Being able to clearly view what your drone’s camera can see from the ground is absolutely essential. Unfortunately, there are many issues that can prevent this from low-quality monitors to overly bright weather conditions. This makes choosing the right device a priority, as a solid monitor can make the difference between capturing great footage or winging it.
This comparison guide takes a look at some of the most popular models of monitors used by drone pilots and seeks to provide you with the information you need to choose the right device for you.
Please Note: This comparison is strictly focused on the aforementioned products’ performance alongside DJI’s product ecosystem. While we will briefly mention the further functionality of the Shield and iPad haven’t written this piece to compare the entire App Store and Google Play marketplace to the DJI GO, GO 4 and Pilot apps.
Before we delve into the functionality, let’s take a look at the specifications:
DJI Phantom 4 Pro+
Apple iPad Pro 9.7″ & 12.9″
7.85 inches: 208.6 x 147.8 x 17mm (without battery), 208.6 x 147.8 x 34.75mm (with battery)
5.5 inches: 153.76 x 84.94 x 19mm (without battery), 153.76 x 84.94 x 39.6mm (with battery)
9.7 inches: 240 mm (H) x 169 mm (W) x 6.1 mm (D)
12.9 inches: 305.7 mm (H) x 220.6 mm (W) x 6.9 mm (D)
221 mm (H) x 126 mm (W) x 9.2 mm (D)
7.85 inches: approx. 425g
5.5 inches: approx. 228g
9.7 inches: 437 grams (Wi-Fi models), 477 grams (Wi-Fi + Cellular models)
12.9 inches: 713 grams (Wi-Fi models), 723 grams (Wi-Fi + Cellular models)
7.85 inches: 980mAh 3.7V (built-in battery), 4920mAh 7.6V (detachable external battery)
5.5 inches: 980mAh 3.7V (built-in battery), 4920mAh 7.6V (detachable external battery)
6000mAh LiPo 2S
9.7 inches: built‐in 29.7‐watt‐hour rechargeable lithium‐polymer battery
12.9 inches: built‐in 38.5‐watt‐hour rechargeable lithium‐polymer battery
19.75-watt-hour LiPo battery
7.85 inches: ROM 64GB + RAM 4GB (High brightness), ROM 128GB + RAM 4GB (Ultra Brightness)
5.5 inches: ROM 32GB + RAM 4GB
4GB RAM ＋16GB ROM
9.7 inches: 32GB / 128GB / 256GB
12.9 inches: 64GB / 256GB / 512GB
2 GB RAM + 16 GB storage
N/A N/A A9X chip with 64-bit architecture, Embedded M9 coprocessor NVIDIA Tegra K1 192 core Kepler GPU 2.2 GHz ARM Cortex A15 CPU
speaker and microphone built-in loudspeaker and microphone Four speaker audio; Dual microphones for calls, video recording, and audio recording Front facing stereo speakers with built-in microphone
HDMI, MicroSD card slots，Micro-USB and USB-C, headphone jack HDMI and Micro-SD card slot 3.5mm headphone jack, Nano-SIM tray, Smart Connector, Lightning connector Mini-HDMI with HDCP 1.4 output, Micro-USB 2.0, MicroSD slot, 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack with microphone support
Gyroscope, Compass, Light-sensitive Sensor N/A Touch ID, Three‐axis gyro, Accelerometer, Barometer, Ambient light sensor 3-axis gyro, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis compass
5.5 inches and 7.85 inches 5.5 inches 9.7 inches and 12.9 inches 8 inches
7.85 inches: 2048×1536
5.5 inches: 1920×1080
9.7 inches: 2048×1536
12.9 inches: 2732×2048
Multi-touch display with IPS technology N/A LED-backlit Multi-Touch display, Retina display Multi-touch Full-HD display
4K: H.264 4k 30fps / H.265 4k 60fps 1080p display H.264 video up to 4K 4K Ultra-HD Ready
Not supported Not supported Bluetooth 4.2 technology Bluetooth 4.0 LE
WIFI： 2.4G, 5.2G & 5.8G 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n (HT20), 802.11a, 4G dongle support Supports Wi-Fi Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac); dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz); HT80 with MIMO 802.11n 2×2 MIMO 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi
9.7 inches: UMTS / HSPA / HSPA+ / DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM / EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1900 MHz), LTE Advanced (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41), Data only, Wi-Fi calling, Embedded Apple SIM
12.9 inches: UMTS / HSPA / HSPA+ / DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1900 MHz), LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 38, 39, 40, 41), Data only, Wi-Fi calling, Includes Apple SIM
All models: Digital compass, Wi-Fi, iBeacon micro-location
Wi-Fi + Cellular models: Assisted GPS and GLONASS, Cellular
802.11n 2×2 MIMO 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi
Operating System & Apps
A customised Android operating system embedded with the DJI GO, DJI GO 4, and DJI Pilot app A customised DJI system (Android system) iOS 10 Android Lollipop OS (Android 6.0 Marshmallow Over-The-Air upgrade available)
