more apps make it an independent device. Better yet, it has a 16GB internal memory, with the ability to extend it to 128 GB.
With plenty of built-in memory, now don’t have to compete with your phone’s storage when you want to quickly record videos with your drone. And when you decide to share your footage with another user or your other devices, you can use the DJI GO-Share feature.
Another small but very annoying issue with smartphones is having to remove the case, or otter box since some of them won’t fit on the controller. DJI’s smart controller eliminates this, too, since you will never have to remove the screen.
Extended battery life
The DJI Smart Controller averages a battery life of 2 hours. While this may not be as long as some smartphones will last, it’s long enough to fly your drone (or all of your drones) a couple of times before you have to charge the controller again.
One downside with the batteries is they’re built-in, so you can’t buy several of them and swap them once one is depleted. Another issue is the smart controllers’ batteries take up to an hour to charge, and the only option you have is to use an external power source if you’ll be flying all day.
Extended operating range
Like the standard controllers, the DJI Smart Controller also uses OcuSync 2.0. This is DJI’s advanced transmission system that automatically switches between 5.8 GHz and 2.4 GHz to offer a high-quality video transmission regardless of any possible sources of interference, and environmental conditions.
This system is so strong that it will ensure communication between the drone and the controller from up to 8KM away.
What does the DJI Smart Controller do?
The DJI Smart Controller simply eliminates the need to have both a controller and a smartphone. It has features you’ll find on a standard controller such as joysticks, RTH buttons, camera buttons, trim buttons, etc.
In addition, it has an android display screen and android functionalities such as the ability to download apps, share and stream footage, and even USB and HDMI outputs to connect to other devices.
Why is the DJI Smart Controller so expensive?
DJI set the Smart Controller’s price at $749 because it’s like buying a new smartphone and controller in one. Another reason they price it so high is the convenience it offers, better performance, and durability.
Is the DJI Smart Controller worth it for Mavic Air 2?
Yes, it is, given the features available with the Smart Controller. However, it’s a tough call since the Mavic Air 2 and Smart Controller have a slight cost difference ($50). You could argue that it would be a better use of your money to get a second drone than get the Smart Controller in some cases.
But as I’ve already discussed, the Smart Controller offers more benefits than both the controller and smartphone combined – the screen is brighter, it can operate at very low or very high temperatures, more functionalities such as streaming and split screens, and it’s dedicated to your drone.
As mentioned earlier, the Smart Controller also has an HDMI output, speaker, and microphone, features you won’t find in the Mavic Air 2’s controller.
Is the DJI Smart Controller worth it for the Mini 2?
Yes and no. That depends on what you’ll be using the drone for. Currently, a DJI smart controller costs $749, while a DJI Mini 2 costs $449. The price of the Smart Controller is almost the cost of a Mavic Air 2, which costs $799. So it will be a dilemma between getting a better drone or improving the flying experience of the current one.
Besides, the Mini 2 is more of a beginner drone, and it was targeted at hobbyists looking for an entry-level drone with some advanced features. DJI sacrificed features like Follow Me and obstacle avoidance to make it lighter and more beginner-friendly.
If you already have a Mavic Mini 2, you could get a Mavic Air 2 instead of the controller. These two drones’ controllers are interchangeable, and they’ll save you the cost of buying the smart controller.
But there’s nothing wrong with getting the controller for the Mini 2. With some creativity and improvising, you can take some professional photos and videos with this mini-drone, and you can add more drones in the future to fully utilize the Smart Controller.
Does the DJI Smart Controller increase range?
Not really. What it does is improve on the standard controller’s and smartphone’s performance. But it has the same OcuSync 2.0 transmission system, and the range will mostly remain the same – 8 to 10 KM.
And there you have it. I’ve tried to be as forthright as possible in helping you decide whether to get the controller. The only reason you might really hesitate to get the Smart Controller is the cost compared to the drone’s price.
But the benefits it offers over a standard controller and smartphone outweigh the hefty cost. You can also get around the high cost by buying the Smart Controller when they have offers like Black Friday deals.
Whether you have the Mini 2, or a more expensive drone like the Phantom 4 V2.0, the Smart Controller should form part of your gear as we hope that DJI will expand its compatibility by adding more drones.
Image Credit: DJI