Have you been looking for a new product that will make your drone experience more convenient? The DJI Smart Controller is the perfect answer to all of your questions. In this post, LucidCam will go over what it can do and why you should consider buying one today!
The DJI Smart Controller was designed with the customer’s needs in mind, which is why it has features like a built-in radio receiver, customizable buttons and joysticks, an LCD screen, and easy calibration. It also offers a fantastic range, so you never have to worry about losing connection while flying your drone away from where you started. All things considered, this is a great purchase for anyone who wants to take their drone flying experience up a notch
What is the DJI Smart Controller exactly?
DJI’s Mavic 2 drones have been praised for being among the most intuitive flying cameras available, but there are still many areas that could be improved.
Flyers are keen to see the Controller upgraded, so DJI just released the DJI Smart Controller.
This peripheral is a quality of life add-on for DJI’s OcuSync 2.0 drones. It currently works only with the Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom drones. However, we expect it to work with all future DJI drone models.
You would typically use a smartphone or tablet plugged into DJI’s standard Controller to pilot these drones. The DJI Go app runs on your phone or tablet. Your screen will relay information from the drone’s camera, and you can interact with it via touch controls.
The Smart Controller replaces this setup and is designed to offer a more robust, professional-friendly way of controlling your drone.
DJI Smart Controller Reviews
- Review Price: $579
- 5.5-inch 1080p screen with 1,000-nit brightness
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and OcuSync 2.0 connectivity at a range of 4.97 miles
- Compatible with DJI Mavic2 Zoom and DJI Mavic2 Pro
- Battery life 2.5 hours
- Android Runs Skinned Version
- It works in temperatures between -44°F and 104°F
- Clear, bright screen
- Battery life is excellent
- Your phone is now free
- It doesn’t offer much feature-wise.
- No backward compatibility
DJI Smart Controller – Design
The DJI Smart Controller is a hybrid between an Android phone with a 5.5-inch screen and the Mavic 2’s Controller.
It feels solid and sturdy in hand. The generous grips give it the feel of a DSLR. The main material is tough plastic, with some textured parts to aid grip. There is not a hint of creakiness or flexibility.
The Controller is definitely more comfortable than the Mavic controller that came with the drones. We also like the fact that the buttons are larger and more easily accessed. However, we don’t think there’s enough ergonomic improvement to justify the additional cost.
Its screen has a brightness of 1,000 nits, compared to most smartphones that have a brightness of 500-700. Additionally, it runs an optimized version of Android 7.1.2.
It can operate at temperatures as low and high as 40oC. We couldn’t test it in the mild Kentish climate. However, for drone operators who are heading to deserts or the arctic, where tablets and smartphones don’t typically farewell, it is likely to prove to be an invaluable asset.
The top plate of the Controller has three ports for physical connectivity: an HDMI output port, a standard USB port, and a slot to hold microSD cards. An external TV or monitor can connect to the HDMI port to view content stored on the Controller or live from the drone is up to 4K resolution. The USB port and card slots can also be used for data transfer to other devices.
DJI Smart Controller- Build Quality
The DJI Controller’s build quality is exceptional. It feels very solid in hand and definitely has some weight. This added weight is actually something I like. It almost makes you feel larger. Subconsciously, I noticed that I paid more attention to what was happening than when I was using the standard remote.
The Smart Controller weighed 690g (24.3 oz). The standard Mavic 2 Pro remote controller is 320g (11.2 oz). However, if you add an Apple iPhone 7+, that weight rises to 510g (17.98oz). So, in reality, the Smart Controller doesn’t weigh much more than a standard remote and a smartphone.
DJI Smart Controller- HDMI Out
An HDMI out port is something you won’t find on either the Mavic 2 Pro controllers or the Mavic 2 Zoom controllers. The Smart Controllers are capable of playing back video at 4K 60fps using H.264 or H.265 and can even provide live output to another screen. This is great for a director or producer who wants to see the footage you’re shooting but doesn’t want to have to be right next to you. The HDMI port allows you to connect a monitor so they can view your screen from their own computer. The Quick Settings menu allows you to adjust the HDMI settings. You can adjust the HDMI resolution, rotation, and output mode as well as screen zoom.
