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Review: Best drones of 2016, from affordable to professional

CNET has picked DJI Phantom 3 Standard as

CNET has picked DJI Phantom 3 Standard as one of the best drones of 2016. Photo Credit: CBS Interactive

Hey! What was that buzzing past your window? Could be it was a drone — the marriage of a remote-control model airplane and a video camera. Take your videos and photos to new heights with one of these camera drones.

The following CNET staff contributed to this story: senior editors Joshua Goldman and Laura K. Cucullu. For more reviews of personal technology products, visit cnet.com.

DJI PHANTOM 4

CNET RATING (Out of 5)

4.5 stars (outstanding)

THE GOOD The new Sport mode lets you get to your location faster. Its Obstacle Sensing System can help avoid head-on collisions as well as track subjects. Slow-motion video is a nice addition to an already excellent camera.

THE BAD The Obstacle Sensing System only sees things in front of the drone. You still need a tablet or phone ready to go along with the controller and drone battery. Extra batteries are expensive.

THE COST $1,138.86 to $1,199.99

BOTTOM LINE One of the smartest drones available.

SYMA X5C EXPLORERS

CNET RATING (Out of 5)

4 stars (excellent)

THE GOOD The Syma X5C Explorers is extremely affordable for what you’re getting, including a 720p HD camera. It’s durable, but all of its parts are available for repairs when you need them. Stable enough to fly indoors or outside.

THE BAD Flight time is about 7 to 10 minutes with a 90-minute charge time.

THE COST $52.89

BOTTOM LINE For aerial photography on the cheap, the Syma X5C is a toy drone quadcopter that’s better than its price suggests.

DJI PHANTOM 3 ADVANCED

CNET RATING (Out of 5)

4 stars (excellent)

THE GOOD DJI’s Excellent full-HD video plus the convenience and safety features allow beginners to get flying fast. New sensors and an additional satellite navigation make flying indoors and outside more stable than its predecessors.

THE BAD Battery life can feel short at 20-ish minutes and extra batteries don’t come cheap. The camera is permanently attached to the drone. Android device support is limited.

THE COST $677.33 to $799

BOTTOM LINE Superb camera and flight performance coupled with a well-designed app and controller.

DJI PHANTOM 3 STANDARD

CNET RATING (Out of 5)

4 stars (excellent)

THE GOOD This ready-to-fly quadcopter with its built-in camera captures good 2.7K-resolution video that’s very stable thanks to an excellent integrated three-axis gimbal. It has the Intelligent Flight Modes found on the company’s higher-end models.

THE BAD The camera can’t be removed or upgraded; landing gear doesn’t collapse and isn’t easily removed for travel.

THE COST $499 to $630.01

BOTTOM LINE The best beginner quadcopter you’re going to find for the money.

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