DJI Mavic Mini review: Best Drone for Most People

DJI has always been known to provide quality and top-of-the-line products, but they had not yet released a machine priced at less than $1,000 dollars. And with drone laws changing around the globe, it was becoming increasingly difficult to sell their more expensive products. The DJI Mavic Mini launched at just the right time in 2017 and became an instant success. Other features include a 4K camera which can record footage in 3 different modes: 1080p/30fps; 720p/60fps; and 120fps slow motion.

It also captures 12-megapixel still images. If there is no Wi-Fi signal available, the user can use the remote control as a mobile hotspot by connecting to its built-in cellular modem. When flying indoors or outdoors in windy conditions, users will want to make use of its visual positioning system (VPS) which helps maintain altitude and position when GPS signals are lost.

For those looking to enter the world of drone piloting, but don’t want to shell out all their money at once, there are some very good options available. The DJI Mavic Mini was great when it first came out cutting edge tech for half the price! – and still remains an excellent choice for just $500. What does it come with? You’ll find that question answered below in my full review of the Mini 2!

Also Read: DJI Mavic Air review

DJI Mavic Mini overview

Lightweight and affordable, the DJI Mavic Mini is a drone that anyone can operate easily. It weighs only 249 grams (0.548lbs) without needing an expensive license to fly it legally. The moment you add props or stickers weighing over 254grams, however, registration will be necessary for Part 107 operators. It would seem from my point of view that this Mavic mini drone does not need to be registered at all, but it is still an aircraft in the sky with rules you must follow.

While this tiny drone may seem perfect for beginners or people who don’t care about having the best camera flying above them, there are some sacrifices made for its convenience. The downward facing vision system helps make sure you can safely land and often return back to where you started off when enabling auto-landing from RTH mode.

Other than the downward-facing sensor, there are no other obstacle avoidance sensors. It also uses the camera on its front for some avoidance techniques, but there are no dedicated sensors for this purpose. However, the DJI Mavic 2 series of drones offers all-way sensing to avoid a collision in any direction – something that this drone lacks due to its small size and weight.

Thirty minutes of flight time is impressive for a drone this size, especially considering its light weight. In comparison to other toys at its class level, the Mavic Mini offers an exceptional amount of flight-time while still offering unique and innovative modes that make it stand out from other drones.

The Mavic Mini comes with state-of-the-art technology such as its GPS features, which is what makes it one of the most advanced drones around. For example, every other drone made by DJI also has this technology so it wasn’t much of a surprise when we found out that they put it on the Mavic Mini too. Nevertheless, this was something that originally put us at ease because without GPS abilities you cannot navigate or fly your drone properly – another feature that sets apart both the Mavic Pro and Mavic Air from other models in its class.

The Mavic Mini can reach speeds up to 29 mph, and its small 2,600mAh battery is capable of providing up to 30 minutes of flight time. Compared to other drones at this size and cost level, we were impressed with how well the Mavic functions both in terms of its speed and camera quality.

DJI Mavic Mini design

The DJI Mavic Mini is aesthetically similar to its other Mavic counterparts in many ways. Its folding propeller arms are identical to those on the Mavic Pro, Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom. Its controller resembles those of all the other Mavics (such as the Spark) while being slimmer than they are; so while it has less buttons, they are still easily accessible enough for quick operations – something essential for anyone who wants to be able to properly fly this drone.

The drone’s body is constructed with durable polycarbonate plastic and aluminum. It has multiple cameras on it – one that attaches to the front, one attached to the bottom, and two around its sides for added surveillance (one for video recording, another for still images). The camera housing is rectangular rather than circular like other models of DJI drones which can accommodate different lenses to capture both wide-angle shots or zoomed-in photos depending on what you’re looking for.

The materials used to make the Mavic Mini are lightweight and durable. It is clear that these drones have been designed with its pilot’s safety in mind, as they seem resistant against breakage when compared to other models. It may also be due to its design; without a rigid frame these drones can swerve around with ease and stability. Be wary of where you fly them though, because there are antennas inside the drone which can affect signal quality if interfered with or broken off.

