Getting a drone with a screen on the controller is the best way to get your quadcopter airborne quickly.
While most camera drones allow you to use your smartphone as a remote controller, there are notable downsides.
Earlier this year, I swapped from using my iPhone to control a Mavic 3 Classic to a dedicated DJI Smart Controller.
While I miss certain features (explained later in this article), the drone flying experience is much better now.
Whether you buy the DJI Smart Controller like I did or choose a drone made in the USA with a proprietary LCD screen remote control, you’ll find the top options in this guide.
Table of Contents
What is the Best Drone Screen-on-Controller Drone in 2023?
DJI Mini 4 Pro with DJI Smart Controller (Best Overall Drone Controller Combo)
- Great flight time
- Compact and durable
- Vertical shooting option
- Good flight range
- Shoots 4K
- DJI Smart Controller has a bright screen
- Not fully stable in high winds
- Mini 3 Pro Filters are incompatible
The DJI Mini 4 Pro is the best drone overall that has a controller with an in-built screen to show the drone’s camera view.
It’s also very affordable when compared to bigger DJI drones, but despite this low price, it has excellent specs.
It has a camera that excels at both photography and videography. It can shoot 4K footage at 30fps and now 60fps and 1080p at 120fps.
Those shots can also be taken vertically, and – as the camera itself tilts – this vertical footage is also full resolution.
The Mini 4 Pro is light, compact, and foldable. At just under 250 grams, it’s legal to fly in most locations – there’s no need to get a special certification.
Being a compact camera drone, its small dimensions also mean that it’s highly durable, and crashes that would destroy or damage bigger, heavier drones don’t bother it at all.
It’s also one of the quietest drones money can buy, although the tone of the propellers is more high-pitched, like a swarm of angry bees.
However, the low weight of the Mini 4 Pro can make it slightly unstable in stronger winds.
Another feature that makes this drone a winner is its dual-function battery case and charger. This is obviously great for charging when you’re on the move.
It has a decent flight time of 34 minutes (45 minutes if you use the newer battery), and the DJI Smart Controller can transmit up to 20km, making it a great long range drone.
The transmission signal between the drone and the controller, especially if you’re using the DJI Smart Controller, is strong, with few dropouts during testing, as long as you have an unobstructed line of sight.
DJI RC Smart Remote Controller + Any Compatible DJI Drone
- Small, easy to travel with
- Very ergonomic
- Bright screen
- Bright battery life
The DJI RC Remote Controller is a mid-range remote control with a built-in screen that sits between DJI’s standard RC-N1 controller and their flagship RC Pro drone controllers. It replaces the DJI Smart Controller.
It’s compatible with the DJI Mini 3, the DJI Mini 3 Pro, the DJI Mavic 3 Classic, the DJI Mavic 3, the DJI Mavic 3 Cine, and the DJI Air 2S.
The first thing you notice about it is its look and feel. It has the bright built-in screen and rubber grips you’d expect from higher-end remotes.
It’s very ergonomic, with comfortable finger positioning, it’s lightweight and well-weighted in the hands, and its button layout is great. Overall, it’s something you can fly with all day.
With its 1920x1080p, 700 NITS display, the screen of the DJI Smart Controller is big enough and bright enough to compete with sunlight. This is something that remote controllers that use smartphones struggle with.
With its two control dials, you get a dedicated zoom dial, which is very convenient; there’s no need to zoom in using the screen or like with lesser controllers, using your phone.
It has good battery life and will last for four hours of flight, and its transmission signal is strong. Although its built-in antennas provide a slightly weaker signal than other controllers, this is negligible.
It’s a great option for those who want something of better quality and with better features than DJI’s standard controller, but who don’t want to spend the big bucks buying the pro device.
But, if you do want to spend more, the Pro version (Amazon | B&H) has a brighter screen (1000 NITS), internal and micro SD storage, stronger Bluetooth, external antennae, and the ability to have video output to an external monitor.
DJI Mini 3 with DJI RC Smart Controller (Best Budget Choice)
- Good price
- Shoots 4K
- Compact and durable
- Excellent flight range
- Controller with built-in screen
- Vertical shooting option
- Fixed aperture means you need ND filters for day shoots
- Can be a little unstable in the wind
The DJI Mini 3 Pro is a great value yet feature-packed drone that retails at $800. Considering this price, it has very good specs.
With it, you can shoot 4K footage at 30fps, 2.7K at 60fps, and 1080p at 120fps. Unlike most other drones, it can shoot vertically, too. Its vertical footage resolutions are the same as its horizontal resolutions.
That’s because the drone can tilt its camera by 90 degrees. So, there’s no need for any cropping that leads to lower-resolution footage.
It’s compact, foldable, and light. And, given that it weighs under 250 grams, you are allowed to fly the DJI Mini 3 pretty much everywhere, as you won’t need a certificate or special authorisation to do so.
Something that its low weight also surely influences (alongside battery life) is its excellent flight range of 12 kilometres or 7.5 miles.
However, if you are going to fly it that far, make sure to do it in calmer conditions, as its lightweight body can be a little unstable in high winds.
However, I should add that there’s another advantage to its low weight, and that’s that it makes the drone durable and means it can survive impacts that would destroy heavier drones.
