DJI SMART CONTROLLER

Complete 2021 Guide

dji-smart-controller-review

The new DJI Smart Controller is made specifically to improve the experience of flying the Mavic Air 2, Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom as well as Phantom 4 Pro.

Now, the price for this controller might not be something everybody looks forward to, but in this article, we will figure out the pros and cons and see if it's worth buying for specific types of people.

With the New Mavic controller, DJI wanted to create an easier to use, more complete professional solution, but that doesn't mean it's only dedicated to industrial use, but consumers can definitely benefit from it too.

I know that I sometimes consider setting up the phone and app a hassle myself.

Table of Contents

dji smart controller

In this article we're going to take a look at every aspect of the DJI Smart Controller, as well as the problems it can face, its accessories and even a tutorial on how to use it.

DJI Smart Controller Specs and Features

specs camera drones

In this section we're looking at how the new DJI Smart Controller is better than using the default controller for the Mavics and how you can use it to make your life simpler when working with drones.

We have seen DJI making this move once in the past with the Phantom 4 pro plus, where they basically made a transmitter version that already comes with a screen and inbuilt operating system.

As a side note, I have created a map with all the drones in most countries in the world, if you're willing to check that.

This proved to be quite helpful for people who didn't want to have cables hanging around and a much faster startup time.
 
What are the advantages of a dedicated Mavic controller?

How is the Smart Controller better?

Considering the DJI Controllers come pretty reliable and well built by default, what would be the reasons you might want to acquire such a controller?

No More cables

Frankly, having faulty cables has been a problem for me quite a few times and I found myself disconnecting from the remote by mistake just because the cable wasn't set up well.

Cables can also be a slight downside to the connection speed and quality.

There are more tidy cables that you can buy,  but overall I would say this controller is also saving time by not having to connect it with a cable.

 

cable icon

Setup speed and reliability

time-saving-setting-things-up-controller-and-drone.jpg

If you are to ask me, the most important thing is that you probably will get to fly the drone more often just because the overall process got simpler. No cables, no more app issues when connecting and less of a hassle to put it in the air.

Just by having this controller you'll save at like 20 seconds from the overall setup time, which doesn't mean a lot, but because it means less friction in the process of getting it in the air, you'll be capturing more shots, that's how humans work, they tend to do things when it's easier.
And taking more shots is exactly what you need to improve your skills and get more experience flying.

I don't think those 20 seconds can make a difference when it comes to capturing things, but I can think of a few events where setup speed matters.

Maybe a wedding or some similar events. maybe you're on the beach and a cool ship is passing though, or maybe you want to capture a beautiful sunset just at the right time.

Things can get out of control, even more, when it comes to reliability.

This means there is a possibility that the phone will not connect properly the first time and have to try a few more times, a thing that's improbable to happen with the new controller, which's basically dedicated to just flying the drone.


Another thing you need to worry about is actually charging both the phone and the controller, this new transmitter removes that issue with only one 5000 mAh battery that lasts for 2.5 hours of use.

dji-mavic-2-and-controller-next-to-it.jpg

Screen brightness and extreme environments

The improved screen brightness is probably the main point you'd want to buy this for in the first place. 

This means you can get out in the sun without starring your eyes out to at least understand what's going on in the frame.

 If you're curious about numbers, this new screen has 1000 cd/m2 while the Iphone x has 625cd/m2, which is already one of the highest on the market. So if you have anything less, you're going to suffer a lot in direct sunlight.  

screen-brightness.jpg
screen-brightness-comparison-vs-phone.jpg

Low temperatures

Of course, considering the price DJI sells the controller for, I think it must do more than just removing the sunshade from the equation.

Therefore, it also does a better job in more extreme environments, as I've been with my iPhone in about -10 degrees and the battery was dropping very fast, and couldn't finish my filming.

This new controller can handle -20 to 40 degrees celsius, which you probably won't reach that easy anyway.

Other apps and livestreaming

The screen on this controller is more than a screen, basically it's another phone, which may be the main reason why dji have made it quite expensive.

You can add third party apps that can help you edit, livestream or do whatever you want, including social apps and such. So it will basically work as a secondary phone, including games.
The Skytalk feature lets you livestream your drone camera view on facebook and instagram or share short videos instantly.

The controller is also built in with a speaker and microphone so you can talk while doing the livestream if you prefer.

So you can also browse facebook when you're bored, and what's best is that your flight won't get interrupted by your mother calling, and if you want to talk to the phone, you have that separately.

other apps for the controller
dji-go-app.jpg
Recording the screen is also a welcomed option along with the ability to transfer data from the controller to the phone and back thanks to the goshare app, wifi, or Bluetooth.

Connecting to a monitor or goggles

Because the new controller comes with a full HDMI slot at the top, you can always stream high quality video to a separate bigger monitor or even connect it to goggles if you want to experience First Person View.