The Smart Controllers can be connected directly to a computer via USB. There are three options available: Charge the Smart Controller, Transfer Files, or Transfer Photos via (PTP).
Smart Controller is topped by a series of flashing and blinking lights that give you information about the status of what’s going on.
- Low battery warning – Yellow blinking
- Cyan blinking – Control sticks not in a position
- Red blinking – The Controller’s temperature is too high or the battery is low.
- Steady red – The DJI Smart Controller cannot be connected
- Steady green – The DJI Smart Controller can be connected
- Steady yellow – The DJI Smart Controller firmware upgrade failed
Connectivity-wise, the USB-C port can be used to charge your battery, and an HDMI port is available for 4K video output to a TV. This controller doesn’t support backward compatibility. The Smart Controller can only be used with OcuSync 2.0 models. DJI drone owners who have older models than the current Mavic 2 will not be able to use it. This applies even to very popular DJI models such as the Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic Air, and the Mavic Pro. DJI suggests that the Smart Controller will work with all future drones, even those using OcuSync later versions.
How To Connect The DJI Smart Controller To The Mavic Air 2
The binding process for the Mavic Air 2 is similar, however, you must have the latest update for the DJI Smart Controller so that it’s compatible with the Mavic Air 2. You can update that by connecting the controller to your computer with a USB C cable and download the official DJI Assistant 2 software.
DJI Smart Controller- Microphone and Speaker
The DJI Smart Controller includes a microphone and speaker that can be used to stream live video.
Although there is an adjustment to the speaker’s volume, I could not find any menu options for the microphone. It’s still unclear how it works. None of my clips had audio. This microphone feature might not work if you’re streaming live.
DJI GO 4 DJI Pilot and DJI GO 4 are supported by an Android dashboard that can be customized. You can also use third-party apps like editing programs. SkyTalk is a new feature in DJI GO 4, which allows pilots to stream their drone’s camera feed live to social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, WeChat. It is important to remember that the Smart Controller does not have a cellular connection, so to stream live video, you will need to pair it to a smartphone.
It is very interesting that third-party apps can be downloaded through the browser, or APK files can be installed from a MicroSD card. DJI is not responsible for third-party app use. DJI recommends that you delete any third-party apps installed on your Controller in order to make the most of it.
DJI GO – Share is another feature that DJI GO – Share allows you to transfer your images from your Controller to your mobile device. After setting it up, I found that this worked well. You can only share photos and videos through DJI GoShare. Screenshots and screen recordings cannot be shared.
Sharing was not working for me. The Bluetooth sharing didn’t work even when the Remote Controller was paired to another device. This is most likely a bug in the Remote Controller’s firmware. This problem meant that screen recordings and screenshots I had taken off the Smart Controller couldn’t be moved.
DJI Smart Controller- Battery life
DJI claims the Smart Controller can last between 2 and 2.5 hours on a single charge and can operate in temperatures as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The Smart Controller is powered by two 2500 mAh Lithium-ion batteries. It takes about one hour to fully charge. Based on my testing, I found that the Smart Controller was able to last for just under two hours. The Smart Controller is powered by a battery that can be charged and used simultaneously if it is connected to a USB power source.
Although the Smart Controller takes a while to charge up, it is not as fast as charging the standard remote control included with the Mavic 2 Pro or Mavic 2 Zoom.
Some people may not like the built-in battery. DJI should have provided a battery plate so that you have the option to use an external or internal battery. Although you can connect an external USB power source to your Controller, it is often messy and difficult to attach. CrystalSky is an option that allows you to swap out batteries by yourself.
DJI Smart Controller can be paired with your drone
You will need to pair your Smart Controller with your Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom when you receive it. Although it is quite simple, you will need to find and press the pairing button on your Mavic2 Zoom. After you’ve paired your aircraft, you won’t need to do it again. The Smart Controller will automatically pair it as soon as your drone is turned on.