Built-in / Preloaded Apps
DJI GO, DJI GO 4, DJI Pilot Popular social media apps and DJI GO 4 Camera, Photos, Messages, FaceTime, Mail, Music, Safari, Maps, Siri, Calendar, iTunes Store, App Store, Notes, Contacts, iBooks, Home, Reminders, Clock, TV, Photo Booth, Podcasts, News, Find My iPhone, Find My Friends, iCloud Drive, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, GarageBand, iTunes U Google Play, NVIDIA SHIELD Hub, Fallout Shelter, NVIDIA Dabbler, Squid, Twitch
Support installing additional third party apps
No No Yes Yes
DJI CrystalSky Vs Phantom 4 Pro+ RC, iPad Pro & NVIDIA Shield: Key Features
There are positive points for each of the above tablet devices. All of them are compatible with either DJI’s GO or Pilot applications and, as mentioned in the introduction, two of them are specifically designed for DJI’s product ecosystem while the other two offer a wide range of functionality beyond piloting a drone.
Exploring the Appearance, Functionality, Screen Performance & Battery Life of these devices, Heliguy’s Insider Blog gives you an insight into which model you should choose.
The CrystalSky monitors from DJI are the next level of functional design for piloting drones. Sleek lines and a powerful display screen offer both an aesthetically pleasing and completely intuitive system perfectly suited to DJI’s product range. They have been built to last, designed to be used in challenging conditions and this robustness is evident in their appearance.
DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro+ remote controller will look familiar to anyone who has encountered their previous Phantom range. The key difference is that they have added a 5.5″ integrated monitor which saves you from having to invest in additional peripherals or tablet devices. There is a simplicity to the design of DJI’s products that conveys both practicality and elegance and the Pro+ RC is no exception.
Apple’s eye for design has been part of its products’ major selling points since the launch of the first iPhone. The iPad Pro has continued their march towards thinner, sleeker models offering users the trademark minimalist interface. Available in a choice of a range of colours including the popular Space Grey and Rose Gold varieties, there’s plenty to like about Apple’s industry-leading tablet for those that shop based on looks.
The NVIDIA Shield has been built with functionality in mind. Its standard black casing and reasonably sized inset screen would never be called eye-catching, however, this isn’t the point — NVIDIA’s tablet is an affordable Android alternative to iOS products that does the job. In essence, it looks exactly how you would expect a basic tablet to look.
The CrystalSky monitors use optimised video decoding to decode video in real-time. An optimised decoder provides smooth, real-time video with minimal latency. Using offline maps, maps can be kept available even if going out of Wi-Fi reach. Equipped with dual Micro SD Card slots, DJI’s CrystalSky monitors’ storage can be extended, or footage recorded on a Micro SD Card can be played back directly on the monitor. It can also be used for footage backups. The CrystalSky series supports H.264 and H.265 video decoding, allowing it to play back these files at 30fps and 60fps respectively. These videos can also be output through its HDMI port.
The CrystalSky monitor’s HDMI port allows up to 4K video to be output to FPV goggles and other display devices. Built-in dual-band Wi-Fi means it can connect to Wi-Fi networks and Wi-Fi hotspots from mobile devices, and it is also compatible with 4G dongles and USB storage through its USB-A port. File sizes are optimised as much as possible to minimise mobile data demands. Onboard Micro USB and USB-C ports make it convenient to connect the CrystalSky series with a remote controller or other devices.
The CrystalSky monitors can quickly connect to the Inspire series, Phantom 4 series, Phantom 3 series (Phantom 3 Professional, Phantom 3 Advanced), Matrice series, and Osmo series (except the Osmo Mobile) over Wi-Fi or via a remote controller USB port, depending on your specific product. Also, CrystalSky easily attaches to the Cendence remote controller without an additional mounting bracket.
Most smart devices are designed to operate in common temperature ranges. The CrystalSky series‘ external battery has been designed for more extreme temperatures. It is able to operate in as low as -4°F (-20°C) and, with its internal cooling system, functions normally in temperatures as high as 104°F (40°C).