This makes for a great option to show other people what you're recording or maybe have somebody else pay attention to the footage while you check the surroundings.

goggles for DJI fpv

Dji smart controller vs ipad

So you have a good android tablet or an Ipad and wonder if it's more worth keeping that instead of this controller(as it's slightly bigger and can keep the costs lower).

Here's a few reviews from people on the mavicpilots forum:

forum dji smart controller 1
ipad mini vs dji smart controller forum opinion
forum dji new controller

As you can see in the comments above, there's really not many situations where the controller isn't better than an Ipad, everything from connectivity, to ease of use and screen brightness is much better. But if you don't have the money, could just keep using a tablet.

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DJI Smart Controller Compatibility

dji-smart-controller-compatibility

There is plenty of competition for the price category of the FImi X8, but the most popular ones are the newly released DJI Mini 2 and the Mavic Air2.

So let's get a bit into detail how they differ and which one should you buy (with a table too).

Is it compatible with the Mavic Air 2?

Yes, the DJI Smart Controller is compatible with the Mavic Air 2.

This is one of the most frequently asked questions, as the Mavic Air 2 is one of the newly released professional drones from DJI and many people are wondering if it's worth buying a controller for this drone.

It took some time, but DJI finally made the Mavic Air 2 compatible with the Smart controller, since it works on Occusync 2.0 technology.

I really like the controller for the Mavic Air 2, even better than the ones before, but it still suffers from the problem of having to connect it with a cable on your phone and the brightness of the screen isn't sufficient on most phones.

Is the Smart controller compatible with the DJI Mini 2?

At the point of writing this, the DJI mini 2 has been recently released (check out my comparison between the Mavic Mini and Mini 2

It's not yet compatible with the Smart Controller, but I'm expecting it to be soon, just like the Air 2 was delayed for a while. Considering it also works with Occusync 2.0 like the Mavic 2, it shouldn't have any problem whatsoever.

Is it compatible with the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom?

Yes, the DJI Smart Controller is compatible with the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom as well as Phantom 4 Pro.

This is basically why the Smart controller was made for, for the Pro and Enterprise versions of the Mavic and Phantom series.

Unboxing and Buttons

drone unboxing and contents

In this section we're taking a look at what the controller is made of, what you're getting in the box and what each button on it does.

The Xiaomi fimi x8 SE has a 4k camera that records 30p in 100MBPS and rocks the Sony IMX378 image sensor.
 
It won't compare to the night-time capabilities of the huge 1-inch sensor of the Mavic 2 Pro, but it's not so far that you can justify paying 3 times more unless you really need it.
 
What's a thing that I like a lot about it is that they had an issue with the camera in the 2019 version where it 

The controller comes in the box with the basic pieces it needs for functioning, charging, and so on.

  • power brick
  • USB to USB c cable
  • 4 remote sticks
  • manual
  • remote controller

When it comes to the buttons and what's on the actual transmitter, this new device comes, first of all with an android operating system that has a 1080p 5.5-inch screen that's extra bright, as I mentioned before.

It comes with both the standard buttons and features present on the original controller, as well as some new additions, especially when it comes to ports for connectivity.

controller dji

Can the DJI Controller connect through HDMI?

These are the top connectors and dials. As you can see, it has 2 important new features.

Micro Sd – which basically allows you to transfer data from the drone to the transmitter and visualise the actual footage in high quality.
HDMI – as mentioned before, it's perfect for using it with goggles or a separate monitor.

bottom-connectors.jpg

In the front you have as novelties both a back and an “action” button on the far right, that I forgot to add on the image, apparently.

front buttons for dji smart controller 5d button

Don't forget about the pause button and the 5D button. Pause button is used for stopping flight modes of the drone on demand, so it doesn't crash in a circle around mode for example. 

connections for the Smart Controller

As you can see, you can also use the USB-C port for transfering the data to your computer or simply charging the device. There are also 2 mounting holes at the bottom as well as a microphone for registering audio if you're doing a live stream with the drone.

DJI Smart Controller Setup Tutorial

How to connect the DJI Smart controller to the Mavic 2

This is the best part about the DJI Smart Controller: the fact that you can set it up quickly and it's a breeze to use!

First, you need to screw the control sticks on the controller, then press and hold the power button to turn it on.

Swipe from the top and press the connection icon to activate the linking status.

Press the C1, C2 and record buttons to enter the linking mode.

Then press the linking button on the drone itself and wait for the Mavic 2 To automatically link to the controller.

After that, launch the built-in DJI app

How to connect the DJI Smart controller to the Mavic Air 2

The binding process for the Mavic Air 2 is similar, however you must have the latest update for the DJI Smart Controller so that it's compatible with the Mavic Air 2. You can update that by connecting the controller to your computer with a Usb C cable and download the official DJI asistant 2 software.

In the tutorial bellow you will find out how to fix some of the issues that might come up.

DJI Smart Controller Flight modes

The intelligent flight modes of the Smart Controller don't differ from the ones on the regular controller, as they're basically using the same app, this means you can check this list right here for the list with all the Flight Modes.

