Buying one of the best drones on the market isn’t an option for everyone. Luckily, over the past few years, the cost of flying drones has plummeted as the market has expanded, allowing aviation amateurs to try their hand at capturing awesome photos and footage with an airborne robotic companion. Today, you can spend less than $1,000 — significantly less, actually — and still get a drone with tons of cool features and a powerful camera to boot. Yuneec and DJI, two of the top manufacturers out there, have each created UAVs that are simultaneously excellent and affordable. If you’re looking for a good drone, but don’t want to break the bank, your decision likely comes down to two competitors in one epic matchup: DJI Spark vs Yuneec Breeze.
The two manufacturers — architects of the Typhoon H and the Phantom 4 Pro, respectively — have recently begun to pay more attention to the midrange market, shrinking their flagship drones down to offer more affordable choices. The result? The excellent Breeze and Spark, two drones worthy of our best drones under $500 list. No longer is droning a hobby limited to the snootiest and most wealthy among us. The question is: Which drone is better? Well, we’re here to break down the differences for you.
Yuneec Breeze 4K
|Dimensions||7.72 x 7.72 x 2.56 inches||5.63 x 5.63 x 2.17 inches|
|Weight||13.58 ounces||10.58 ounces|
|Battery Life||up to 12 minutes (x2)||up to 16 minutes|
|Max Horizontal Speed||11.19 mph||31 mph|
|Max Climbing Speed||2.24 mph||6.71 mph|
|Included remote controller?||No||No|
|Camera||4K video at 30fps, 13-megapixel photo||1080p video at 30fps, 12-megapixel photo|
|Shutter speed||1/30 – 1/8000s||2 – 1/8000s|
|Flight Modes||Quickshot (Rocket, Dronie, Circle, Helix), Tapfly, ActiveTrack, Gesture||Pilot, Selfie, Orbit, Journey, VisionTrack|
|Availability||Amazon, Dell||Amazon, DJI|
|DT review||3.5 out of 5||4 out of 5|
Design and controls
Both of these drones are ultra-portable, allowing you to easily fit them into any backpack and most purses. The Breeze is the bigger of the two, weighing in at about 14 ounces and clad in white plastic, with hinged props designed to reduce the drone’s storage footprint and to offer collision protection. The whole shebang packs neatly into a 10 x 10 x 2.5-inch carrying case, which should fit inside just about any backpack. The Breeze’s battery lasts for around 11 minutes, but it comes with two batteries (they take about 50 minutes to charge), so you’ll get upwards of 20 minutes of total flight time if you come prepared.
The Spark is a little bit more compact, weighing in at less than 11 ounces. It’s not just light, either; the Spark’s short arms and hidden camera make it a tiny tank, one capable of withstanding serious impacts without taking much damage. You can also buy it in five different colors — though, just the top plate will reflect your choice — injecting some personality into a field filled with blacks, whites, and silvers. The battery should last you about 13 minutes, though, unlike the Breeze, there’s no extra battery in the stock package. Allow for 45 minutes of charge time per battery, give or take.
Neither drone comes with a remote control; you’ll need to use your smartphone instead. This isn’t a big problem — in fact, it’s pretty standard for smaller drones — but a physical controller would be nice. You can buy an optional remote for the Spark, but not the Breeze. The Spark also includes obstacle avoidance software, which allows it to sense objects from up to 16 feet away. It’s not as robust as the software on more expensive drones, but the Breeze doesn’t have anything, so it’s still an advantage.
There aren’t too many design discrepancies between these two craft, but the Spark’s svelte frame and its ability to prevent collisions give it a leg up.
Winner: DJI Spark
Chances are, if you’re buying a drone, the camera is important to you. After all, if you just like flying, you can get an RC helicopter on the cheap. Considering their modest price tags, both of these bad boys are packing some photographic heat, but they both also have crucial drawbacks.
The Breeze comes outfitted with a 4K camera that records at 30 frames per second (or 1080p at 60 fps, or 720p at 120 fps), and can take 13-megapixel stills. The 117-degree field of view is an advantage as well, allowing you to capture wider frames. There’s one glaring omission, though: The gimbal. Unfortunately, the Breeze can only stabilize the camera along one axis- instead of the usual 3 that you’ll get on higher-end machines. The drone’s digital stabilization software works pretty well for lower resolutions, but it doesn’t work in 4K, which (along with the lack of a multi-axis gimbal) leads to some wobbly videos and blurry stills. Under the right conditions, the resulting video looks great, but a little bit of wind can make a big difference.
The Spark, meanwhile, doesn’t capture 4K video at all — instead, you’ll get 1080p in 30fps, and 12-megapixel stills. DJI did somewhat make up for this omission by including a two-axis mechanical gimbal, which drastically smooths footage (especially in windy conditions), and a Shallow Focus feature that lets you add some cool depth-of-field effects. Still, the gap in camera capability looms large here.
Winner: Yuneec Breeze
Flight modes and performance
So far, these two port-a-drones are neck and neck (or, if you will, rotor and rotor). To determine a victor, let’s look at the most important element in droning: Performance. It doesn’t matter how nice a drone’s camera is if it doesn’t have a satisfactory smattering of flight modes, and it definitely doesn’t matter if the drone can’t even fly straight or hover in place.
The Breeze is equipped with a nice selection of flight modes, with the autonomous Orbit, Selfie, and Follow Me modes that you’ll also find in the Yuneec Typhoon H. The drone beams live video back to your smartphone in real time, so you can see what it sees and adjust accordingly. An indoor positioning system also allows the Breeze to navigate inside buildings without biting it, and the virtual joysticks provide sufficiently responsive manual control.
The Breeze’s lack of obstacle avoidance abilities can get it into some hairy situations, which is presumably why Yuneec limited its maximum flight speed. Shooting in 4K works reasonably well indoors or in low-wind scenarios, but usually you’ll want to stick with lower resolutions (which will allow the digital stabilizer to do its job).
On the other side of the equation, the Spark is absolutely brimming with features, despite its inferior camera. From standard DJI modes such as TapFly and ActiveTrack, to new “QuickShots” like Rocket, Dronie, Circle, and Helix, the Spark simply has more ways to capture video, and its gimbal makes sure that recordings are buttery smooth. The Spark’s also got a few shooting modes for still photography, including burst shots and auto exposure bracketing, and it’s super stable; even in windier conditions, the Spark does an incredible job of automatically adjusting position and staying still until you tell it to move. You can even use hand gestures to control the Spark’s movements!
Winner: DJI Spark
Price and availability
Right now, the Breeze will run you $394 via Amazon. Alternatively, you can find it for $399 on the official Yuneec website. The Spark costs $499, whether you want to get it from Amazon or from DJI. The Breeze is cheaper, obviously, and it’s packing a 4K camera, but it’s also missing a few features that the Spark has. It’s difficult to call this category in either direction.
Overall winner: DJI Spark
Both of these drones are great buys for less than $500, but they’re not quite equals. Despite the sizable advantage that comes along with a 4K-capable camera, the Yuneec Breeze can’t compare to the DJI Spark when it comes to functionality, features, or flight stability. The Spark won’t capture footage in ultra-high definition, but its suite of flight modes and its collision avoidance software are generally hallmarks of far more expensive offerings. If you’re just looking for some cheap thrills, the Breeze might be a good choice, but for our money, the Spark is superior.