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The DJI Mini 3 Pro has an excellent controller with a built-in screen. The controller can handle apps and has a good enough battery life for a smart controller. Thanks to a recent update, it’s now compatible with other DJI drones, as I’ll discuss in this article.
Considering you still have the option to use the DJI RCN1 controller, where you can use your smartphone, is the DJI RC controller worth it?
The DJI RC controller is very worthwhile. Its built-in screen, lightweight and ergonomic design, and extra dedicated buttons make it a great investment for pilots.
However, it doesn’t entirely replace the current drones’ controllers, so it would be handy to have them, too, and enjoy both benefits.
Keep reading to learn more about the DJI RC controller, what it offers, and why you should get it!
DJI RC controller – The benefits #
Let’s start by assessing why you should get the DJI RC controller.
It’s dedicated #
While smartphones are convenient, they come with their own issues.
For instance, you may still use the smartphone for your personal use. You may not always have enough battery for it, and you might have to always use it when in flight mode, which means you will be offline when using the drone.
When you forget to switch to flight mode, calls, Wi-Fi, and text messages may overload the smartphone, causing it to lose connection.
On the other hand, the DJI RC controller is designed for DJI drones, unlike your phone. You won’t have to worry about interferences or calls, and the battery power will only be reserved when flying the drone.
Secondly, smartphones also tend to go dim when it’s too bright or hot, or even overheat and keep giving temperature warnings as you fly. You don’t want that happening when flying a drone since you won’t be able to see the screen. The DJI RC doesn’t do that.
Oh, and lastly, you don’t have to deal with cables.
I remember several instances where I had forgotten my cable or packed the wrong cable that doesn’t transfer data, which means it would not show the drone’s footage on the screen.
With the DJI RC, you power it on, connect it to your drone, and you can take off when everything else is okay.
You could get a second smartphone to use with the drone, but it will not offer the same benefits a smart controller has.
Customizable buttons #
Another reason I love the DJI RC over the RCN1 is the customizable buttons: C1 and C2.
DJI allows you to assign functions to these buttons, making your flights more manageable. I often lose orientation when playing around with the gimbal, so I can set one of these buttons to recenter the gimbal.
The DJI RCN1 does have a customizable button, the function button at the top left, but this doesn’t give you as much flexibility as the C1 and C2.
The C1 and C2 are also located at the bottom of where you grip the controller, making them easier to access.
Better ergonomics #
I believe the DJI RC controller offers better ergonomics than the RCN1.
Smartphones and tablets come in different sizes, and sometimes your setup may feel uncomfortable or too heavy, limiting how well you can fly.
For instance, the DJI RCN1 with a standard controller can weigh 600 grams. The DJI RC weighs 385 grams and comes with everything in it, making it more manageable and fun to use.
The new DJI RC controller also doesn’t come with antennas, which also double as the phone clamp in the RCN1. Having no antennas adds to this controller’s minimalistic design and reduces weight (admittedly not by much!).
The DJI RC has an internal storage of 8 GB, where you can store your cached footage. However, about 6GB of this storage is consumed by DJI’s software, so you only have access to 2GB.
Luckily, it also has an SD card slot where you can insert an SD card of up to 256 GB.
The RCN1 lacks internal storage, but you can have that on your smartphone. Still, nothing beats the convenience of carrying just one control device for all your needs.
Extra host USB port #
The RC controller also has an extra port to charge another device.
It may also be a port that allows you to connect goggles, like in the case of the DJI RC Pro, but charging another device is all we know it can do for now.
Extra scroll wheel #
If you have the DJI Mini 3, Mini 3 Pro, Air 2S, or Mavic 3 and use the RCN1, you’ll realize you only get one scroll wheel on the left that lets you move the gimbal up and down. On the right, you have the shutter button.
If you wanted to zoom, you’d have to hold down the Function button to turn the gimbal scroll wheel to a zoom scroll wheel. As a result, you would have to let go of the left joystick to zoom.
What if you needed to zoom, change the gimbal, and keep ascending or yawing simultaneously? You can do that with the DJI RC controller since it has an extra dial on the right that allows you to easily zoom in and out as you fly.
Dedicated video and photo buttons #
This might seem like a silly addition, but it’s pretty useful. The RCN1 has a button that allows you to switch between video and photo, but oftentimes, you forget to switch and could have to retake a shot.
The DJI RC controller has dedicated buttons with the photo button on the right and the video button on the left. Thanks to this, you can easily switch between both as you fly without releasing the joysticks.