Once we had it in hand, we couldn’t help but feel disappointed. The tiny drone seemed well-built and durable – no complaints there! But when you compare it to the other DJI drones that are already out on the market (or coming soon), this one just falls short. Sure, you won’t find any fancy Torx or Allen screws here – everything is pretty standard – but still, those little design tweaks make all the difference in terms of how it feels when you’re actually using it.

There are both pros and cons with this design. For example, when only one blade is broken on a two piece propeller, rather than replacing the entire propeller you can just replace the damaged part with ease – but for some people, this isn’t ideal because there is no easy way to quickly remove or attach the blades (they screw on).

We like that the battery lives in a hidden compartment at the back of the drone, as opposed to other models where batteries live on top. Slide it in and out easily without having to worry about covering up part of your drone’s capacity for decoration or mounting devices. Optional accessories are available for purchase, such as an accessory holder which clips onto and hangs above the drone (which can be fun).

There is a micro SD card slot and a micro USB port at the back of the drone as well, situated below the battery and just above the single LED light on this drone. We’re not going to debate whether or not it would be smarter to use a USB Type-C connector, because honestly that doesn’t really matter right now.

Although it might sound like we’re not overly impressed with this device, the truth is quite the opposite. DJI managed to create a reliable piece of equipment that includes many of their best features, all in one lightweight but durable frame that is barely heavier than my smartphone. (For those who are curious, I’m currently using the Google Pixel 4XL with a bulky case.)

Bottom line, if you want the design of the Mavic Pro, Mavic 2 Pro and/or the Mavic 2 Zoom but are looking for something slightly smaller – take a gander at the Mavic Mini. Expecting it to look how you would hope for – this little drone has all of its functions.

DJI Mavic Mini Specifications and performance

Dimensions 2.2 by 3.2 by 5.5 inches
Weight 8.8 oz
Rotors 4
Obstacle Detection No
Integrated Camera Integrated with Gimbal
Video Resolution 2.7K
Megapixels 12 MP
Media Format microSDXC
Remote Dedicated with App
Live Video Feed Yes

When looking over drones specs, it can be deceiving. Camera specifications especially, because although the software plays a major role in how well something is shot. There are so many different types of cameras that produce different results. For example, there are smooth and shaky cameras; each camera has its own quirks which may or may not work for you so it’s important to know what you want before making any purchase decisions.

The video quality of the Mavic Mini’s gimbal is not perfect – it produces rather smooth footage overall, but when the drone spins, we notice some inconsistencies. Video started stuttering while we were trying to record the footage of our drone rotating in circles.

It was either because there were sudden gusts of wind on what appeared to be a reasonably calm day, or it was due to an underlying connection error between the drone and its remote. A software update could fix this problem – but only if that happens to be the true culprit.

In my first flight with the Mavic Mini, I kept it close for about fifteen minutes and checked every inch before pushing it out to an altitude of around 500 feet at a height of about 300 feet above the ground. The drone never disconnected from the remote during this time, but when I went beyond a distance just short of 400 ft, there were periods when I received a spotty video feed.

The video feed never froze, but there was a bit of lag that made me overshoot my desired shot. At first I assumed it might just be the live video stream that was lagging, but I remembered that you need to know about this too; so whenever I witnessed lag – no matter how long – I would write down the timestamp in the recorded video. Bad news: there were still bits of jittering present in even those segments of captured footage.

Again, I’ve been a bit of an overachiever in this experience. It seems that my efforts might not go unnoticed though – because when I watch the rotations closely enough and try my best to keep the sticks as immobile as possible, something peculiar happens. At first it seemed like maybe it was just me being too observant; or maybe there were some discrepancies between how fast we saw things spinning on screen versus how fast they really were rotating out of sight (and vice versa).

DJI-Mavic-Mini-review-top-and-remote-front-1200x675

In most cases, a noticeable lag in video streaming can be expected. It is common knowledge that I am flying over an area with plenty of interference due to the metal and volcanic rock below me. With ranges limited at 2.5 miles for Wi-Fi connections in drones like this one, it isn’t too surprising that it won’t work as well as those which are rated at 4 miles for connection range.

