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Inconsistent power readouts
Hard to steer with your knees
The Segway miniPro is a sophisticated and reliable rideable, but there are a few kinks with the design.
With electric rideables ranging from skateboards and bicycles to hoverboards and slimmed-down Segways, there are plenty of alternatives to walking. The Segway miniPro is one such agile vehicle, acting as a genuine form of transportation for urban commuters due to its high maneuverability, comfort, and competitive price.
We ran the miniPro through the proverbial gauntlet around Portland, Oregon, braving the concrete distances to see what the device was made of, garnering innumerable glares and fielding plenty of questions along the way. Read on to see how it fared against the competition.
Unlike the classic overly utilitarian mall cop Segways many of us are used to, the Segway miniPro incorporates a not-quite matte black finish with red and grey accents throughout giving the unit some much-appreciated style without being overly flashy.
The 10.5-inch air-filled tires add some welcome traction and shock absorption to perform safely and comfortably on various terrains around town. The miniPro is IP54 rated meaning, the vehicle is water-resistant and should be able to withstand a light spray from roadways and the magnesium alloy frame is corrosion-resistant, to withstand climates where certain salts are added to streets seasonally.
With the miniPro, the design team at Segway has essentially chopped the extending steering column used on other full-size models like the Personal Transporter series in half — for the better and the worse. The resulting apparatus shoots upward from the base of the miniPro stopping just between the rider’s knees.
The knee control bar is adjustable and along the top, a pair of cushioned pads are designed to hug the curvature of the leg. This allows the rider to turn the device by simply leaning against the control bar in the direction they’d like to turn. Simply lean left, pressing against the column to turn left or vice versa. The knee control bar is easily detached from the base for more streamlined stowing. This slimmed down steering system gives the unit a much sleeker look, although the overall functionality is certainly another story. (More on this in a bit.) Nonetheless, there are plenty of other intelligent design splashes overall.
One of our main gripes is focused on the ambitious-to-a-fault knee control bar driving system. Simply put, steering a vehicle with your knees is complicated.
For one, there’s an extendable handle within the knee bar control system, to make towing easier in between trips. This capacity is best utilized while the miniPro is still powered on as extending this guide bar will initiate the Power Assist mode. Simply lift the tab and tow the miniPro behind you the way you would pull a small carry-on roller bag, and the system responds by quite literally following your lead and driving ahead. The self-balance, in essence, switches to autopilot and keeps the unit upright at all times. This allows you to let go of the unit entirely, grab the house keys, and then reach back to pull the unit inside with ease.
On the flip side, while the guide bar and power assistance are exceedingly helpful when leading the unit by hand since, at 28 pounds, the miniPro can be bit cumbersome and awkward to carry and stow when powered down or dead. A basic extendable handle along the body or even small groove beneath the base would have made a tremendous difference.
When dealing with mixed traffic roadways or a casual nighttime jaunt around the park, a little extra light can go a long way to keep riders safe. A pair of headlights built into the front of the unit dish out enough lumens to illuminate the road ahead. Additionally, LED tail lights glow to let other commuters know when you are braking and flashing turn signals display directional changes. Similar to the craze with many popular hoverboards, the rear LED light system is customizable (via the Segway-Ninebot app) allowing you to truly express their inner rideable persona with more than 16 million color options. Either way, using the rainbow is exceptionally better than eating asphalt due to a collision or an unforeseen bit of debris.
Before you can fully unleash this pint-sized beast, riders must first complete the Segway New Rider Tutorial. To do so, riders will need to download the Segway Ninebot app, turn on the miniPro, and connect the device via Bluetooth. First, this tutorial will visually guide you through operational limitations as well as dos and don’ts. This is followed by a physical tutorial to ensure riders are at least somewhat privy to the mysterious ways of the Segway miniPro.
Again, once the device is paired with the app via Bluetooth, riders will need to follow the lead of the guided instruction, placing one foot on the unit, then the other, and then stabilizing themselves in place. Next, people will need to prove their ability to make a complete 360-degree revolution clockwise as well as a full 360-degree counterclockwise revolution.
Riders will also need to drive the Segway miniPro forward and backward about 30 feet in each direction. Next you are quickly guided through the basics of how to properly steer and escort the unit using the guide bar built into the steering column. Lastly, the unit will function in the limited mode with a max speed of 4 mph until riders have completed the tutorial. Then, there’s also a short test drive, and riders will be limited to a top speed of 6.2 mph until riders have logged .6 miles. After .6 miles drivers will be able to reach the full top speed of 10 mph, however, it is possible to ride in the limited mode with the lower top speed if riders or parents choose this setting. This may seem like overkill, but if you’ve never set foot on a self-balancing scooter it’s certainly beneficial.
The miniPro can tow riders up to 220 pounds and the 800-watt direct drive dual motor is rated for inclines up to 15 degrees. The manufacturer does not recommend riding the miniPro on inclines steeper than 15 degrees as the vehicle may lose traction. During our tests (with a 175-pound driver) the miniPro sufficiently handled some of the steepest hills around Portland, Oregon without a reduction in power output. This power fade plagues many electric rideables especially as the battery begins to deplete.
The air-filled tires allow the unit to roll over typical roadway debris like sticks, small rocks, and even pine cones with ease. Surprisingly, the miniPro deftly switches from one terrain to another, transferring from sidewalks to roadways without hang-ups.
These beefy tires also add a welcome layer of comfort and shock-absorption to the overall ride and this operational detail cannot be emphasized enough. Many cheaper hoverboards and self-balancing scooters use thin tires and as a result, riders will feel every inch of road and especially the slightest tremors and shifts in terrain along the route. After extended use, this results in that unsettling buzzing sensation in the feet and ankles from the perpetual sheets of light shock.
