Meta Description: This Phantom Drone 3 drone review will help you understand how DJI incorporated the best features of its Phantom 3 line into the Phantom 3 SE. This budget drone packs excellent features such as a 4K camera, 2.5-mile flight range and 35 miles-per-hour speed while the high-speed battery charger reduces flight downtime.
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Phantom Drone 3 Review – Which Should I Buy?
You are hooked on your low-cost, low-feature beginner drone, love to fly it and learned enough to keep from crashing. Congratulations! Now you want to step up to a more versatile model, preferably one with a great camera. The DJI Phantom 3 drone line is a great choice especially if you are on a budget. However, which one do you choose? DJI produces the Phantom 3 SE, yet discontinued Phantom 3 models are readily available. This Phantom Drone 3 drone review will help you understand these options so you can make your best decision.
The Phantom 3 SE is easy to fly, excellent for photography and very stable in rough air. GPS technology and advanced sensors hold it motionless in the wind. You will immediately see and appreciate the difference from your inexpensive beginner drone. DJI improved the range over earlier models. You still want to keep your drone in sight, yet the longer transmission distance gives you peace of mind from losing a signal. Moreover, in the worst case, the Phantom 3 will still return home.
We researched and compared features of each Phantom 3 model from DJI material and user reviews. We used the Phantom 3 SE for the base model and compared it to the entire Phantom 3 line. You will have a better understanding of these options before you make your purchase.
Why Is the Phantom 3 SE the Best Model of the Phantom 3 Line?
The first thing you notice about the Phantom Drone 3 SE is how stable it is. This model goes where you tell it and stays there. GPS and sensors keep the unit rock steady for photos. Its 35-mph speed fights the toughest winds, although you should choose better conditions. You do not want to lose your investment.
The Phantom 3 is fun to fly. The controller responds to your inputs, and soon the flying becomes second nature. The learning curve is faster than with less-expensive beginner drones with fewer features. You will appreciate its size for both stability and keeping it in sight over long distances.
You spent more on this step-up model and want to protect your purchase from fly-aways. The controller signal travels 4 kilometers even though the unit can be out of sight at this distance. Stronger signals provide a comfortable safety margin if you have trouble visually tracking it.
The drone automatically returns home when losing the signal or if the battery runs too low. The Phantom 3 flies directly to the specified home point in a straight line. Be sure and set your home point before flight – DJI software alerts you verbally when it is correct. Select a minimum altitude higher than the anticipated obstructions such as trees, buildings, and power lines. Newer models have obstruction avoidance features, but the Phantom 3 flies in a straight line.
You will enjoy the video and photo capabilities of the Phantom 3. The 4K camera coupled with the smooth, stable platform yields great images. You can choose from a wide range of speed, exposure and resolution settings to get that perfect video or picture.
Intelligent batteries support 25 minutes of flight time. Many users purchase at least two batteries for extended sessions.
Key Phantom 3 SE Specifications
The Phantom Drone 3 SE has strong performance specifications compared to more expensive models. They provide a good balance between cost and functionality.
- Max Speed: 35 miles per hour
- Battery Flight Time: 25 minutes
- Transmitter Range: 2.5 miles
- Maximum Altitude: 19,685 feet above sea level (limited by software to 400 feet above ground level due to Federal Aviation Administration regulations)
- Camera Image Size: 4,000 by 3,000 pixels
- Video Bit Rate: 60 Megabits per second
- Mobile App Screen View: 720P at 30 frames per second
This model performs well for its price point. The drone is fast at 35 miles per hour. You can tackle higher winds but must keep a good margin of error for safety. For example, a 35-miles-per-hour drone flying against 25-mile winds will only move 10 miles per hour over the ground. It may not be fast enough to return home when flying extended distances especially if the battery is low.
The Phantom 3 SE can operate 19,385 feet above sea level supporting high altitude take off from mountains. The Federal Aviation Administration limits drone flight to no higher than 400 feet above ground level. Users cannot operate drones near restricted areas such as airports and military bases. DJI prevents operation beyond these limits using the drone’s internal software.
The Phantom Drone 3 SE’s camera produces 12-megapixel still photos. It has single-shot, burst-mode, exposure-bracketing, and time-lapse features. You will appreciate the exposure bracketing when faced with various light levels during flight. The unit supports both JPEG and RAW formats found in high-end professional cameras. You can adjust exposure and other photo features in post-editing using the RAW setting. The camera supports Ultra High Definition video with a maximum setting of 4,096 by 2,160 resolution at 24 frames per second. You fill up your memory card quicker at this level so you may want to choose lower resolutions for some videos.
The Federal Aviation Administration requires you to keep your drone in sight at all times. The Phantom Drone 3 SE supports a 2.5-mile range before losing the signal. Sometimes interference from power lines or nearby buildings degrades signals even though you have the drone in sight. The strong signal produced by the unit helps overcome susceptibility to local interference.
Battery Flight Life
The drone uses 4,480-milliampere-hours batteries with a 100-watt charger. You can fly 25 minutes before changing batteries although best practice is to land with at least 20 percent in reserve. Recharge time is one hour per battery.
The SE model has both a GPS- and vision-positioning system for stability. The GPS signal only works outdoors within the satellite line of sight. The vision-positioning sensors work below 10 feet to add more stability. You can fly the unit indoors out of GPS signal range using the sensors. However, hovering and control are less precise and the propellers can cause damage so use caution and judgment.
