These days, I dream about a solid competitor to DJI’s lineup of drones. Yuneec was a solid contender, but hasn’t introduced new products of late to compete with DJI’s Mavic or Spark. GoPro had us hopeful — briefly — until recalls happened.

And lately, it seems my dreams of any drone company taking down DJI are about as realistic as Amazon drone delivery happening on any sort of wide scale by the end of the year. (Aka: highly unrealistic).

Enter the XIRO Xplorer 4K.

The $599 XIRO Xplorer 4K is a quadcopter drone with a 4K camera that enables live video stream through your smartphone or tablet.

It’s promising. Once in the air (more on the process of getting it in the air later), it’s incredibly easy to fly. Takeoff and landing was seamless, and it held very steady in high winds. The look and feel of the XIRO Xplorer 4K is sleek and expensive, despite a relatively low price tag. It was easy to sync the drone to the XIRO smartphone app. Flying it felt safe and easy.xiro xplorer 4k drone girl sally french

XIRO Xplorer 4K review: videos and photos

But as far as the video footage, I was let down. The drone’s camera shoots 4K video at 30 frames per second and 12 megapixel images. But that’s not the whole story. Often, when it comes to drones, it’s about the gimbal – not the camera. Much of my video was very shaky and experienced what’s known as “rolling shutter” and “jello.”

Additionally, it seemed like the camera had a hard time focusing on the subject. I did shoot the entire video in “automatic mode” though the drone has manual settings which could have avoided this.

The gimbal did a lot better when pointing down, which you can see in the YouTube video clip of the drone appearing to land on me.

It also did a lot better at lower altitudes, such as the shot of my friends. But at high altitudes, like the shot of the trees and the city, it just didn’t work and was very “jello-y”. To be fair, I flew in San Francisco on a VERY windy day, but I typically do reviews in harsh conditions to test a worst-case scenario, and this scenario just didn’t hold up.xiro xplorer 4k wifi extender controller

XIRO Xplorer 4K review: setup

This drone is modular, meaning the gimbal and camera need to be latched on separately — and the drone can be flown without the gimbal and camera. That’s a great option if you are new to flying and don’t want to risk damaging the camera, or if you just want to fly and don’t want the added weight of the camera to bring down your flight time. It also means you may be able to upgrade to a better camera in the future.

For the most part, the XIRO Xplorer 4K is easy to fly right out of the box.

However, I fought with the drone for quite some time because I couldn’t get it to connect to my app. It turns out, I had to latch the Wifi extender on — something I hadn’t done since I thought the Wifi extender was optional (something to extend the wifi). Once I thought to add on the Wifi extender it worked perfectly — but that wasn’t clear to me initially from the manual — leading to a long time of frustration.xiro xplorer 4k sally french drone girl

XIRO Xplorer 4K review: smartphone app

I loved the smartphone app on this drone. It was very intuitive, and I love that it automatically recorded video not just to the memory card on the drone, but to my phone too, enabling me to upload videos on the spot to Instagram.

XIRO Xplorer 4K review: final thoughts

I wish I could love this drone. Flying it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had.  For $599, it seemed like a huge win — and a solid competitor up against DJI. However, it was disappointing to come back inside and realize that the video footage just wasn’t up to par.

While it’s not 4K, I would recommend you’re better off buying the DJI Phantom 3 Standard (and you’ll even save money in doing so..I spotted it on B&H Photo for $474!). If you want 4K and can up your budget, I would recommend the Yuneec Q500 4K, which I’ve spotted on both B&H Photo and Amazon for $699.

Happy flying!xiro xplorer 4k

 

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