Compact. Digitally stabilized 1080p video. Automated selfie shots. Customizable geofence. GPS with automated return-to-home. Sensor-stabilized indoor flight. Android and iOS support.
Video feed lags behind reality. Kludgy phone controls. So-so video quality. 4K footage not stabilized. Remote control not included. Short operating range. Very limited battery life.
- Bottom Line
The tiny, relatively affordable Yuneec Breeze places an emphasis on ease of use, but it isn't as capable as many other drones.
There's a new fleet of small, inexpensive drones on the market. Yuneec's take on the concept, the Breeze ($449.99), is fairly steady in the air, but only offers digital stabilization so its video doesn't look as smooth as the competing DJI Spark ($499). It has some pluses, including an app that provides quick and easy access to automated shots, but digital video stabilization isn't as good as you get with a gimbal, and flight time and range are very limited. The Spark is a better selfie drone, and priced in the same range. Our favorite compact drone is the DJI Mavic Pro, but it costs about a thousand dollars, putting it in a different class.
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The Breeze is a small, white quadcopter with all-plastic construction. It doesn't feature a folding design, but measures just 2.6 by 7.7 by 7.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 13.6 ounces. Its propellers fold, so you don't have to remove them for transport or storage. The drone ships in a white plastic storage case and comes with propeller guards, two batteries, and an external charger.
Four landing struts fold out from the body and must be locked in position to take off. All control is done via an app interface—the Breeze app is a free download for Android and iOS devices. Connection is via Wi-Fi only; the drone broadcasts its own network which you'll need to connect your device to.
The battery is located at the tail, sliding out with a push-button latch. There's a GPS sensor protruding from the top, and infrared sensors on the bottom that keep the drone steady when flying indoors without GPS. The power button is on the rear, below the battery, and the camera is mounted in the nose.
The Breeze doesn't have a memory card slot. Instead it ships with 16GB of internal memory. You can offload video and images to your phone via Wi-Fi or to a computer using the Breeze's micro USB port. The port is protected by a rubber flap on the side of the aircraft. You can tell you're simply plugging into the main control board inside the drone—the port wobbles up and down as you put the cable in. It's a poor design decision that makes the Breeze feel cheaply made.
Unless you buy an accessory remote control, you'll need to fly the Breeze with your smartphone. There are some automated shot modes built in to make this a pleasant experience. When you launch the control app you can set the drone to shoot a Selfie video, Orbit around you, go on a point-to-point Journey, or to Follow you.
DJI can learn a thing or two about an easy interface from Yuneec. The Breeze app puts the automated options right up front with the Breeze, whereas you need to dive into a few screens to get to similar functions with the Spark.
Neither the Spark nor the Breeze is a joy to fly manually using a phone. Virtual control sticks appear on your phone's screen, acting just like the physical sticks on a remote control. The left pad moves the aircraft up and down, and spins it on its axis. The right control lets you fly forward, backward, or to either side.
Not only do you miss the tactile feel of a remote when flying with your phone, the drone itself doesn't respond as quickly to commands. The result is kludgy flight control that doesn't lend itself to the smooth aerial shots you expect.
Thankfully, the accessory remote control for the Breeze is priced at just $69, and is bundled with a set of VR goggles if you're a fan of first-person flight. The remote is a generic game console control with dual analog sticks for flight, along with the normal array of buttons you get on an Xbox or PlayStation controller. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and includes a clip to hold your smartphone. You need to set the app to FPV mode to use the remote, but if you prefer to not use googles you can set the live feed to the standard mode rather than the split-window view used with a VR headset.
Using the remote to fly is a much better experience. You don't get any increased range, as you do with the $149 add-on controller that DJI sells with the Spark, but the Breeze is easier to control when using the remote, and having the physical sticks under your fingers also makes it easier to keep an eye on the aircraft itself rather than continuing to glance down at your phone when maneuvering.
Out of the box, the Breeze is set up with a geofence so it won't fly too far away. Height is limited to 60 feet and distance to just under 300 feet by default. You can up the maximum altitude to 262.5 feet and the distance to 328 feet, but both figures are pretty extreme for the Wi-Fi connection between the Breeze and your phone. I lost connection with the drone at a distance of about 250 feet when flying in a very rural location with little Wi-Fi interference. The Breeze's return-to-home function kicked in and the drone came back to its launch point without issue.
Short range isn't the only drawback. You're limited to flights of about 12 minutes, about the same as you get with the DJI Spark. This means you'll want to carry some extra batteries for extended outings, and you'll want to be sure to make smart use of time in the air to make sure you get the shot you want.
Indoor flight is also an option. You don't get the benefit of GPS stabilization. The Breeze features downward-facing sensors that recognize patterns on the ground below the aircraft to keep it steady when flying without the aid of GPS. You'll still need a fairly large indoor space to fly it safely.
I experienced a pretty serious bug when test flying the Breeze. In a flight where I was trying to use up every drop of battery life, I noticed that the video lagged behind reality by the end. It's a problem that becomes more and more of an issue the longer you fly—I was dealing with a 20-second lag toward the end of the 12-minute flight.
Video and Image Quality
You can set the Breeze to record in 4K, but you'll lose the benefits of digital stabilization. Because the camera isn't mounted on a gimbal, getting stabilized footage is key—so you're better off recording at 1080p. Footage is limited to 30fps when shooting at both 4K or 1080p—there's no 24fps or 60fps option. If you want to shoot at 60fps, you need to drop the resolution down to 720p.
Even with digital stabilization the video footage isn't buttery smooth. There's some noticeable wobble as the drone flies, and at times the Breeze has a difficult time keeping the horizon straight. The Parrot Bebop 2 FPV, which is larger and sells for a bit more money, delivers smoother, steadier video.
The video is fairly crisp and detailed, though not quite as good as what you get from the Bebop 2 FPV to my eye. Yuneec continues to have issues with automatic white balance. The color tone of grass changes from too cool to too warm, seemingly randomly, during test clips. You can set the white balance manually, but you shouldn't have to, especially with a drone that's meant to be easy to use.
Photo quality is okay, a little bit behind the best camera phones on the market today. Images are captured in JPG format at 13MP resolution. It's absolutely fine for capturing a landscape shot for social media or an aerial selfie, but don't expect to make a fine art print.
The tiny Yuneec Breeze is designed to be easy to use, and I'd say it succeeds in that goal. Automated shots are easily accessed and executed well. But the actual flight experience isn't great, especially if you opt not to buy the add-on remote control, and you have to deal with the same short flight times that you get with the drone's closest competitor, the DJI Spark.
The Spark costs a bit more, and has some of its own drawbacks, but delivers video that's steadier, sharper, and more consistent in color than you get with the Breeze. For a product that is essentially a flying camera, video and image quality is important.
If you're in the market for a small drone, you have some choices. We give slight preference to the DJI Spark, which suffers from short battery life but includes futuristic gesture-based control, better video, and its own array of automated shot modes. For a bit more money, the slightly larger Parrot Bebop 2 FPV is solid, with longer flight times and better quality video. Our favorite small model is the DJI Mavic Pro, but it's more than twice the price of the Breeze, so you'll have to be pretty serious about drones to consider it as a purchase.
By Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H Photo, where he wrote thousands upon thousands of product descriptions, blog posts, and reviews. Since then he's shot with hundreds of camera models, ranging from pocket point-and-shoots to medium format… More »
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