The Rivalry between the 4K-capable DJI Phantom 3 and the Yuneec 4K Typhoon heats up

by on August 18, 2015

Stephan Jukic – August 18, 2015

While many people recognize the DJI Phantom family of drones, the name Yuneec often draws some blanks. However, despite being less famous than the best-selling Phantom Drone line, the Drones from Yuneec have an enormous amount of value to offer. Some might even argue that they’re every bit as good as their Phantom rivals.

The Yuneec is nonetheless growing more popular in the quadracopter drone world and can be best described as a direct competitive rival of the DJI Phantom. In particular, the Yuneec 4K Typhoon Q500 is the closest in specs and capabilities on the market to the already well-recognized DJI Phantom 3.

Both drones command nearly identical prices, with the Typhoon Q500 selling for slightly more than the Phantom 3’s $1,259 at $1,299 (the 4K camera version of the drone, there is also a $1,100 HD 1080p version). Furthermore, both drones offer very similar design and video capture features.

For starters, both drones are pretty much ready to fly right out of the box. Once in your hands, either can simply be charged and sent off into the sky to capture some truly awesome UHD footage and high-megapixel photo stills of any landscape you point it at. Both drones are also easy to control, to the point where even complete beginners could give them a spin with few likely problems, and both drones offer the excellent feature of first person viewing (FPV), which means the ability to watch a live HD feed of what their onboard cameras are seeing in real time via a transmitter signal to the hand-held controllers for both drones.

Furthemore, while many of the above features are also available in other drone brands, they work at their best and most user-friendly in both the Yuneec and Phantom models.

However, in certain key ways, the Yuneec and Phantom are also quite different, and many of these differences work more towards the Yuneec’s favour.

DJI's Phantom 3 4K-capable drone offers better maneuverability but weaker features than the Yuneec Typhoon

DJI’s Phantom 3 4K-capable drone offers better maneuverability but weaker features than the Yuneec Typhoon

For starters, the slightly pricier Yuneec comes with more accessories, such as a carry case and two batteries instead of one. The Phantom, on the other hand, has a carry case which is sold separately and comes with only one battery in the box.

Furthermore, the Phantom doesn’t offer a touchscreen on its controller. Instead, you need to have a smartphone with the Phantom app installed to view what your drone’s camera is seeing in the air –something which means a more complicated overall navigation and filming process. The Yuneec Q500, does indeed include a touchscreen display on its controller and the touchscreen can also be used to access drone and video settings.

Finally, one final touch in the Yuneec Typhoon’s favor is the inclusion of a Steadygrip. This is a hand-held mount for the drone’s 4K camera, which you can actually detach from the Typhoon and use for other, ground-based 4K video projects. The built-in gimbal is also there on the Steadygrip to offer full stabilization control.

In total, while the Phantom is definitely the more recognized of the two drone brands and offers plenty of value, it seems that at least in some things, the older brand has a bit of catching up to do if it doesn’t want to lose market share to the Yuneec Typhoon. Apparently, DJI is already working on adding in some new features for its upcoming 4K drone releases but for now, Yuneec is definitely the source of better value and features for your dollars spent.

However, when it comes to aerial navigation, DJI still seems to have an edge over its more feature-rich Yuneec rival. According to trials done by a writer for Engadget, while both drones offer great aerial 4K video, the responsiveness of the Phantom 3 is definitely superior and along with this, the drone also does a superior job of maneuvering in sharp movements while still keeping its camera very steady. However, even here, the Typhoon beat out the Phantom 3 in terms of battery life.

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  • Handy
    August 18, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    Yuneec is an OK bird but nowhere near up to the sophistication of the Phantom 3.
    For a site about image quality – you sure left out the most important parts!

    Phantom has well over double the range of the Q. Maybe 3X the range. It has a better video feed system and also can use much larger screens for monitoring – which, unlike the Q, can be adjusted as to viewing angle and are better located above the Remote.

    The Phantom 3 also has VPS – something the Q lacks – for indoor and other close quarters flight.

    But the most important part here is the IMAGE QUALITY. Look around the net at the videos being produced by the Phantom 3 – then look at those from the Yuneec. No comparison. Even the owners and users of the Yuneec admit this.

    There is nothing wrong with the Yuneec machines in general. They are a valid choice for those who like the design and features. However, the most important metric – IMAGE QUALITY – makes the two machines less than comparable.


    • Stephen
      August 18, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      Thanks for the input Handy, great to know these details from an active user. We haven’t yet gotten around to reviewing either drone hands-on (both are pending and in the works) so we got left a bit short on those details for this particular news piece, but sincerely appreciate the user input.


  • D Coleman
    August 18, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    In your opinion, which, when everything is considered is the best choice for aerial filming? I am thinking of buying a drone at this level soon and would be interested to get your feedback.