Phantom Drone 3 SE Pricing
The DJI Phantom Drone 3 SE may be difficult to purchase due to its popularity. DJI and Best Buy sell this model but may be out of stock. The Drone Market offers it for $559.99, and Geekbuying advertises the same price. Both sellers ship from outside the United States.
How Does the SE Compare to Other Phantom 3 Models?
This Phantom Drone 3 drone review evaluated all Phantom 3 models. You may consider buying a discontinued Phantom 3 model, especially if the SE model is not immediately available. Some offer similar features and may be less expensive. DJI continues to support the Phantom 3 line and accessories are readily available. Here is a feature summary to help you decide.
Phantom 3 Standard
- Price: $499 at Amazon
- Camera (3 stars): The video camera operates at 2.7K resolution, better than 1.92K High Definition. Other Phantom models have more powerful cameras than the Phantom 3 Standard.
- Battery and Flight Time (4 stars): The Phantom 3 Standard uses a 57-watt battery charger. Batteries take 96 minutes to charge for 25-minute flight time.
- Transmitter Distance (1 Star): The model uses a Wi-Fi transmitter with 0.62-mile range, the lowest range of all Phantom 3 models.
- Positioning System (1 Star): The Phantom 3 Standard uses GPS for outdoor stability but has no vision-positioning system. You cannot fly it indoors.
Phantom 3 4K
- Price: $629 at Amazon
- Camera (5 stars): The video camera operates at a 4K resolution which is Ultra High Definition. The strong camera is a good value for the price.
- Battery and Flight Time (4 stars): The Phantom 3 4K uses the same battery as the Phantom 3 Standard. Flight time is 25 minutes.
- Transmitter Distance (2 Stars): The model uses a Wi-Fi transmitter with a 0.75-mile range. Signal distance is better than the Phantom 3 Standard but less than other models.
- Positioning System (3 Stars): The Phantom 3 4K has a GPS- and vision-positioning system. It can be used indoors with caution.
Phantom 3 Advanced
- Price: $655 at Amazon
- Camera (3 stars): The Phantom 3 Advanced shares the same lower resolution camera as the Phantom 3 Standard. The video imager operates at 2.7K.
- Battery and Flight Time (4 stars): This model uses the same battery as other Phantom models. Flight time is 23 minutes.
- Transmitter Distance (5 Stars): The Phantom 3 Advanced uses DJI Lightbridge technology to improve range. This model can fly up to 3.1 miles from the transmitter.
- Positioning System (5 Stars): This model has advanced sensors operating independently of the GPS unit. The navigation unit uses both GPS signals plus the Russian satellite network called GLONASS. The combination provides stronger signals especially when some of the satellites are not in view.
Phantom 3 Professional
- Price: $799 at Amazon
- Camera (5 stars): The Phantom 3 Professional shares the same camera with the Phantom 3 4K. Users obtain 4,000 by 3,000 pixels image resolution.
- Battery and Flight Time (4 stars): This model uses the same battery as the other models but has a more powerful 100-watt charger. Flight time is still 23 minutes, but you can recharge batteries in 63 minutes.
- Transmitter Distance (5 Stars): The Phantom 3 Professional and Advanced models use DJI Lightbridge technology to improve range. This model can fly up to 3.1 miles from the transmitter.
- Positioning System (5 Stars): This model uses the same sensors as the Phantom 3 Advanced. The combination of GPS plus the Russian GLONASS system provides stronger signals than other Phantom models.
Consider the Pros and Cons When Evaluating Phantom 3 Models
Here are some tradeoffs you may consider.
- The Phantom Drone 3 SE’s 2.5-mile transmitter range maximizes Wi-Fi technology over earlier models. You will rest easier knowing you have complete control over longer distances despite external signal interference.
- The 4K camera supports stunning still and video images. Phantom drones excel at photography, and this is a welcome feature for the base model.
- The $600 price is attractive compared to other Phantom models. The Phantom Drone 3 SE combines the most popular features of the four discontinued models.
- The DJI Phantom 3 SE uses an older design. DJI may discontinue it in favor of newer models with limited future support.
- The SE may be a difficult purchase. DJI and electronics box stores have stock-outs with no indication of replenishment dates.
- The four other DJI Phantom models in this review are out of production but readily available. You should do comparative price checking before making your purchase decision.
So What Should You Do?
DJI produces some of the most popular drones on the market due to features, reliability, and price. The Phantom 3 product line brought significant value for entry-level buyers, but new models and technology will replace them over time. They still provide an excellent flying experience coupled with superb cameras.
The Phantom Drone 3 SE model is an excellent choice given its low price, excellent range, and high definition 4K camera. Phantom 3 drones are easy to fly, especially for beginners who previously mastered less-expensive drones with fewer stability features. The low purchase price works well for limited budgets.
You will be pleased with your SE model purchase. If it is not available, you can consider the comparatively priced discontinued Phantom 3 models with similar features, most notably the Phantom 3 4K.
- Camera (5 Stars)
- Battery and Flight Time (4 Stars)
- Transmitter Distance (4 Stars)
- Positioning System (4 Stars)
- 4.25 Stars
This Phantom Drone 3 drone review evaluated all models in the Phantom 3 line. DJI took the best features of the four original models and put them in the Phantom 3 SE. This base model drone has excellent features at a budget price that is sure to please the entry-level drone enthusiast.