Autel X-Star review: the “Phantom lookalike” drone that truly holds its own

Editor’s note: This Autel X-Star review was originally written in 2016 when the drone was released. It is now out of stock at most retailers, and it is no longer in production.

If you’re seeking a camera drone from Autel, check out the Evo Lite or Evo Nano drones, which are currently in production and some of the best camera drones out there.

The Autel X-Star Premium drone is an easy-to-fly quadcopter, designed for photographers. I’ve been looking forward to getting this drone in the mail! I hadn’t gotten a chance to fly it yet, but I knew it made quite a splash in its debut at CES in 2016. It looks a lot like a Phantom, so I was curious to see how Autel’s X-Star holds up against the iconic drone. So with that, here’s my Autel X-Star review:

Purchase your own Autel drone directly from Autel here.

Apart from charging it up and adding the propellers, this drone is ready to fly out of the box (which I’ll add is a light, portable carrying case), and easy to get up in the air. Check out my video version of the Autel X-Star review here:

Autel X-Star Cost:

The Autel X-Star comes in at less than $1,000, which is pretty impressive given you’re getting a drone, controller and a built in camera on a gimbal.


The X-Star Premium is equipped with a 4K Ultra HD camera that has an 108-degree field of view. It takes 4K video and 12 megapixel photos. Footage is shot with an integrated 3-axis gimbal.

Flight modes:

Autel’s “beginner mode” comes with a geo-fence to limit your drone’s range and speed. Much like other drones, it also has a Follow-Me mode, Orbit Me mode, and one to set waypoints.

Autel X-Star vs. the DJI Phantom

I would be remiss to not say this drone is very much like the Phantom 3 Advanced. Other than the bright orange color of Autel’s drones, on the surface one wouldn’t notice much difference. Some have ventured so far as to call the Autel X-Star a “Phantom knock-off.”

It’s hard to say what the link defining a knock-off is, but for someone who has flown a lot of drones in their life, I actually noticed some pretty big differences.

Autel X-Star vs. DJI Phantom flight

When flying it, the Autel feels a lot zippier than the Phantom. On one hand, this is a bad thing — it’s slightly harder to control and it doesn’t take off and land as smoothly. But it’s also a good thing — it makes it a lot more fun to fly, because it feels like you are actually flying it. Both drones have a maximum speed of about 16 m/s.

Autel X-Star vs. DJI Phantom drone body

The one thing I absolutely love about Autel’s drone that you won’t find in the Phantom is that the gimbal and camera is easily removable. This really benefits the consumer, who eventually may be able to upgrade their camera or add some type of other contraption in the spot where the gimbal is (pizza delivery, anyone)?

It also allows someone who doesn’t care about photography and simply likes flying to get a longer flight time without the additional weight of the camera.

With Phantom’s line of drones, if you were satisfied with the body but wanted an upgraded camera (or vice versa), you would have to buy a completely new setup. With Autel’s you seemingly will be able to upgrade individual pieces in future models of Autel’s drones.

RC transmitter

The RC transmitter operates much like DJI’s — download Autel’s Starlink app, plug in your smartphone to the controller and start flying to get a FPV view of the drone. You can also use the app to control settings (you can still fly without the app).

One thing that’s different is the controller has a variety of buttons like return to home, take off, etc. that make it especially easy to fly.

  • Comes with: 14.8V LiPo battery, fast charger, 64GB card, hard case
  • HD Live View up to 1.2 miles away
  • 1 hour charging time
  • Battery life: Up to 25 minutes
  • Comes in orange or white

It’s exciting to see another incredibly solid drone on the market. I felt safe flying this — safe enough that I even passed it off to friends who had never flown before during a picnic and ran into no issues. It’s pretty apparent that DJI has dominated the market, but I’m looking forward to who that number two competitor is — and Autel is a close one. The company’s drone is built solidly and shoots high quality video in a way that’s safe and easy to fly.

The Phantom 3 Advanced is $100 cheaper than the Autel X-Star. But, the standout feature in the X-Star, the removable gimbal, means I could end up saving money in the long run if I’m able to keep either the camera or the drone and upgrade the other.

The X-Star holds its own. Of the many drones I reviewed, the Autel X-Star is the one that most seems to have the consumer in mind. Features like a gimbal that allows for easy upgrades rather than having to shell out money for an entirely new drone, and a light, portable case makes this one of the most consumer-friendly drones on the market.