Disadvantages of the DJI RC controller #
Below are some reasons to keep the standard controller at hand even when you have the DJI RC.
Battery life #
The DJI RC’s battery lasts around four hours. This is less than the RCN1’s six hours, but that’s because the RCN doesn’t have a screen, so four hours is still impressive.
If you have several batteries to fly, it would be advisable to have both controllers handy. The RC controller takes up to two hours to charge, and the RCN1 takes up to an hour and a half.
With a few breaks in between to allow the batteries to cool down, you can fly all day without having to wait for any of the controllers to charge.
Third-party apps #
The DJI RC is designed only to handle DJI’s apps.
Unlike on your smartphone, you can’t access the Play Store or App Store to download other apps. Even if you could add apps using an SD card, this controller is not designed to handle third-party apps.
This is a huge bummer, especially for those using the DJI Air 2S or Mavic 3, where you may need to use third-party apps like Litchi, DroneDeploy, and Pix4D, among others, for added functionality.
That means that if you need to use any of these apps, you still need to have your smartphone.
Internet access #
Since smartphones are often connected to the Internet, you always have access to the latest version of maps.
However, for the DJI RC, even though you can connect to your home Wi-Fi or use a portable router, you may not always have the latest version of maps, especially if you fly to a new region.
With a smartphone, you can switch on the Internet for a few minutes and update the maps, but that will be harder to do with the DJI RC.
Considering the DJI RCN1 has antennas, but the RC controller doesn’t, everyone’s curious to see which would sustain a connection with the drone for a longer distance.
Based on various tests, the RCN often won the range test, but only by a few meters. Both controllers can give you a range of up to 3 miles.
Currently, the DJI Mini 3 is compatible with the DJI Mini 3 Pro, Mini 3, Air 2S, Mavic 3, Mavic 3 Cine, and Mavic 3 Classic, mainly the drones that use the RCN1.
However, if you have older models, such as the DJI Mini 2 or Mini SE, you must have the RCN1 with you.
Screen size #
While having a built-in screen is good, a 5.5-inch screen may be too small for some people.
You can get a smartphone with a screen as large as 7 inches, not forgetting that you can also use your RCN1 with your tablet, and the standard screen size for a tablet is 10 inches.
I’d take the DJI RC controller for simplicity, but a bigger screen is better for some applications. Too bad you can’t add a second screen on the DJI RC!
Screen brightness #
Earlier, I mentioned that smartphones often dim or overheat when hot. In ideal conditions, a smartphone can have between 800 and 1,000 nits of brightness, the same as the DJI RC Pro.
The DJI RC can only achieve 700 nits of brightness. While 700 nits aren’t that dim, I’d take the brighter screen if the screen was all I needed from the DJI RC.
Screen resolution #
This isn’t a dealbreaker, but it could be if you record your screen a lot and share the video. The issue is that even though the DJI RC controller transmits video in 1080p, when you record the screen, you will get the footage in 720p.
If you recorded the screen on your smartphone, you would get better footage since you will record the actual video stream.
Built-in microphone #
The DJI RC also lacks a built-in microphone. If you were to record your screen and narrate what you were doing, you would have to insert a microphone.
This makes the editing process more hectic since you must add audio to the video separately.
On the other hand, most smartphones record audio, so you will have an easier time.
Software updates #
You can’t “force” updates on the DJI RC as you would on your smartphone when using the RCN1. You have to wait for DJI to update it to the latest firmware, which might take some time.
When getting a new drone, such as the DJI Mini 3, Mini 3 Pro, or Mavic 3 Classic, you can choose the DJI RC at a lower cost.
For instance, with the DJI Mini 3 Pro, you pay $150 extra to get it with the DJI RC. To buy it on its own would cost you $309. That’s way cheaper than the DJI RC Pro but still relatively high.
Is the DJI RC controller worth it? #
Despite the shortcomings, the DJI RC is still worth it.
A 5.5-inch screen is not that bad, the lack of a microphone isn’t a dealbreaker since you can add a third-party microphone, and it’s currently compatible with most of the drones one would need to use.
However, I’d still keep the RCN1 or any other controller your drone comes with for its benefits over the DJI RC.
For the Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro, you can get the DJI RC package and buy the RCN1 separately.
If you already have one of the compatible drones, you can still get it since it might save you the extra cost in case a newer drone is released that still uses the DJI RC.