The Phantom 4 Pro controller integrates an upgraded Lightbridge HD video transmission system that adds 5.8 GHz transmission support. The ability to choose between 2.4Ghz and 5.8Ghz allows pilots to cut through interference and eliminates image lag caused when flying in an area with extensive 2.4Ghz frequency use. This ensures the optimum range of a maximum video transmission of 7km.
As the DJI GO app is built into the screen, hardware and software can be fully optimised, further reducing video lag. Integration of an HDMI port, Micro-SD card slot, microphone, embedded loudspeaker, and Wi-Fi connection allow images to be edited inside DJI GO to be shared almost instantly. Lastly, a five-hour battery life makes the Phantom 4 Pro+ RC a complete aerial imaging solution.
The NVIDIA Shield is a reasonably powerful and reasonably priced tablet. Built specifically for tablet-based gaming, the Shield has more than enough power to smoothly process and play back the live video stream from DJI’s line of aircraft which is good news for those looking for a monitor on a budget.
However, despite its ability to smoothly playback and stream your drone’s footage, our technicians have noted that the Shield is quite prone to crashing when using the DJI GO app. When using both DJI GO or Go 4 they have encountered app closures which is worth bearing when choosing to go the NVIDIA route. Mainly to ensure you’re conducting safe flights.
Finally, the iPad Pro is a premium tablet which will cost you around double the price of the NVIDIA Shield. However, if the price isn’t an issue we can confirm that you get a lot more for your money as the iPad Pro in terms of functionality. All in all, it’s a much more reliable tablet for drone use when compared to the NVIDIA model.
App stability on the iPad Pro and iOS ecosystem, in general, is fantastic. We have found, on very rare occasions, that the DJI GO app can crash but this is par for the course due to DJI’s constant flurry of updates and add-ons. There’s also the fact that the iOS version of DJI’s app is also always one version ahead of its Android counterpart and will have access to the latest features first.
1000cd/m² (5.5″ and 7.85″ high) and 2000cd/m² (7.85″ ultra) of brightness means that the premium CrystalSky model is approximately four times as bright as typical mobile devices. On-screen details are clear and sharp, and colours are vibrant, giving the quality needed to fine tune image composition. A dedicated Sunlight Readability Enhancement mode is designed for processing the image in real-time to ensure more comfortable viewing under bright light.
A 5.5in 1080p screen integrated with the Phantom 4 Pro+ RC offers 1000 cd/m2 of brightness, more than twice as bright as conventional smart devices. It makes bright, vivid colours easily visible in direct sunlight. With this screen, a mobile device is not required, simplifying pre-flight preparations.
The NVIDIA Shield’s screen has a brightness rating of 383 nits which means that it struggles in direct sunlight. This can be an issue when out in the field with your drone as it makes it difficult to determine where your camera is pointing which can severely disrupt your shots. You can remedy this issue by using a lens hood such as the Hoodman range which allows you to operate the Shield (and iPad) without glare causing you any issues.
At 511 nits, the iPad Pro’s screen performs better in sunny conditions than that of NVIDIA Shield. It’s also a much more useful tool to compose shots and see smaller details when using out in the field. However, it’s worth noting that at around half the brightness of the standard CrystalSky, the tablet does struggle slightly in direct sunlight.
A two cell 4920mAh secondary external battery gives the CrystalSky monitors a longer operating time than comparable mobile devices. It supports rapid charging and controls its discharge rate well even in low temperatures. Used with the 5.5″ screen and 7.85″ screens, it can achieve a maximum operation time of 5–6 hours and 4–5 hours respectively.
The Phantom 4 Pro+ Remote Controller features a 6000mAh LiPo 2S integrated rechargeable battery. This means that you can get up to 5 hours of battery life from the unit with the screen in use.
Depending on whether you’re using the 9.7″ or 12.9″ iPad Pro there is a minor difference in battery specification. The former has a built‐in 29.7‐watt‐hour rechargeable LiPo battery while the latter contains a 41‐watt‐hour LiPo. Despite this, Apple claims you can get up to 10 hours of web browsing on Wi‑Fi, watching videos or listening to music.
The NVIDIA Shield was conceived first and foremost as a gaming tablet so the battery needed to reflect this with a decent amount of run time. The 19.75-watt-hour LiPo battery that comes with the Shield claims to offer 10-hours video playback time, however, in actuality, you’ll likely get less during continuous use with a drone (this is variable).
Get In Touch
If you would like more advice on choosing the right monitor for your drone, don’t hesitate to contact our expert UK team. We’re available Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm to answer your questions via phone: 0191 296 1024 or email: email@example.com.
Keep checking back to Heliguy’s Insider Blog for more VERSUS comparison articles, insights into drone peripherals and, of course, the latest industry news.