A beginner drone for $170? DroneDJ reviews the Potensic T25

Most of the drones we consider at DroneDJ tend to be in the champagne category of price and performance. But there are a wide variety of drones available at a nearly every price point. What do you get in a drone in the “domestic wine” range? Maybe more than you’d think, but perhaps less than you hoped. DroneDJ reviews the Potensic T25 drone.

Potensic sells a variety of drones from toys to more robust 4k HD camera drones. The company asked if we’d be interested in reviewing one of its beginner models, the T25. We don’t get a lot of opportunity to test drones in this price range. ($169 US on Amazon, less on Aliexpress.) But not for lack of trying. We recently approached a drone manufacturer about one of its aircraft. They told us we could have a review model IF we gave it a five-star rating on a popular consumer electronics website. We explained that wasn’t possible, and that was the end of that. But I’ve since wondered about all those five star reviews…

Anyway, the first thing you’ll notice about the T-25 is its weight. Even in its carrying case, this thing is light. This is both a feature and a bug, as we’ll see. You’ll see a superficial resemblance to DJI’s Phantom drone. But it’s a lot smaller, about 10 x 10 x 4.5 inches.

Fliers who enjoy blinking lights and night flying will appreciate all LEDs on this aircraft; it’s got lots of illumination. They’re not particularly bright in daylight, but they’re useful for calibration and checking to see the status of your batteries.

The package includes a remote control, a charger, a spare set of legs, spare propellers, propeller guards, and a few cables to keep things charged and connected. The T25 comes with two batteries, and while the manual says they’re good for eight minutes of flight time, mine was closer to six minutes on a perfectly calm day. The flight software indicates battery status on your phone, and the manual says the drone returns to home automatically when the batteries are low. I found the drone struggling to retain altitude as the batteries drained. On the bright side, the lithium cells recharge quite quickly.

There is no obstacle avoidance, so be careful around trees and buildings. In fact, make sure your first few flights are outside and in the open. The drone takes off with a start and takes a few moments to reach equilibrium.

Launching the drone is an interesting procedure. There’s a routine you have to follow with the controller sticks, and then you have to grab the drone and spin your body 360 degrees twice to calibrate its compass. It’s a little odd, but straightforward enough once you fly a few times.

DroneDJ reviews the Potensic T25 drone

The T25 comes with a 9 axis gyroscope to make the drone more stable. I flew it on perfectly still days, and as I think you’ll see, it struggles to stay steady. But if you do lose confidence while flying, just take your hands off the controls, and the T25 will stop and hover where you left it.

By the way, the drone has an emergency shut-off button, and it really works. The props stop dead and the drone plummets. I expected a more subtle landing, but here’s where the drone’s light weight is a feature. After a 30-foot fall, the propeller guards came off, the battery popped out, and the camera mechanism temporarily jammed. However, the drone returned to flight apparently unbothered by the sudden drop. I recently experienced a far less dramatic crash with my DJI Mini 2 and the results were heartbreaking.

The drone has three speeds, but most beginners will be satisfied with how quickly it moves in the slowest setting. It also has a follow-me mode that’s activated with a single button press. But don’t expect those terrific shots you see of drones chasing mountain bikers. The drone follows your phone, not the pilot’s head. And it only works if the drone is more than 100 away. There’s also a mode that allows you to draw a flight path on the app, and the drone will follow it before coming back to its original take-off point.

The Potensic T25 drone uses a 2K camera that streams video to your smart phone. It also records on the drone’s memory card (not included). There’s no 3-axis gimbal, but you can tilt the camera up and down. It’s a little jerky, but works fine.

So how’s the picture? Photos seem fine, good greens and blues, good resolution. Though you can see blur here, indicating its auto-exposure could probably use a tweak. This image would have obviously benefited from a faster shutter time.

And the video? Hmm…

I tried stablizing the video with image processing software, but it didn’t make much difference. There’s still that “Jello” effect, most likely caused by the drone’s vibration, and we suspect, a rolling shutter.

DroneDJ’s Take

The T25 packs a lot of electronics in a $170 bundle. It’s responsive and a speedy little flier. It feels lightweight, but in my experience it’s very resilient to crashes. The flight time is a disappointment, especially for new pilots trying to get a feel for flying. Newbies will struggle to feel comfortable when it always seems like time to change batteries. But its GPS seems reliable, and the drone automatically returns home when feeling underpowered.

Still, getting professional photographic results from a drone will require a significantly greater investment. New fliers who aren’t sure they’ll use a drone much or for people who just enjoy flying, the T25 may be a good choice. It’s a beginner drone that may help novices gain confidence in flying, and smart and resilient enough to endure mistakes and misjudgments.

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