I look forward to what’s next from Autel. For now, happy flying! Or if you’re ready for your own, you can purchase it from Autel here.

What’s your Autel X-Star review? Share your own thoughts in the comments below!


  • Ed Busj says:

    Another superior analysis. Extremely helpful.

  • Michael says:

    Another great review. The idea of the entire gimbal and camera detaching from the vehicle reminds me of the Typhoon 4K, where you can take off the gimbal and camera and use it to shoot stabilized 4K video by hand. Does the Autel have the ability to detach the camera and gimbal and then shoot by hand like the Typhoon? If so, it would save you the cost of buying the Phantom 4 and the Osmo. Thanks.

    • Sally French
      Sally French says:

      Yes, great comparison to the Yuneec Typhoon (the removable camera is very similar). It doesn’t look like Autel makes anything like Yuneec’s SteadyGrip yet, but I could see that happening in the future.

  • I am waiting on mine to be delivered and can’t wait! Thank you for the insight!

  • Kevin l says:

    I have a lot of drones/ aee ap11/yunecc q5004k.they both have their own good and bad points! it’s really about how well you adapt to the aircraft.looking forward to getting my xstar.should be here Wednesday.will report back on xstar.later next week.. Kevin

  • Awesome Drones
    Chris says:

    Nice article Sally!! I think you pointed out a good thing with this post that there are alternatives to DJI Brand people should try out.

    And with the upgradable gimbal you can’t really go wrong, being able to plug in a new camera on your favorite drone is a handy thing.

    Sally let’s say you were going on vacation to some beautiful place if you had to choose between a Phantom and a Autel which one would you go for?

    • Sally French
      Sally French says:

      They are so similar that it is hard to choose. I will say that with the carrying case, the Autel turns out to be cheaper! I’m all about price, so at the moment I think I would choose that.

  • Awesome Drones
    Chris says:

    Hmm fair enough, as long as you can record in HD, and the drone is user friendly and flies smooth then it ticks all my requirements aswell.

  • Katie O. says:

    I’ve been asked to look into a UAV for making video of very large and tall equipment (towers up to 118’ tall) for marketing, instruction, and inspection. I met the Autel folks at a drone convention and really liked their product, the ability to easily upgrade cameras/sensors, the customer support, and the high visibility of the unit itself. That said, I’m not on a budget for the purchase and I wonder if the newer DJI Phantom 4 would be a better investment because of the advanced flying capabilities and the obstacle avoidance, at least for the longevity and usefulness of the UAV itself. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on these for my use. Also, for your reference, I will be charged with piloting, and this will be my very first UAV. Thank so much.

  • Alan says:

    To me the main advantage of the removable gimbal has to be for easier transportation.

    I bought my Phantom 3 very reluctantly, as I hate the way it is so bulky and difficult to fit into a normal backpack.

    Now if they just made the legs foldable as well…

  • Ticked says:

    I purchased a P4 and now regret it. Not because the P4 is a bad bird, it isn’t, but because DJI support is breathtakingly bad. When I read reviews, I thought ‘how bad can it be?’. It’s that bad and more. I wish I’d learned about Autel before I spent $1.7K

    • Deron Gue says:

      After reading through a DJI forum the comments regarding poor customer service along with several Autel reviews touting the high quality customer service, my decision was made easy. I bought my Xstar and never looked back. Great review Sally.

  • Jasmyn says:

    Thanks for the review! I first saw the X-Star at InterDrone in Las Vegas (I enjoyed your part on the panel at the Women in Drones Luncheon) and I could see myself owning one. I was wondering if the props are as noisy as the P4?

    • Sally French
      Sally French says:

      Good question, and thanks for coming to the panel! Hopefully other readers in here have experience flying both and can weigh in. I never did any type of sound test, but I can tell you that both are rather noisy!

  • David Barr says:

    I just got the X-Star Premium and I love it. Very easy to fly, excellent video quality. The case is a nice added feature and the remote controller and Starlink app are intuitive and well built. I’ve spent the first weekend with it taking videos and photos for my business already.