A series of sensors detect when a rider is leaning forward or backward and follows suit by heading in that direction, however, turning is a whole different story. One of our main gripes is focused on the ambitious-to-a-fault knee control bar driving system. Simply put, steering a vehicle with your knees is complicated.
The miniPro deftly switches from one terrain to another, transferring from sidewalks to roadways without hang-ups.
It’s only natural to want to maintain a wide stance while riding around on the miniPro, as this wider stance lowers your center of gravity and just adds a more stable overall feel. Unfortunately, this wider stance too increases the distance between a rider’s knees and the knee control bar. This means you must either exaggerate your lean directionally to effectively push the control system or ride with an uncomfortable, narrow stance to adequately grasp and steer the knee control bar with your legs pinched together awkwardly. Simply adding a lateral adjustment to widen the pads at the top of the knee control bar would allow riders to choose a wide or narrow stance during trips.
It’s also important to note that once riders reach the max speed, the unit will beep and also automatically lean backward to attempt to slow you down. While we understand the general idea, this adjustment can be jarring and somewhat dangerous. As the unit leans backward so too does the knee control bar, and at times, this full rear tilt pulls the steering system out of reach. Meaning the rider will need to awkwardly reach back and pinch the control bar. It’s not quite contortionist status, but it’s certainly something to visually behold. If a driver hits the top speed on downhill stretches, the rider may feel tugged quite literally and metaphorically in different directions. Situationally, the individual must wrangle with Mother Nature and the laws of gravity, the unit’s well-intentioned but flawed auto-adjust systems, and an innate primordial desire to simply jump off of the thing.
The Segway-Ninebot app makes it easy to monitor vital states such as battery life and remaining mileage but there are also plenty of other functional features to utilize. The app also controls the onboard lights allowing users to deactivate the headlights and even customize the lighting color scheme and glow pattern. It’s also possible to steer the miniPro using a simple analog control pad in the app for those so inclined. This remote control function could theoretically be useful, although you’ll be hard-pressed to find a situation in which it isn’t leaps and bounds easier to simply guide the machine along with the extendable guide bar.
There’s also a helpful lock made to prevent would-be crooks from stealing your ride. When the Lock Mode is activated, the self-balancing feature is disengaged and the machine plays dead. That is until would-be thief (or maybe your roommate) attempts to move it. When this happens, the miniPro starts to shake, blink, and beep, signaling to anybody in the area that something is certainly up. The wheels also lock, making it impossible to roll the unit, however, it is easy enough to simply lift the miniPro and carry it even without the machine making a scene. The vehicle will remain locked until the owner unlocks the miniPro in the app. When the Segway miniPro is moved, there’s an app notification that the miniPro is in Locked Mode, signifying that if you aren’t moving your machine somebody else is.
Unfortunately, if owners want to add a physical lock alongside this digital security, they’ll need to take matters into their own hands. At the moment there’s no way to physically lock the unit. Regardless, there are plenty of video tutorials online showing owners how to add a Kensington ClickSafe laptop lock onto the device, however, this will require riders to drill a small along the base of the knee control bar. Perhaps Segway will add some teeth to the miniPro with the next upgrade. For now, you will probably want to park the miniPro inside when stopping for a coffee.
Based on the manufacturer's stats (which can often be notoriously optimistic if not all out mislead), the Segway miniPro has an estimated range of up to 14 miles per charge. Unfortunately, during our range tests, the unit maxed out at a mere 6 miles. This included mixed terrain trials, including some of the steepest hills Portland, Oregon has to offer, but overall the roadways were predominantly flat. (Perhaps the colder weather had something to do with this reduction.) The readout on the front of the miniPro displays the battery life and the app also relays remaining range estimates, however, these numbers can fluctuate wildly— especially during use.
On one trip, the app estimated the miniPro had a remaining range of approximately four miles one minute and then dropped to less than a mile just moments later. Similarly, the battery readout on the device itself will also fluctuate a full bar or two during a ride making it incredibly difficult to rely on either the app or the readout during an outing. Fortunately, the app will monitor the per trip mileage and once you have a feel for your typical range you’ll know when to return to home base.
The Segway miniPro is available on Amazon for $549 at MSRP, but it’s often for sale for less. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s plenty of competition within the Segway mini lineup at the moment. Currently, Segway is offering a less sophisticated version of the miniPro known as the miniLite for $250 (or $400 MSRP), although this model does not have headlights or the extendable guide bar. The miniLite also has a shorter range per charge and a maximum payload of 176 pounds. The high-end variant known as the miniPlus is available for $899. The miniPlus model has an estimated range of 22 miles per charge and a higher top speed (12.5 mph).
Currently, when it comes to picking a rideable, it’s also somewhat about picking your poison as each style has its own pros and cons to consider. Compared to the Segway miniPro, electric skateboards are slimmer and more adept at traversing more congested urban environments. However, a top of the line electric skateboard like the Inboard M1 will come with a much heftier price tag and not everyone in the market for a rideable is ready for an electric skateboard. Similarly, a standard bicycle is faster and typically more economical over the long run, but then again half the point of a Segway is outsourcing the task of walking and pedaling. Dare we say it, but at the moment, an electric scooter is still the sweet spot when it comes to distance, affordability, speed, stability, and safety for commuters traversing busy, urban environments.
Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best hoverboards.
The Segway miniPro is a useful urban commuter with potential.
The combination of responsive controls, app support, relatively long range, and ride comfort, makes the miniPro more convenient for urban commuters than many of the competition. Furthermore, for people who live further outside of town, the miniPro stows conveniently in the trunk or backseat once the knee control bar is detached. That said, it’s still a fair amount of money to spend on a hoverboard when a bike or skateboard may serve you better.
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