DJI Phantom 3 vs. Cheerson CX-20

Following from my last article regarding the Cheerson CX-20 quadcopter, this time I would like to talk about how it performs compared to the "top of the line" model, the DJI Phantom 3.

Cheerson CX20 - DJI Phantom

I have been flying the Cheerson since August 2015, and at the beginning of February 2016, taking advantage of the DJI sales, I acquired a Phantom 3 Advanced.

Following there is a quick overview of the characteristics of the two models:

Model Cheerson CX20 DJI Phantom 3 Adv
Price As low as $250 As low as $799
Control system Radio transmitter (included) Radio transmitter (included)
Flight time ≈ 10 minutes ≈ 20 minutes
Operating range Up to 1500 meters Up to 2000 meters
Max speed 8 m/s 16 m/s
Manufacturer Cheerson DJI
Camera specifications
Photo resolution - 12 MP
Video max resolution - 2,7K
Compatible cameras GoPro / SJ4000 DJI proprietary camera only
Stabilisation - 3 Axis brushless gimbal
Lens field of view - 94°
Sensor - Sony EXMOR 1/2.3"
Supports / connections - Micro SD / USB
Photography Details - ISO 100-1600
Formats DNG + JPG
Single shot
Time lapse
Auto exposure bracketing
Burst shooting
Video Details - ISO 100-3200
Live view
Formats MP4 + MOV + AVC + H.264
Max 60fps
Battery specifications
Cell number 3 (12,6V) 4 (16,8V)
Capacity 2700 mAh - 5200mAh 4480 mAh
Weight 180g - 330g 365g
Battery price ≈ $15 / $35 ≈ $149

It is clear that the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced is a complete product, and its focus is on aerial imaging, while the Cheerson CX-20 is more a hobby quadcopter, which can be used for aerial video/photography by purchasing a video system separately.

As a personal opinion, when I started flying with the CX-20 I found it incredibly stable, also because at the time my platform was the ZMR 250 racing quad
After a while I began wanting stable video, so I had to add a 3 axis gimbal and the GoPro, and this is where the troubles started: the CX-20 got very heavy, unstable and slow. The flight time was drastically reduced to 6 to 7 minutes, and jello was everywhere in the video. A nightmare.

For a couple of months I tried all I could to balance every moving part, tune the quad using Mission Planner but to no drastic success, until a day I thought "%@$# it, I want to fly not spend all my weekends tinkering" and got a Phantom. And finally stopped worrying.

I can understand how certain hobbyists can be attracted to a cheap, open source quad, but if your goal is to take aerial shots and you want to be able to charge your battery and just go...forget the CX-20.

As an example, this is an unplanned flight with the Phantom, which took me 20 minutes to prepare, shoot and drive back home for supper:

In conclusion, I feel that before buying either the CX-20 or the Phantom you have to assess your will to tinker vs. your will to easily get out and fly.
Money is THE big difference here, but please consider that even the cheap CX-20 can easily cost as much as a P3 these days:

CX-20 quadcopter ≈ $250
3 axis gimbal ≈ $130
GoPro / SJ5000 ≈ $399 / $130
Video Tx/Rx ≈ $55
FPV screen ≈ $25 - $75
Total ≈ $600 - $900

Today a Phantom 3 Advanced is $799, so to me it is a no brainer, but then again, this is a personal opinion. 
It took me a while to convince myself to take the plunge, but now I am a happy camper.

No negative sides on the Phantom you say? 
Well, if we can move on from the price tag, a possible downside of the DJI line of products is...DJI itself: reading the numerous threads on the model forums anyone can see that two major issues with the Chinese manufacturer are CUSTOMER SERVICE and PROPRIETARY FIRMWARE. Something like Apple products with Hobbyking customer service.
I have yet to encounter any issues with my Phantom, but it appears that often sending a DJI product back to the repair centre is a nightmare...we will see I guess!

In regards to the proprietary firmware, I have never thought it would be a problem, until the late GEO announced update: basically DJI is thinking of implementing a more complex no-fly zone system in their products, making it really hard for pilots to fly. There are many problems related to this issue, and a few advantages, but this is not the place to discuss them.
The bottom line is that if one day DJI decides that the city where I live is a no fly zone I cannot fly anymore. And that is not cool!

Well, enough of this blabber, should you have any questions you know my email address!

In the meantime, happy landings!
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