    • Stephen
      August 18, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      We’re still in the works on reviews of both drones, so take my point of view with a grain of salt. However, as long as you’re willing to sacrifice a bit on image quality, the Yuneec is probably superior simply because it offers better control features and an apparently longer aerial time thanks to a better battery life. The 4K video and images will still be great for it, just not as good as those of the Phantom. But you’ll gain several more minutes of flight and built-in touch controls right with the controller instead of a smartphone. Nonetheless, either drone will give you some excellent shooting and flexibility since both are fantastic pieces of technology on the whole.


  • Ed Kazirskis
    August 19, 2015 at 10:22 am

    “the slightly pricier Yuneec comes with more accessories, such as a carry case and two batteries instead of one”

    Those Yuneec accessories(and handgrip) come with an ADDED cost above what you stated………$1,449.00

    At the $1,299 price point, the Q5004k comes with just ONE battery, NO handgrip…………….and in a DJI like cardboard box.

    As “Handy” pointed out, the BIGGEST difference between the two is IMAGE QUALITY………..and functionality of the 4K cameras.
    Having recently purchased my 4th Yuneec Manufactured imaging quadcopter, their 4K version… brand “loyalty” rested with Yuneec products.

    Having received a defective CGO3 4K camera initially and now 2 MORE defective replacement cameras from Yuneec ….I respectfully suggest perhaps a HANDS ON, using a production Yunnec 4K kit, would better serve your readers and CONSUMERS.

    Along with MY “complaints” There are MANY complaints starting to show up across the internet, of consumers receiving CGO3 cameras with problems ranging from communication issues, to gimbal issues, to lens to sensor mount issues resulting in one sided or overall blurry images coming from the ne CGO3 4K camera.

    Having personally dealt with Yuneec over the past 3 weeks trying to get a GOOD camera, I can tell you that Yuneecs head Tech told me the Tech department At yuneec has been OVERWHELMINGLY SWAMPED since the Mid July Launch of the Yuneec Q5004k………and are waiting for a “new shipment” of cameras to enable them to address CGO4k camera Issues.


    • Stephen
      August 20, 2015 at 3:47 am

      Some excellent additional information on the details around Yuneec’s quadracopter. Thank you for the input Ed. Appreciated.


      • Mike Jones
        October 19, 2015 at 11:55 pm

        The price is $1299.00 for two batteries and everything stated in the original piece. Not the cheaper as Ed stated. $1299.00 has always been the price.


    • Robert
      November 15, 2015 at 6:36 pm

      You seemed to have left out a few details also. The Phantoms battery is $150,the Q500 4k is $99. Also across the internet there are complaints about the DJI’s software shutting down in mid flight. The Phantom is smaller and louder and impo uglier. If you want the hard case,3 batteries and some other extra’s for the phantom pro, it’ll set you back $1,938. The Q500 4k comes with the case,2 batteries and extra’s $1,299 add a 3rd batt for $99 and your cost is $1,398. Over $500 difference. Does the phantom have a few more features? Sure,but is it worth the extra $500+ dollars?


  • Jeff
    August 19, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Wow. You sure know how to re-write an engadget story:


    • Stephen
      August 20, 2015 at 3:45 am

      Thank you for your polite comment Jeff. Not all news on the web is first hand and indeed, we linked right to the very article you mention in the story.


  • Gary
    November 3, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    I just recently purchased the Q500 5k after a great deal of research and discussion. Mike is correct. The price is $1299 including the case, 2 batteries,and hand grip.

    Range really isn’t an issue. Anyone flying a Phantom at the longer ranges will sooner or later lose it due to it’s small size and lack of contrast to the sky. Not to mention, it is beyond what is allowed by the FAA to remain in Line Of Sight.

    As far as the video quality, I’ve compared them side by side, and they are virtually identical when comparing similar cameras, under similar conditions. It isn’t likely anyone is using 4k much right now anyway, so if using 1080 you won’t see any difference unless someone hasn’t adjusted their camera properly. The Q can be adjusted in flight.


    • Tim
      December 1, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      Hi Gary, I will try to post this week some of my comments. A friends has the Phantom Pro 3 and I ordered the Q500 4k. I am so surprised that with drones there are no real professional reviews. On camera equipment there are so many specialty sites which do 100% crop comparisons under different settings and so on for any lens and camera combination. I will definitively do that regarding image quality.


  • Tim
    December 1, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    @Stephen: What does take you guys to do a review in 4 month instead of comparing specs?


  • Kevin
    December 11, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    It would be great if the people reviewing these things had actual hands-on working experience of these things. On paper they seem fairly similar and it seems the Yuneec comes out on top in terms of what you get for the price, but in my experience of owning the Yuneec Q500 4k and seeing my friend’s Phantom 3 Pro in operation, I feel the Phantom is a much better tool for effectively getting the shot you want. I would love to see an In-depth review from someone who has actual hands-on experience with these things, not just somebody looking at the specs trying to write an article.