While up there, the flight time rating of thirty minutes proved true. I had no doubt that the drone could fly for 30 minutes in perfect conditions. In my average 16 minute span, it would hover around 55% battery consumption. With gusty winds at just 5 miles per hour on the ground, I still managed speeds close to 18 miles per hour before switching over to cine-smooth mode; where its max speed was closer to 9 miles per hour instead of 29 miles per hour when in sport mode.

There were a few setbacks that I experienced with the Drone during initial setup. When trying to install the first round of software updates, I had to reconnect my mobile device multiple times before getting it to work due to constant restarts. It wasn’t an issue though, just something you need to be prepared for when setting up this piece of equipment. I felt discouraged when I failed to read my Samsung 64GB and 128GB microSD cards.

The first time I experienced this issue was when I inserted the first card into the Mavic 2 Pro, copied all of its contents onto my computer; but then when I attempted to insert it back into the drone for use, something went wrong – though exactly what that is, I don’t know. So instead, after being unable to successfully format the card in-app either, due to some unresolved technical glitch preventing me from doing so – I switched over to using a smaller 16 GB SD Card with only half as much space.

Special modes

The DJI Mavic Mini comes with a brand new application for your phone or tablet. The new DJI Fly app offers a more streamlined experience from the DJI GO 4 app you might be used to. There are less features, but the ones that remain are simplified and easy-to-navigate.

On the surface, it’s easy to spot that both the Mavic 2 Pro and the Mavic Mini are very different in terms of features. For one thing, there are manual camera controls – though not nearly as many as we’ve seen on other DJI drones – which means less control for you when navigating through your device. It’s also worth noting that changing between flight modes is done solely through an app rather than a physical switch on this particular model; something we found concerning at first but quickly got used to once getting started.

There are links to DJI’s Recommended Zones and Fly Spots tools in the app. This is more of a view of DJI’s own geo-fencing limitations than it is a tool for finding good spots to fly. Load up this map to see a visual representation of all the zones where your drone will be restricted from operating according to preprogrammed flight parameters. These include areas near prisons or airports, often times designated no fly zones due to restrictions imposed by law enforcement or aviation officials.

Fly Spots is another story, these are crowdsourced pictures taken with drones and uploaded onto a website made specifically for viewing them. If you haven’t heard of DJI’s SkyPixel social platform yet, this will give you an idea of what it entails. Users have been uploading their best drone shots to the website since before last year – they’re all collected in one spot so anyone can see. All you need to do is click on any point on the map and see all the different pictures there or even upload your own!

There are many different settings in this app, including ones that allow you to calibrate your drone if it needs to be recalibrated or update the firmware for any other errors. There is also a tab where you can manage how connected or disconnected from the internet you want the device to be. For those who need it, there are camera settings which include resolution and frame rates (such as 2.7K at 30 fps). We chose this setting so we could always have access to higher quality images while shooting videos with our drone.

If you head into the Safety tab in the settings, you can get yourself into a little bit of trouble. There are values in there for your max altitude, maximum distance and your RTH altitude. Your max altitude should not exceed 120 meters – which is equivalent to 400 feet – because it might violate drone laws across various countries. In other words, do NOT mess with these settings if you’re unsure about what they mean or how they work! You will end up messing up everything else because of these changes; make sure that you know what all these options do before touching anything if you want this controller to function properly.

The Max Distance Setting ensures that a beginner does not get too involved in flying at heights they are incapable of seeing properly. As my eyesight deteriorates over time, and even with prescription lenses, I lose sight of the drone much earlier than I could when I first started flying it months ago; this is when having this tool can save me from crashing by letting me know just how far away the drone actually is – all for safe and easy use.

Bringing it all back together, the app does a lot to control your drone. Connected via your mobile device, you will use its two joysticks – one for navigation and another for camera – as well as its other buttons such as video or gimbal-related controls. You won’t find any of these features in the Mavic Mini’s original remote controller. All there is are two buttons: power and RTH (return home).

DJI Mavic Mini camera overview

We’ll have an upcoming article about the phone’s photography capabilities, but for both photos and videos, you are given 12MP – which is great for capturing stills at 4K resolution or recording high definition footage (both up to 2.7K).