DJI Smart Controller- Useability
Any drone operating system should be user-friendly. Accessing all controls and holding onto the Controller securely are essential. You must also be able to see the screen clearly. You also need to feel safe and reliable when using the Controller. Smart Controller is my favorite Controller. It is much easier to hold and use than either the Mavic 2 Pro or Mavic 2 Zoom controllers.
It’s a great screen, with good colors and easy access to all your important information. It was quite a refreshing change to see a screen that was slightly larger than my smartphone for the Mavic 2Pro. The Smart Controller can be comfortably held in your palm, and your thumbs will remain in a natural position to control your drone. It is much easier to find and use the dials for your camera’s tilt and stop than on the standard remote Controller.
DJI Smart Controller – Controls
You’ll already be familiar with the buttons on the Smart Controller if you have a Mavic 2 controller.
Between the joysticks, you will find a Pause button to stop your Mavic 2 from moving if it is tree-bound, a Return-to-Home button to summon it back like a child, a mode switch, and an additional control nib.
Two buttons, select and back, are located on either side of the joysticks. These buttons allow you to navigate the menus on the screen without leaving fingerprint marks. The shutter buttons are located on the shoulders, which allow you to take stills or video. There are also two wheels that can tilt and pan your drone’s camera.
You’ll also find two buttons that you can customize, which allow you to change the EV exposure compensation quickly without having to go into the menus.
The antennas can be folded down and the thumbsticks removed. They can be stored neatly under the antennas, which is a clever design touch.
Combinations of buttons
You can also use the Smart Controller to perform button combinations. You can quickly adjust the volume, screen brightness, and screen brightness by tapping the back button. You can do this by pressing the back button until it vibrates. The Smart Controller will then display options. Click the one you wish to access or adjust.
DJI Smart Controller- Change Flight Mode
The Smart Controller offers three flight modes: T-Mode (P-Mode), P-Mode (S-Mode).
T-mode (Tripod): The aircraft uses GPS and vision systems for navigation, stability, and to locate obstacles. The maximum speed in this mode is 2.2 mph (3.6 km/h). For smoother and more controlled movements, the responsiveness to stick movements can be reduced.
P-mode (Positioning Mode): The GPS signal must be strong for P-mode to work. To stabilize, avoid obstacles and track moving subjects, the aircraft uses GPS, Vision Systems, and an Infrared Sensing System. This mode offers advanced features like TapFly or ActiveTrack.
S-mode (Sport): To improve aircraft maneuverability, the handling gain values are increased. In this mode, Vision Systems are disabled.
The aircraft will default to P-mode regardless of where the remote Controller is placed. You can switch flight modes by going to camera view in DJI Go 4, tapping, and enabling “Multiple Flight Modes.” To switch flight modes, toggle the switch from P to S or T after enabling multiple flight modes.
DJI Smart Controller – Screen
The Smart Controllers screen is the same one you will find on the Crystal Sky (5.5″ High Brightness) and the Phantom 4 Pro RC with the screen. The DJI Smart Controller supports automatic switching between 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz, reducing the influence of environmental interference on drone operation and image quality. This also ensures reliable long-range transmission of up to a claimed distance of 8 km.
The Controller’s 5.5-inch touchscreen is front and center. It boasts a 1080p resolution, 1000 nits brightness. Most smartphones today have brightness levels in the 500-700 nit range. This gives the Smart Controller a significant edge over a phone or tablet when using it outdoors on a sunny day, where glare can make it tricky to clearly see what’s on the screen.
The Smart Controller is able to see clearly outdoors, even in bright sunlight.
It’s February in the UK, so it has been overcast and grey every day we have used the Smart Controller. Its clarity and brightness are noticeably better than our iPhone 8’s, making it easier to compose and preview shots.
