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Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff
30 minutes of fly time
Updated Fly app
No real obstacle detection
The DJI Mavic Mini drone is expertly designed, affordable, stable, and extremely fun to fly. The video quality, while not 4K, is very good, and the battery life is excellent.
The DJI Mavic Mini is as close to a perfect consumer drone as I have ever seen or flown.
At 249 grams, it's DJI's lightest drone ever, and yet, it's more stable and powerful than any drone that size has a right to be. It is a literal joy to fly and, despite its diminutive size, you get to fly it for an astounding 30 minutes per battery charge.
I've flown DJI (and other brand drones) that have been much larger and even sometimes smaller than the Mavic Mini, this is among my favorite experiences so far.
Obviously, there are limitations, like max video quality size and the lack of obstacle detection. The latter, in particular, means drone newbies might want to practice and take a bit more care when flying. I do, though, believe that some prosumer drone pilots may adopt the Mavic Mini as an able pro-level drone backup.
Full-disclosure: I didn't get the $399 Mavic Mini, which comes with the a remote that's almost larger and certainly heavier than the drone and a single intelligent battery. Instead, I got the $499 Fly More Package, which includes three intelligent batteries, a two-way charging hub that charges all the batteries sequentially, 360-degree propeller guard, and a nice carrying case. None of these things impact the Mavic Mini's performance, but they are definitely worth the extra $100.
Preparing to fly is a straight forward process. You can charge the battery inside the drone or, as I did, in the charging hub. The remote should be charged up as well. For the remote, you remove the hidden joysticks from the remote body and screw them into their respective remote ports, unfold antenna and the phone holder wings, find the cable that fits your phone (I used an iPhone 11 Pro), and connect that cable to the remote and the phone.
On the drone side, the Mavic Mini comes with the propellers pre-installed (you do get a spare pair of propellers with either package), so all you have to do is unfold the four prop arms from the body and remove the camera gimbal cover.
You turn on the remote and the Mavic Mini drone the same way: With a single press of the power button followed by a long press. The Mavic Mini will light up and make a sound. On the remote side, I had to launch the updated DJI Fly app (still in beta at the time of my review) and then select connect. The app, remote, and drone find each other consistently and I was ready to fly within minutes.
DJI redesigned the Fly App to simplify it. I noticed fewer flight status readouts on the main screen, but the most noticeable change for me was that instead of a slider for takeoff, I now hold down a virtual button until a green circle closes, after which the Mavic Mini takes off on its own.
The Mavic Mini has three flying modes:
For beginners, Position is the best option. It limits speed and and smooths out maneuvers. CineSmooth takes that notion a step further, trying to smooth out the flight for the best, most cinematic video capture. I didn't like how sluggish this made the Mini feel. Usually, flew in Sport mode. However, since the Mavic Mini has just one collision sensor on its base (for landing) and because, when you fly at 30 mph, it can take almost 10 feet to come to a full stop, I wouldn't recommend Sport mode for anyone but the most experienced drone pilots.
As with virtually every other previous DJI drone I've flown, the Mavic Mini launches into the air and then hovers about 3 feet off the ground awaiting instructions. This is not only DJI's lightest drone, it's also the quietest one I've ever flown. It's not silent, but the propeller sound for a drone of its size is comparably understated and not remotely annoying. For once, I don't think all the neighbors could hear me flying the Mavic Mini over their houses.
This is easily one of the most responsive drones I've ever flown. It's small size makes it easier to fly through spaces in ways I would never have tried with even the relatively diminutive Mavic Air. I even flew backwards through soccer goal frame.
I was also impressed with the Mavic Mini's stability in relatively windy conditions. I took the drone up to 300 ft (the maximum allowed altitude in most fly zones) and watched the ultra-steady video feed on my iPhone. Only once did I get a high wind warning. When I've flown drones of this size previously, the wind has all but carried them away. I'm simply stunned by what DJI accomplished with the tiny Mavic Mini.
The DJI Fly app has a bunch of fun, customizable Quick shot presets, all of which I tried, including:
The only thing I had to remember was to reduce the flight distance on each one since the default for most of them is around 30 meters, which is further away than you think. In each case, I only had to draw a virtual tracking box on me or my subject and then let the Mavic Mini do the rest.
I did run into one significant issue. On my first major flight, I recorded a dozen or so clips, but the drone somehow appeared to lose all of them. When I pulled the card and read it on my computer, all my flight video files and 12MP JPG photos were literally gone.
I switched cards for my second flight. This time, the app reported a communication issue with the micro SD card and I couldn't access or edit the videos on my phone. Fortunately, when I plugged the card into my iPad, it found all the video files.
Later, I used the DJI Fly apps's built-in video creation tools and discovered that all my flight videos were still in the Mavic Mini's cache and I was able to create a few clips with them. Since the app I was running is beta, I'm not entirely surprised this happened, but it is something to watch for when you set out to shoot your own Mavic Mini drone video.
Check out my Mavic Mini video review!
As for the prepacked video stuff, it's fine if you're not comfortable editing video and want to quickly package and share your shots. I would rather do my own editing.
Video quality is very good, though you are limited to 2.7K video instead of 4K. For me, this isn't a problem, I'm still posting 1080p video pretty much everywhere, but for prosumers, this might be a non-starter.
DJI promises 30 minutes of flight time with one Mavic Mini intelligent battery charge and they did not lie. I cannot believe I got that much flight time from such a small drone and relatively lightweight battery. With the three battery pack, I was flying for an hour and a half and loved every minute of it.
File issue aside, I am in love with this drone. The DJI Mavic Mini is expertly designed, affordable, stable, and extremely fun to fly. The video quality is, for its resolution, excellent.
I expect the DJI Mini to be the hottest drone of the holiday season. It's on my wish list.