Tech Junkie Review: DJI Ryze Tech Tello Drone Under $100

People ask me all the time, “which drone should I buy for about $100?”  I almost always reply, “Don’t bother!”  Thing is, unless you spend $200+ on a drone you’re going to have a hard time flying it and will likely crash it within a day or 2.  Without GPS drones can’t stabilize very well and it’s hard for them to maintain a position.  Finally, there’s an inexpensive drone that I can recommend!  The Ryze Tello with Dji Technology!

Hardware

The interesting thing here is that the Tello is actually made by a company called Ryze Tech but sold by DJI.  That's because it uses DJI technology.  None the less, it reminds me of a mini version of other DJI consumer drones.  It weighs nearly nothing and uses small skinny batteries.

There is a power button on the side and a microUSB port for charging up the Tello.  The props can be popped off if one breaks.  There is also a prop guard that's included.  It adds a little weight to the drone but in my testing it didn't seem to impact battery life too much.  For me, I feel better with the prop guards on but you may want to fly without them if you're feeling brave.

Setup/Software

The Tello uses DJI tech to fly and control the drone but it doesn't use the standard DJI app.  It has a special Tello app.  With that said, I noticed that it's very similar to the DJI app in many ways and if you're used to that, you'll feel right at home.  Connecting to the drone is a simple Wi-Fi connection.  From there you control the drone with the on-screen controls.

Flying the Tello is surprisingly easy!  Typically expensive drones use GPS to maintain their position but somehow the Tello does the same thing without GPS.  It's not perfect.  In low light it couldn't maintain position.  Strong winds created problems as well.  If you're flying this inside of a gym or outside in low wind/daylight conditions you should be good to go.

If you prefer a physical controller, DJI also sells a great bluetooth controller that works with the Tello for $30.  I tested it out with the controller and also with my phone directly.  Both worked well.

The amazing thing about the Tello is how capable it is despite the low price and lack of GPS.  It's very easy to control and even has crude versions of some features you'll find on higher end DJI drones.  It has a circle me feature that can fly a circle around a central location, a 360 mode that will record video as it spins the drone in 360 degrees,  a fun bounce mode that bounces the drone up and down a few feet from the ground, throw & go that lets you throw the drone for take off, flips in 8 directions with a swipe on the screen and an up & away feature that records a video as the drone flys away and backward.

Video Quality

If there was one thing that could be better, this would be it.  The video quality is OK.  It's what you might expect from a budget drone.  It's not super crisp.  In lower light conditions it gets grainy fast.  Also, there seemed to be a bit of stutter from time to time.  Since the drone doesn't have on-board storage all of the video is being transmitted wirelessly and stored on your phone.  This likely doesn't help.  Here's a clip I recorded:

Conclusion

If you can't spend $200+ for a drone, this is the one to buy.  It's amazingly easy to fly for a drone that is under $100.  The app and flying experiece feels like a DJI experience.  That's a good thing!  It's the perfect starter drone for someone looking to experiment before that spend $400 on a DJI Spark.

You can buy the Tello directly from DJI or on Amazon for $99.

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