  • chrizzzfsx
    Chris A says:

    Great review. I have done alot of research for a business type drone. Thanks to my bride who saw the X-Star at a convention, I am so happy I had more than a DJI model to choose from. My XSP cost $699 so my choice was made. Ease of operation but not dumbed down. Customer service is the best. Autel is a contender.

  • A superb piece of review Sally. Yeah, it looks much like DJI Phantom as you said. I like the removable Gimbal feature which is cost-effective for me. However, I wonder whether Autel provides good customer service or not. Myself had flown many drones but, did not get a chance to fly Autel X-Star Premium yet so, it is sweet of you to post such a review. It makes me excited to try it out soon. Cheers drone girl.

  • Carter says:

    Awesome review of the Autel Robotics X-Star Premium, it looks like the price has dropped, what a great deal, definitely ranks up there with the best of them. I also like that the camera and gimbal are easy to remove on this drone.

  • Jason says:

    Quick Followup here – I purchased the X-Star Premium back in January. Had a couple good (2) flights, then all hell broke loose. Hovering on a zero wind day, the unit was up about 10-15 feet. Quickly went to my left, at an extremely high rate of speed. Lost complete control. Crash-boom-bang. Their customer service was very helpful and suggested I send it in, perhaps there is a flaw. Since it was an Amazon purchase, I made an easy exchange. New unit came, again – several successful flights, then while at 100 ft, “Compass Error” – unit again, went to my left and crashed. I have a Phantom 3, been flying that for a long while, took a shot at the Autel — perhaps I was jinxed or a crappy pilot – but these events where out of my control. Will try another down the road. For me – its the DJI P4-Pro

  • Alex J says:

    With all the drones you’ve tested, which ones don’t showcase the blades in the video/images?

  • The Autel X-Star is an adequate drone for hobby use or casual photography. You will quickly find the camera on this drone is inadequate for professional use. Right now DJI is the only game in town for professional photography. The Phantom 4 Pro camera is just outstanding, and there are third party apps and websites that will work with DJI drones (Autopilot, Litchi, Airdata, etc.). Autel has none of this. They are working on an advanced camera and opening up their API for third parties, but they have an uphill battle to remain relevant.

  • Andrew says:

    I still consider the Autel X-star one of the best drones for beginners, no matter how much time has passed since its release. Very good, sturdy drone!

  • chrizzzfsx
    Chris Armstrong says:

    I agree!! Been flying it a year now. Bulletproof. I see my friends always crashing, don’t be a hero, press the button and let it land it’s self.

  • After a year q5004k and a few missups, it has been through a lot and is great! Great control going to get another.

  • Hi Sally, a little late on leaving this note for you.

    Little background if I may. I’ve been shooting photos since 1992, on and off and had a few pro gigs here and there.

    Now to the point, Over 2 years ago I was bitten by the drone bug. I spotted a certain new yorker who was using another brand. Though I admire his video editing (only once have I dabbled with video editing) and choice of music at the time, I became aware of certain undertones he was selling/promoting. The pinnicle been “I am voting for” video. That’s where he’s at and more power to him. Not that I have any democratic say in American political process.

    Before this point I hadn’t heard nor seen any other brands. Except for one Matt Kerriker from Texas, who has a few channels and is certainly diverse within his content and continues to grow accordingly.

    So some company had flowed him a Autel Xstar Premium. He was impressed and so was I. After committing myself to at least 30 hours research before buying a drone. I began pouring over forums and YouTube reviews and so on so forth.

    Your YouTube review and this page were literally at the end of my 30 hour commitment.

    So I purchased an orange Autel Xstar Premium.

    This bundle of joy has been the single greatest (hobby) investment I have experienced. I already loved the sky and flight and birds etc etc. Then to blend this with photography. What can I say….

    I cannot thank you enough for your efforts and I hope you are doing well and truly proud. You are a blessed individual and I pray blessings upon you.

    God bless and Godspeed.

    P.s For all of the individuals carrying on. Brand is a mere formality. Fly more, type/talk less. The engineers of modern society love and thrive off of the division that is created by comments about branding and put downs about this brand or that.

    FLY MORE WHILE YOU CAN! No luck involved, enjoy the blessing while you can. Because thinking may to soon be illegal.

  • Autel has left x-star owners high and dry. Batteries fail and no longer making spares… drone is useless $300++ waste.. Buy a better brand next time

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