With a 2.7K video capture, at 25 or 30 frames per second (fps), everything was smooth and reasonably clear. It wasn’t as high quality as the video from either of the Mavic Pro models, but it was definitely comparable to how the Spark captures footage and better than how the original Mavic captured images. While we still can’t tell yet if this is just as good as what you would see on an Air model, that may just be because this is all we’ve seen so far!

While the DJI Mavic Air and later Mavic drones all offer 100Mbps video data rates, the Mavic Mini does not share that specification. The mini drone offers just a 40Mbps video bitrate. This was formerly higher than the original Mavic Pro from 2016 which offered only 60Mbps.

The lower data rate becomes obvious in difficult video situations. One of the early flights we took with a retail unit had us soar up high into the sky to look at the sun setting below us. The foreground of this particular shot was filled with shaded houses, some darker spots from trees, and plenty of reflective water from creeks passing through. Above that were two different shades of clouds – one forming a streak near the ground while another higher up blocked out everything but for sunlight streaking through cracks between them.

It’s hard for cameras to know how to expose an image best when two different light sources are present. To capture the house and its surroundings, the camera chose one focal point – setting it as brighter than everything else in order for it to be seen more clearly. There was some graininess at first sight, but after examining closer, it became apparent that the grain was actually from dust particles on the lens rather than from film imperfections or poor lighting quality.

Problem is, when you zoom in too far on any of the footage from drones with below 1-inch sensors, they will produce similar results. Let me rephrase that: The good news is – Mavic Mini, with its 40Mbps data rate and just 2.7K video recording has produced comparable videos to more expensive drones with more powerful, but noisier cameras. That’s a win!

Finally, the default color profile is rather flat. This isn’t a bad thing at all; it just means that you’ll need to do some processing post-process if you want those vibrant and hypercolored colors that are so popular nowadays.

Our camera captures images at about 9 MP for a 16:9 aspect ratio. For video recording, we record at 2.7K which is 2720×1536 pixels and 30fps – which translates to 29.97 frames per second if you want to do some calculations yourself. Capturing data with up to 40Mbps bit rate means that every minute of recorded video comes out as 284MB or just under two hours’ worth on a 32GB card.

Should you buy the DJI Mavic Mini?

For just $400, the DJI Mavic Mini is an absolute steal for all its high-quality features. With this low-priced drone, you can take flight without breaking your bank account! As far as we are concerned, if you have a budget of under 500 dollars and still want the best drone experience possible, then yes – the DJI Mavic Mini is for you.

As mentioned previously, the Mavic Mini was made for people who are just starting out with aerial photography or videography. This is also a great option for professionals that need a more compact drone than their standard one. The Mavic Mini is perfect for beginners; however it is not recommended to be used as a toy since it comes equipped with technology meant to provide safety features such as obstacle avoidance and return-home functionality.

DJI Mavic Mini parts and accessories

DJI drones are constantly gaining new accessories and parts that make their product line even better. From the market catching on to this trend, producing an ever-growing number of innovative devices, to DJI themselves providing a wide range of replacements for worn or damaged parts – it doesn’t stop there.

The base DJI Mavic Mini for $399 includes:

  • Drone
  • Battery
  • Remote control
  • One pair of spare propellers
  • Micro USB cable
  • Gimbal cover
  • Micro USB, USB Type-C and Lightning remote control cables
  • Spare joysticks
  • Six spare screws
  • Screwdriver

The DJI Mavic Mini Fly More combo for $499 includes all of the above, plus:

  • Two more batteries
  • Battery charging hub that doubles as USB power pack
  • Two more pairs of spare propellers
  • Extra micro USB cable
  • 360 degree propeller guard
  • 18 watt USB charger
  • Carrying bag
  • Twelve more screws

More reviews of the DJI Mavic Mini are coming your way. We’ll put it to the test and do some comparisons, comparing it with other drones in its price range such as the Mavic Air, so stay tuned! Share what you think about this smaller version of one of our favorite drones out there; would you buy a Mavic Mini?

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