I have been making many drone comparisons on this site and today’s will deal with a classic: The Phantom 4 series that goes head to head with DJI’s newest line of portable drones: The Mavic Air.
And before I start, I want to make it clear:
I own BOTH these models (Well the Phantom 4 Pro specifically) and an Onyx Black Mavic Air.
These are my personal opinions based on what I’ve experienced with both models. Usually I compare where one model holds advantages of the other then do the same thing for the opposite one, then conclude with a comparison chart so you understand each and every benefit. This comparison will be no different.
But before I do, here is what I want to say about both these models:
They are the highest rated ones I’ve reviews. Both score 95 out of 100 points, but this rating is actually for different reasons as each model holds it’s own benefits the other does not and vice versa and I’ll being with the advantages the Mavic Air holds over the Phantom 4 series (I will also distinguish WHICH Phantom 4 I’m talking about).
In an ideal world I’d recommend both models to you, but if you are on a tight budget and there can be only be one choice for you, then figure out what you’re going to use your drone for, then see which of these 2 models is best suited for that and let that be your deciding factor.
Update: With new drones coming out like the Mavic 2 Pro, I’ve updated my scores and thus this is what I have for these 2 now:
Mavic Air: 80 out of 100 points.
Phantom 4 Pro: 95 out of 100 points, but that’s the pro and I will be comparing the Air to other P4 models here and not all of them get the same 95 score.
Where the Mavic Air is superior:
1) Portability (no question there!).
This thing literally fits in your palm. A P4 (all the versions of it since the body is identical) obviously does not and you have to consider this when you’re wondering which one to get.
If you are a type of traveler who enjoys moving around a lot, consider how much extra weight a P4 would add (and it does start to feel after awhile. I know since I hiked with it on my back).
2) The camera shoots pictures and videos better than 1 of the P4 models.
That would be the regular P4. Both these models shoot @ 4K and up to 30 FPS and both have a 12 MP camera (hard to believe right?).
When I did a comparison of the P4 with the Mavic Pro, I also noted the same thing and when I compared a Mavic Pro to a Mavic Air, I noted that the Mavic Air generally shoots better, so naturally with this logical, it’s safe to assume why I came to this conclusion.
However, if you upgrade to a P4 Advanced and higher (pro, pro+ which is the same model anyway), then the MA no longer has a superior camera (then you’re looking at a 20 MP camera with 4K @ 60 FPS ability). In that case, the advanced and higher P4 is just SO much better and the footage I’ve taken proves that (comparisons coming soon).
3) Some camera abilities exceed the P4.
Overall, the P4 itself has more intelligent flight modes, but there are unique new modes on the MA that make it better (Slow shots, 360 shots for instance) and video shots at 100 mbps are huge here.
4) Less drift in the wind and calm conditions (It stays still in the air better).
The Mavic Pro also has this advantage against the P4, but the MA is also going in that direction which is wild considering it’s size difference.
5) It’s better for tight shots.
A small model like this is perfect to send into places where there’s tight spaces as there’s less chances of a crash (still, you need to fly carefully…).
6) Way less expensive.
$799 for a regular and $999 for a combo pack vs $999 for the regular P4, $1,200 for the advanced, $1,500 for the pro and $1,800 for the Pro+.
7) Faster set up (way faster actually) and it’s quieter.
Consider how often you travel (on planes, by foot). The Mavic Air is really easy to take out, set up and work with. Overall, this model just weights less, causes less issues when traveling with it, is easy to set up and you’ll hardly even notice you have it on you when you’re moving around (that’s huge). With the P4, you need to carry it in a big bag (or carrying case) and that really is going to get really annoying. I suppose this should fall into the portability argument, but there’s one more aspect of this:
Noise levels are slightly lower. But I do admit, the Air is surprisingly loud unless you get quieter props.
Where the P4 is better:
Twice as reliable and twice as far. You’ll lose connection less times and go further with ANY of the P4 models.
2) Durability and resilience against wind.
Naturally a bigger model, especially like a P4 means it’ll withstand wind better.
3) A twice as long flight time.
25-30 minutes depending on which P4 model you get (my Pro gets 30 minutes on paper, but more like 25 minutes in real life, the MA gets about 15 minutes in my experience but has a 21 minute flight time on paper).
4) Better camera (on the advanced and up).
I noticed this above, but it’s a major improvement. I love my MA, but the P4P’s camera is just better (both have amazing footage potential though). Here’s some comparison footage:
Now here’s an interesting thing. At least in this ONE picture, it seems like the MA shoots better, BUT I have a suspicion that I set the white balance on the MA to shoot more in a “cool environment”, hence the more blueish colors, I’ll do a correction at a later time, but to the main point…
The above picture makes it seem like the MA is better…until you compare a manual edit of both pictures:
Crazy difference right? Now if you ask me, the P4P is WAY better looking than what the MA produces. Everything just looks sharper and better if you ask me. Here’s another for you:
Again I will have to go back and retest this as I strongly believe that I accidentally left the white balance on custom on the MA and it was set to cool colors, but even if that ends up being corrected, the P4P shoots better, no questions asked.
Now once again, I have to reiterate that VS the REGULAR P4, the MA would win, but when you add in the 20 MP camera of the P4 advanced (next level P4) and then the pro, then there’s no real debate there.
5) Depending on which P4 model you get, there are anywhere from 2 to 5 sensors.
The P4P has 5. A regular P4 and P4 advanced have 2. Now a MA has 3 sensors, so depending on which P4 model you get this advantage can fall over to the MA side.
6) More flight modes.
With the exception of the new, unique ones offered on the MA, generally the P4 offers more customization and flying options.
7) Overall, if you include the advanced P4 and up…
It’s just a higher quality model for filming and flying.
As you can see, it’s 7 pros on each model. So it’s a draw, but for different reasons:
Like I said before, consider each category above I listed and in which case, which model was better, then examine how you would use it and then base your decision on that, but I have a few more filters for you to consider before you make your final choice:
1) If you’re considering the regular P4 model, forget it, buy the Mavic Air, it shoots better, and is more portable.
2) If you’re considering the P4 Advanced, the only REAL advantage there is the camera and flight time, but for $1,200 you may be better off buying the Mavic Air combo pack (same price).
3) If you’re looking at the P4P (my model), I’d say it’s the better choice as it shoots better. The same goes for the P4P+.
Still have mixed feelings and don’t know which one to get? Let me help you then:
Tell me exactly what you seek in a drone. I’m talking what kind of camera you want (if you care about it at all), what flight capabilities, range, price, budget, and every single little detail you can come up with, mention it in the comments section below and I’ll help you make a good choice.
Know that in this particular case, I don’t think there’s a “wrong choice”. These 2 models are exceptionally good and you would be very happy with either one. As an owner of both, I can attest to this.
And if you already have made a choice, which one did you decide on? Was it the MA? The P4 (which version?) and if neither, was there another model that suited you more?