DJI is known for innovating and pushing the drone market forward, but with the Avata, the company is doing the opposite and cutting down on features in a drone that works better for a beginner pilot.
With the launch of the DJI FPV drone last year, DJI has created something new in its lineup. This year with the Avata at $629, that’s not really the case. Instead, it’s a simpler, easier-to-use entry into the first-person-view (FPV) drone market, and while not considered a “necessary” addition or impressive at the range, it still does a few things that stand out.
Design and build quality
The Avata design is new to DJI’s lineup but nothing new to the drone world. It’s constructed from fairly rigid plastic and feels sturdy thanks to the interconnected accessory guards molded into it, which contributes to a sense of security when flying in tight spaces.
However, the exoskeleton-style upper body feels a little flimsy. When you have a battery installed, it doesn’t hurt too much; however, when the battery is not connected, the whole body feels like it can break the “cage” quite easily. I would have liked to see a more seamless styling design to help with stiffness.
That said, in flight it appears to be a durable little drone. In fact, I simulated a crash to see how it would react, and other than a few scratches and scrapes, it got airborne again without issue.
The only other gripe I have with the design is the placement of the SD card and USB-C port. These are located just inside the prop guard and I think this could have been placed on the actual body below the camera or on top of the drone for ease of use.
That said, a nice addition to the drone is that it comes with 20GB of internal storage, so you’ll be fine if you want to pop up and fly super fast or forget your SD card before you leave the house.
As always, the biggest question with any drone is, “How long can I fly?” In tests where I flew calmly and smoothly, I found the battery only lasted a mere 18 minutes, which is what DJI claims to expect. But as an avid FPV pilot who has flown custom drones, I’m used to pushing them to their limits. By doing so, with the Avata, I got maybe five to six minutes of flight time in full manual mode. It’s not great, but it’s not horrible either. It’s perfectly average, and definitely enough time to have fun.
A new camera
The Avata uses a new 1/1.7 type sensor (9.5 x 7.6 x 5.7mm, 4:3 aspect ratio), the same size found in the Huawei P20 Pro, the Canon G10 or the Pentax Q7. It has an impressive 48 megapixel photo capacity and the quality is very close to competing with the best action cameras you can get.
A 155-degree frame-of-view lens provides plenty of room for whatever you’re shooting. The Avata also offers plenty of resolution options ranging from 4K at 60 frames per second (FPS), 2.7K at 100FPS, and 1080 at 120FPS, so you should have no problem finding the right frame rate for the job.
The color quality and sharpness are what you’d expect from DJI: crisp, bright and crisp, at least in standard color mode. The D-Cinelike option is also available for more production-level filming to get the most out of your shots. With the internal Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS), you get very smooth shots, which is nothing new for DJI.
Horizonsteady mode is great for keeping your shots level in most situations, and Rocksteady mode is fantastic for everything, including full manual mode with flip and roll. The camera also allows full tilt up and down. The problem with this particular feature combined with the new prop guards is that when the camera is looking all the way down, you see those prop guards entirely in the shot.
This almost completely rules out the Avata for actual professional filming, which is unfortunate, though I’ll admit it’s unlikely DJI ever intended to use it for that.
Whether you like the traditional FPV controller or the newer motion controller, you’ll be happy to know that they both work with the Avata. The drone comes with the DJI Motion controller which allows you to fly in Normal and Sport mode to capture smooth and crisp footage.
Of the two options, I’m glad DJI chose to ship the motion controller with the Avata as it’s a solid choice for beginners due to much more intuitive movement with your wrist. I prefer traditional flight controls, so I immediately bound the DJI FPV controller to unlock full manual flight mode. This unlocks all the fun this drone offers and does it well. It responds quickly and precisely, allowing for a rewarding flight experience.
The Avata also sports a “turtle mode”, which allows you to flip the drone if you land upside down. This sounds great on paper as upside down landing can happen more than you think, however, I couldn’t get this to work in my testing which was a bummer.
A clear view
In addition to the Avata, DJI announced a new set of head-mounted goggles, the DJI Goggles 2. I’ll say it right away: these are my favorite goggles I’ve ever used.
With the size being more in line with traditional analog FPV goggles, they felt right at home. One big change is in the diopter options: the ability to adjust the distances of both eyes and focus on each eye independently creates one of the most unconstrained viewing experiences I’ve ever had with FPV goggles. This, along with the new micro-OLED displays, creates what I can only describe as stunning.
The visuals produced by the glasses are crystal clear; seeing every little branch and blade of grass gives you the confidence you want when flying fast, low and aggressive. The DJI Goggles 2 also feature O3+ transmission, which offers 30 milliseconds of transmission delay and a range of 10 kilometers, allowing for impressive carefree flights.
Avata’s control software is nothing new: it’s just the typical DJI Fly app. However, the new DJI Goggles 2 have a really intuitive user interface and experience.
Swipe down for recording, up for camera settings, and forward for the main menu; If you can use a smartphone or laptop trackpad, you’ll have no problem navigating the headset. From the initial walkthrough to changing menus, I had no problem navigating with the touchpad on the side of the glasses. They also have a touchpad lock option to prevent accidental changing of options when positioning the headset.
A solid entry-level FPV drone
The DJI Avata is a very good drone, you just have to go into it expecting that it isn’t the best at anything and the features aren’t particularly spectacular on paper. I guess that’s why it’s probably better positioned as an entry-level product, and its $629 price tag reflects that.
Does he have a great camera? Yes. Does it fly fast in Sport and Manual mode? Sure, pretty quick for the most part. Speaking of which, it’s worth noting that the DJI FPV maxes out at 87 miles per hour (MPH), while the Avata tops out at 60 MPH.
If you’re looking for a simple to use drone with a solid build or if you’re new to drones and want something you can fly with no worries, then the Avata is basically perfect for you.
In addition to the $629 standalone price, the Avata can also be paired with the new DJI Goggles 2 for $1,388, which I think is well worth it: the goggles are so good.
Are there alternatives?
DJI has cornered the market when it comes to reliable, plug-and-play drones, and the best Avata alternative I can offer is the DJI FPV, especially since this drone is under $1,000 now .
Other than that, you might consider building your own FPV drone and outfitting it with a GoPro Hero10 Black Bones.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The DJI Avata is a fun little drone that can get great shots in all three flight modes. It’s durable, flight times are decent, and it delivers a great flight experience that DJI always seems to pull off.
The DJI Goggles 2 are an absolute home run and I wholeheartedly recommend them.