And, when this drone is paired with the DJI Smart controller, with its bright 5.5-inch screen and intuitive controls, you have a portable, high-level, affordable package.
Another great feature this drone has is its battery-charging battery case. This makes the DJI Mini 3 even more portable.
Autel Robotics EVO 2 Pro V3 (Best Drone with Screen on Controller for Pros)
- Variable aperture lens
- 6K video
- Good flight range
- Has waypoints
- Excellent flight time
- Smaller sensor than some competitors
Although the Autel Evo 2 Pro is an expensive drone, it’s of high quality and is packed with great features.
It has a smaller sensor (20 megapixels) than many of its competitors, but despite this, it still delivers great performance.
It shoots 6K video at up to 30fps, and 12-bit RAW stills, too. It also has a suite of in-built shooting modes built-in, including time-lapse, burst, and HDR.
Thanks to the Autel Evo 2 Pro’s maximum ISO of 44000, plus the f/2.8 to f/11 variable aperture lens, you also get a quadcopter that is extremely capable in low light conditions.
Its flight time is outstanding, with up to 40 minutes of flying time possible on a single charge. Its aerodynamic design and balance make it sturdy and capable of flying in high winds.
Thanks in part to the strong signal from the excellent remote control, it also has an excellent flight range of 15 kilometres or 9.3 miles.
You’ll have no worries seeing your flight clearly, since the screen is a massive 6.4-inch LCD display, and its brightness is measured at 800 NITS.
Hubsan H501S X4 (Best Budget Drone with Screen on Controller for Beginners)
- Easy to set up and use
- Good value
- Controller is well laid-out
- Great features for the price
- Remote controller eats through AA batteries
- No 4K
This drone is very easy to get started with and simple to fly, so it’s perfect for beginners.
It contains a lot of the features that a higher-end quad would have but at a lower price point of around $250 to $300.
However, I should note at this point that this was the price it used to retail at new. As the drone has been discontinued, you’re now more likely to find it on eBay and for cheaper.
It’s a solid-feeling piece of kit with solid features. There’s built-in GPS, altitude hold, a Follow Me Mode and Return to Home. Its brushless motors mean that it flies quietly.
The Hubsan shoots 1080p, and there’s no image stabilisation, so you won’t be getting cinema-quality footage out of it. However, it’s perfectly adequate for beginners.
Its battery life is adequate, too, with 15 to 20 minutes of flying time per charge. Again, that’s standard for drones of this size and price.
It comes with a controller that is very easy to use and very well laid out. It has dedicated switches for GPS, Return to Home, Follow Me, and Headless Mode.
The 4.3-inch LCD monitor has a handy pop-out shade, which is a great help if you’re flying in bright conditions.
You can see most of your menu and other settings from the monitor, plus it gives you telemetry data readouts.
The monitor is fairly low-resolution, but it’s perfectly adequate for flying.
And if you want a different perspective, you can also fly the drone with FPV goggles.
Pros and Cons of Having a Screen on Your Drone Remote Controller
When you have a screen built into your controller, your flight experience is generally improved.
In-built screens are much brighter, so you can use them comfortably in all light conditions. They will also not bother you with interruptions such as text or other notifications that may pop onto your mobile screen while you’re flying.
The bigger, brighter screen leads to a more immersive experience, which leads to better control and better footage. That also, as a consequence, improves safety.
It’s easier for you to see obstacles and avoid them.
Another thing that tends to be better is the latency. The video is being transmitted straight to the controller rather than through the middleman of an app. So what you see on the screen is live.
In the past, one of the main benefits of using a phone was that your footage could be transferred straight from the phone to online platforms.
Nowadays, for example, with DJI’s DJI Go Share function, you can instantly share images and footage either from your drone’s memory card or the controller’s internal memory online.
The two main benefits of not having a screen on your controller are simply cost and size.
Remote controllers without screens are cheaper and smaller, so they are slightly more portable.
Drone with Screen on Controller: FAQs
Do drones come with screens?
Drones don’t come with screens.
The drone carries the camera and transmits an image back to the screen, which is either on your mobile phone or tablet or on the remote controller’s built-in screen.
Do all drones come with controllers?
Many drones come with a basic controller as standard. Of course, if you’re not buying your first drone and already have a compatible controller, you can buy a drone separately.
But the fact remains that without a controller, you cannot fly a drone. So if you have a drone, you’re going to need a controller.
Not all drone remote controllers come with built-in screens, though.
Standard controllers normally have clamps for you to attach to your mobile phone or tablet. You then use that as a screen after having paired your devices through an app designed for the purpose.
Is the screen controller worth owning?
Yes, definitely. Although remote controllers without screens are smaller and lighter, the fact that you have to use them paired with smart devices can cause issues.
First of all, you have two battery lives to consider instead of one; the battery life of the controller and the battery life of your phone.
Secondly, depending on the manufacturer of your drone, the app may not be the best.
Thirdly, your filming can be bothered or interrupted by phone notifications or phone calls.
And finally, mobile phone and tablet screens are often not bright enough to compete with the sun. Depending on the light conditions, you may find it impossible to safely fly your drone.