These flight modes will differ depending on what drone you plan to connect to the Smart Controller.

DJI Smart Controller Accessories

parts-and-accessories

There are quite a few accessories that you can buy for the DJI Smart Controller that make it easier to use or just to protect it better (especially its screen).

Or maybe cover it from the sun even more.

DJI Smart Controller Range Extender

range extender
Range extenders work not by amplifying the signal, but rather focus it in the right spots.
It basically works as an antenna mod.
You can find it by clicking here.
The antennae on the DJI Smart Controller are 360 ones, so the signal that's being transmitted behind them gets basically "wasted" so by adding a range extender, it redirects that signal to the front, where you direct the antenna towards, making it more reliable.
 
This allows you to fly more securely especially when there are more obstructions along the path, not necessarily increasing the range dramatically.

Neck Strap(lanyard)

smart controller neck strap

To enhance the protection of your pretty expensive DJI Smart Controller, the best way to do is by having a strap around your neck to hold it in place in case your hands slip or just want to do something else (like setup your drone).

DJI Smart Controller Screen Protector

dji smart controller screen protector

The kit that I'm recommending to protect your screen is pretty cheap and comes with a fiberglass screen protector that's scratch resistant as well as crack resistant.

The screen itself is a pretty expensive piece of gear to get changed that can get easily damaged, so this is a must buy!

DJI Smart Controller Hood (sun shade)

dji smart controller hood

The DJI Smart Controller is definitely the Brightest Controller you can get out there.

However, for really sunny days, if you want to really see the image well, it can still prove to be slightly difficult.

Getting a hood for your controller allows for certainty when it comes to seeing things perfectly even in the brightest sun.

Best Micro SD Card for the Smart Controller?

559559586.samsung microsdxc evo plus 512gb uhs i u3 mb mc512ga eu

The Micro SD card can be used by the Smart Controller to save footage from the RC and you can also insert the SD card from the drone to view footage directly on the RC.

The drone also has internal storage, but the 9 gb it offers is often not enough for 4k footage, so you need to pick the right Micro SD card to extend that memory and make it easier for you to send it to your pc.

DJI Smart Controller Issues

issues and problems

I got a lot of questions from people facing issues when trying to update the Smart controller or simply use it in various ways.

This section is going to answer all those concerns.

How to Update the DJI Smart Controller

Update via the built-in system

1.Enter into the system settings page.

dji smart controller system settings page

2.Scroll down to the bottom of the page and tap System Update.

system update part 2

3.Follow instructions to update the firmware (if there are any updates available)

new version update

Update using DJI Assistant 2

The process of using DJI assistant 2 is a bit more complicated but might be necessary if you can't do it any other way (especially if you want to use it with the DJI Mavic Air 2).

Here are the main steps of doing so:

  1. Turn off the remote
  2. Connect it via USB-C to the computer
  3. Launch DJI Assistant 2
  4. Click the DJI smart Controller icon and then Firmware Update
  5. Click the upgrade button 
  6. DJI Smart Controller will automatically restart.

 

Dji Smart Controller won't update

You might encounter a few issues when updating the smart controller:
It just won't update
It gets stuck at 99%
It gets stuck at 1%
 
There are few proven ways you can deal with that:
  1. Make sure your USB slot is the right one(and has the latest driver), change it and try again
  2. If you have an SD card in the Controller, remove it and try again.
  3. Make sure the controller is turned off when you connect it to the pc
  4. Make sure you downloaded the latest DJI Assistant 2 app

If any of these don't work try the following series of events:

  1. Turn off the Smart Controller
  2. Start DJI Assistant 2
  3. Plug in the USB C Cable
  4. Start up the controller
  5. Do not interact with any dialogues popping up on the controller's screen
  6. Continue the upgrade process via assistant software.

DJI Smart Controller Manual download

If you have more in depth questions you might find an answer by looking in the manual itself. If you want to download it in digital format, you can do so right here.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq-what-should-you-look-for-in-a-drone.png

In this last section we're taking a look at some of the questions people ask about this controller (on google at least).

Does the DJI Smart Controller have GPS?

Yes, the DJI Smart Controller does have GPS included within.

What's DJI's Smart Controller Battery life?

DJI's Smart Controller has between 2 and 2.5 hours of battery life.

DJI Smart controller Brightness?

DJI Smart controller's screen has 1000 cd/m2 while the Iphone x has 625cd/m2.

Does the DJI Smart Controller have HDMI out?

Yes, the Smart controller does come with HDMI Out, so you can use it on other monitors.

Does the Smart controller have internal storage?

Yes, the DJI Smart Controller comes with 8gb of internal storage.

Paul Posea
Paul Posea

Hi, I'm a long-time drone reviewer and I hope my articles and comparisons on this site as well as Dronesgator's youtube channel are of as much help as possible.

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Where to buy it from?

smart controller

The DJI Smart controller can be found either on the official DJI website (that ships internationally), or on Amazon.

I suggest you check both prices and see which is more convenient for you.