The following is my opinion only.
I recently unlocked all the relevant engineers and set out to Colonia in my Krait Phantom as the first leg of my exploration journey. As I went along I grew annoyed with having to continuously pitch and roll out of the way of stars to avoid heat damage. I decided to buy a Dolphin when I got to Colonia to test it out and see if it was worth the hype. I’m so glad I did!
The maneuverability of the Dolphin in and out of super cruise absolutely blows the Phantom’s away, especially the yaw axis. Additionally, the Dolphin can straight up ignore heat from stars — the rumors are true, you can charge your FSD right outside a star’s exclusion zone without any consequence.
The result? A very chill exploration journey. I can turn my brain off and do 50 jumps no problem while listening to Stardew Valley’s soundtrack and hear no beep beeps from a heated Phantom.
The only downsides in comparison to the Phantom are the cockpit and the jump range. While I wish the cockpit was similar to its bigger brothers, it’s not awful (in comparison to the Krait Phantom at least) by any means. Someone playing in VR would want to use the AspX though.
The jump range deficiency is compensated by being able to jump more quickly — since you don’t have to wait until you’re outside the heat range of the star, time spent between jumps is reduced. The difference between the two is ~12 Ly (59 v 71). Additionally, you don’t ever have to stop to fuel scoop with the Dolphin, because you’re always fuel scooping, further speeding traversal.
The best news? You can deck out the Dolphin for 15 million or less and you really only have to unlock Felicity Farseer and Guardian Frame Shift Drives to engineer it (the only downside being that you have a pretty weak shield, you can get stronger shields while maintaining jump range if you unlock more engineers). This makes it extremely beginner friendly.
I’m sure people have preferences for other explorers, I make the direct comparison to the Krait as it’s mentioned as the best explorer most often. But for me the Dolphin is nearly perfect for exploration.