DJI sells a monitor-hood add-on for their Mavic controllers. It physically blocks direct sunlight from the screen for the only PS20. A quick Google search will reveal cheaper third-party options. If you want to reduce the glare, don’t spend a lot of money on a larger screen.
Is DJI Smart Controller bright enough for direct sunlight?
My iPhone 7+ is my standard for operating the Mavic 2 Pro. It has a bright screen, but it can’t be used in sunlight. It is dangerous not to be able to see what you’re doing, especially when flying a drone. Safety should always be your top priority. If you can’t see what is happening, safety may be compromised.
The Smart Controller screen was very good outside, even in bright sunlight. This is a huge improvement over using a smartphone. It could be brighter, however. It is subject to reflections and glare. If you use the screen in bright sunlight, you may not be able to see as clearly as you would like. If you plan to use the screen in bright sunlight, a sun hood is necessary.
The DJI CrystalSky 7.85″ Ultra-Bright Monitor, which has a brightness of 2000 cd/m2, is a good comparison. Although I would prefer to have seen the Smart Controller display 2000 cd/m2, it would have drastically reduced the battery life. Perhaps a Smart Controller with a 2000cd/m2 display will soon be available.
DJI Smart Controller will work with other DJI products
The Smart Controller currently works only with the Mavic 2 Pro or Mavic 2 Zoom. According to DJI, the Smart Controller will soon be compatible with other DJI drones. For this to happen, the “other drones” must use DJI’s OcuSync2.0 video transmission system. An older drone such as the original Mavic will not work because it uses an older version OcuSync. DJI would need to make a new drone with OcuSync 3.0 compatible with OcuSync 2.0 in order for the Smart Controllers to work. It is not clear whether a new OcuSync version would require hardware changes or software updates.
A CrystalSky Monitor is a good choice if you have multiple drones. It works with almost all DJI drones.
DJI Smart Controller -Downsides
The biggest problem is not the extra cost but the portability. It is likely that it will not fit in some of the smaller Mavic 2 Pro or Mavic 2 Zoom bags, as it is heavier and more substantial than the standard remote control. It also eliminates the telemetry you’d normally see on your Mavic remote controllers. This is up to you. Personally, I didn’t notice it. It is also located on the bottom, which may not suit everyone. Personally, I would prefer to see the screen on the top. However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker for me.
You can still view live data from your drone even when the DJI Go 4 App crashes if you use the standard Controller. The Smart Controller will protect you from any problems if your smartphone crashes. The standard Controller gives you the assurance that your smartphone or tablet will not crash, and you can still press return to home. You will continue to receive telemetry from drones.
You can take control of manual control when you get close to the home point, as your Controller is still in communication with the drone. The app will crash on the Smart Controller, so there is no telemetry or way to know where it is. This is a problem because you might have to restart the entire Controller in the case of a problem.
Is DJI Smart Controller well worth the money?
It is difficult to answer this question because it depends on what you do with your drone. It’s not worth the $649 USD if you fly your drone only occasionally. However, if you make a living flying it, the cost could be worthwhile. DJI offers many options to control and monitor your drone. There are many options. It seems like with price of $649 USD is a lot, and DJI will make a lot selling these.
For comparison, the DJI CrystalSky High-Brightness Monitor 5.5″ is $469 USD. The DJI CrystalSky Mounting Bracket to Select Controllers with a price of $79 USD. This would bring your total to $548 USD. That’s $101 less than a Smart Controller.
DJI offers a combo package that includes the Smart Controller and DJI Mavic 2 Pro. This is $249 USD less than purchasing the Mavic Pro 2 or the Smart Controller individually. The Mavic 2 Zoom is also available as a deal.
An alternative is to buy an iPad or use one you already have and then purchase a mounting bracket.
DJI Smart Controller is a remote controller for the new Mavic Pro drone. It comes with two joysticks, one of which has an integrated touchpad that gives pilots more intuitive control over panning and scrolling through menus.
We hope this review was helpful in learning about the DJI Smart Controller – if you have any questions or need help deciding between models, please don’t hesitate to contact us!