    From what I understand, there is no way to manually tune the gyros or accelerometers on the Yuneec for stabilizing performance. The Yuneec flies much slower than the Phantom (unless you disable the GPS, which eliminates the return to home and smart modes, substantially limiting the range you can fly. It also has a much shorter range than the Phantom 3 as I can personally attest to. The Phantom has the capability of shooting up to an 8 second exposure which allows for night photography (in stable conditions), as well as capturing light trails and motion blur, whereas the Yuneec falls way short by not even allowing 1 second long exposures. Your only hope in low-light situations is to increase the ISO which drastically reduces image quality to the point where it is hardly even useful except for documentation purposes. Sure the resolution might be higher on the Yuneec, but who cares about having high resolution when the image quality is crap? The screen on the Yuneec controller is quite difficult to see in sunny conditions whereas the Phantom allows you to mount your phone or tablet (with potentially much better display capabilities) at any angle, allowing increased visibility. The sensitivity adjustments on the controls for the Yuneec are quite limited compared to the Phantom. If you are looking to get dynamic shots with smooth panning and tilt action, you are SOL with the Yuneec. The tilt is controlled via the slider on the back of the remote and lags quite a bit, meaning you wont be getting a smooth tilt, especially if you are planning on speeding up the footage. The yaw function on the copter is quite insensitive as well, so if you plan on getting a nice smooth dynamic shot with smooth panning, it’s not going to happen. The Phantom’s open source software allows 3rd party developers to create apps to aid in flying and getting the smooth shots that you want whereas you are limited to whatever the Yuneec app has to offer. The range on the Yuneec is quite dim next to the Phantom 3 Pro. With direct line of sight and no obstacles, I lose video signal around 1,000ft away with the Yuneec whereas I’ve witnessed my friend’s Phantom 3 easily exceed 6,000ft and still have crystal clear video.

    All in all, the Yuneec looks like better value on paper, but in real world operation, I feel the Phantom is a far more capable craft at doing what you want… getting a useable shot. I will be purchasing a Phantom 3 Pro in the near future and selling my Yuneec as it seems more like a knock-off toy than the highly capable platform it’s advertised to be. It’s a nice product for beginners to flying drones and aerial photography / cinematography, but IMO it is quite far from a polished tool for professional pilots and quality aerial photography / cinematography.


  • Roy
    January 10, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    I bought a Yuneec Q500 4K mid December and it is a joy to fly, even in the wild winds we have here in Central Texas BUT the process of calibrating the compass and then getting the controller and gimble/camera to sync is a royal pain. A month later, I still have had no luck at all in recording video.

    The Yuneec is a real joy to fly but I hate the convoluted and complicated process in trying to make a video. I’d dump my Yuneec in a heartbeat if I knew the DJI was easier to use in regard to record video.


  • Luke
    January 10, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    I bought a Yuneec Q500 4k in mid December and I love the way it flies. It handles our wild winds here in Central Texas (where we have thousands and thousands of wind turbines) and pardon the pun, “I’m blown away” at how easy it is to fly and how quiet it is.

    Here I am nearly a month later and I have still had ZERO luck in recording a single video or even panning/tilting the camera. ZERO-ZIP-NADA…

    The calibration process for the compass and then the complicated method in getting the gimble/camera to sync with the controller is a royal pain. I can preflight my Cessna 182 faster than I can contort myself when trying to calibrate the compass (and I’m still not certain if this needs to be done before each flight or not) and with no luck at making a video, I’d entertain the idea of dumping the Yuneec and buying a DJI Phantom Professional IF the video process was easier and less complicated.

    Prior to making my purchase, I did a lot of online research and found TOO MANY complaints on the internet in regard to lousy and lackluster support from DJI after the sale. Yuneec gets high marks in customer service (although my Yuneec was shipped without the neck strap and attachment piece for the controller) I was able to contact Yuneec on the phone and was told by their rep they would send one to me…. (Have not seen it in the mail yet though, but it was easy to get a real human bing on the phone… DJI doesn’t even seem to return e-mail to their customers.) Another aspect that I wanted to stay away from was the frequent need (it seems) to update firmware on the DJI as opposed to Yuneec seeming not having owners do this very often. I have not tried (nor understand how firmware is updated for the controller, the camera and the gimble and I’d rather not mess with it anyway – thus Yuneec scored points for me in this aspect.) Yuneec also gets VERY HIGH marks from me with their controller’s ability to see the camera viewing (if I could just get the darned thing to pan and tilt and RECORD…

    The convoluted/contortionist/camera/compass process seems to be a frequent complain among other Yuneec Q500 4k owners and Yuneec needs to make a fix for this, or at least simplify it in some way.

    My question, how difficult is it to get a DJI Phantom to record video and get the camera to pan and tilt?


  • andre renaud
    January 17, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    I would like yunecc people tell me the difference(s)between the cgo3 and the cgo3+ cameras coming withe H drone soon available


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