DJI Mavic Mini Review: The Perfect Drone for Beginners and Hobbyists

Rating: 9/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $399
DJI Mavic Mini Hovering
Justin Duino

When it comes to consumer-grade drones, it’s hard to find something not made by DJI. The Chinese company has cornered the market with easy-to-fly quadcopters that are capable of capturing cinematic footage. Before today, you needed to spend close to $1,000 to get something halfway decent. That changes with the release of the Mavic Mini.

Here's What We Like

  • Inexpensive
  • Portable
  • Great for all skill levels
  • No FAA registration

And What We Don't

  • Limited collision sensors
  • Stripped-down camera controls
  • Lacks follow QuickShot options
  • Restricted controller range

I have owned and flown DJI drones for over a year now and have spent the last week testing the Mavic Mini. Over that time, it has become abundantly clear that this quad was designed for beginners and those looking for a drone to be used more like a toy and less like a professional camera.

Compared to top-end drones, the Mavic Mini has some apparent weaknesses. The difference between these different classes is the fact that DJI’s latest offering is $500 to $1,000 cheaper than other options.

The Mavic Mini is just about the perfect package in its given price range. Basically, don’t expect miracles from the drone, and you’ll be happy. Here’s everything you need to know.

The Mavic Mini Feels like a Toy, but Not Cheap

DJI Mavic Mini Folded in Hand
Justin Duino

The Mavic Mini gets its name from its tiny size. This drone comes in at just 249g (more on that in a bit) and can fit in the palm of your hand when folded up. The small package allows owners to take the flying camera just about anywhere.

In the United States, any flying vehicles heavier than or equal to 250g needs to be registered with the FAA. This means providing the government agency with your information, the aircraft’s serial and identification numbers, and paying a small registration fee. Because DJI shaved off that single gram, you don’t have to worry about any of that hassle.

DJI Mavic Mini 249g Sign
Justin Duino

Being so lightweight does have some limitations. For one, it makes the Mavic Mini feel plasticky. The build doesn’t feel like a cheap plastic toy from a vending machine, but the combination of the material plus a lack of heft leaves the drone feeling almost fragile.

DJI Mavic Mini Size Comparison to Mavic 2 Zoom
DJI Mavic Mini compared to the Mavic 2 Zoom Justin Duino

The other downside of having such a lightweight craft compared to some of DJI’s more premium drones is that even a slightly stiff breeze tends to buck the Mavic Mini around. Having to fight turbulence will cause the pocketable quad to bounce around when capturing videos and decrease battery life.

Winds also cause problems when you’re trying to fly the Mavic Mini. During one of my first flights, the drone had such a strong headwind that it was moving sideways faster than it was forward. That isn’t usually a big deal, except when you reach the end of your battery life, and the craft is attempting to return home.

DJI Mavic Mini Battery Compartment
Justin Duino

Speaking of battery life, the Mavic Mini has one of the best in-air flight times I’ve ever experienced. DJI states that each of its intelligent batteries should provide you with up to 30 minutes of flight time. As it’s fall and pretty windy where I live, I averaged around 22 to 25 minutes of flight time per charge. I found this to be more than acceptable, given the circumstances.

DJI Mavic Mini Sensors
Justin Duino

One limitation you should also take note of is the real lack of collision sensors. Some of DJI’s other drones have sensing systems that help stop the craft from crashing into solid objects whether it’s flying forward, backward, up, down, or sideways. As you can see from the above photo, the Mavic Mini only has sensors on the bottom of the device.

For a drone that is so obviously made for beginners and those just looking to have fun flying, not having a multitude of collision sensors seems like an oversight. Fortunately, the downward-facing sensors do help the Mavic Mini land and stop someone from reaching up and hurting themselves while trying to grab the craft mid-flight.

The Flying Experience Is Better Than Expected

DJI Mavic Mini Controller Selfie
Justin Duino

The overall design of the Mavic Mini’s controller is very similar to other models sold by the company. You have two antennae that rotate up from the top of the controller, two thumbsticks that can be removed and stored within the controller when not in use, and a number of buttons to power the controller on, bring the drone home, activate video and photo modes, and a rocker that changes the pitch of the drone’s camera gimbal.

DJI is also nice enough to include USB-C, Lightning, and micro USB cables in the box so you can connect your phone to the controller no matter what handset you own.

The biggest downside with this controller is that it uses Enhanced Wi-Fi when communicating with the drone. DJI’s premium models use transmission technologies such as Ocusync and Lightbridge. What this means is that the live video feed to your smartphone’s display won’t be as sharp, and it’s easier to lose the connection to the drone.

In my testing, I found that I could fly the Mavic Mini just beyond my line of sight before having video transmission and connection problems. As you really shouldn’t ever lose sight of a remote-controlled aircraft, it isn’t really that big of a problem.

DJI Mavic Mini On-Screen Controls Screenshot

The Mavic Mini is also launching with an entirely new app called DJI Fly. The best way that I can describe it compared to the company’s other controller apps is simplified. Everything about the in-app interface is similar to what we’ve seen before, but with far fewer menu items and buttons to press.

The DJI Fly app also includes a built-in video editor that allows you to download clips from the drone, stitch them together with some music, and share the movie directly to a social network of your choosing. Unfortunately, I was unable to get this feature to work, but I have been using a beta version of the app. It should be fully functional by the time you get your Mavic Mini.

DJI Mavic Mini Flight Mode Screenshot

Except when I was first setting up the drone, the only time I jumped into the app’s settings was to switch flight modes. These three options changed the Mavic Mini’s flying behavior and made for drastically different flying experiences:

  • Sport: When enabled, the aircraft’s speed increases dramatically. Fly with caution.
  • Position: GPS and downward vision sensors working normally.
  • CineSmooth: When enabled, the aircraft slows down and increases its braking distance for smoother shooting.

When I was flying the craft, I found myself moving between Sport and CineSmooth most. Sport Mode allowed me to reach certain heights in a timely fashion and position the drone where I wanted it. Switching it to CineSmooth then allowed me to capture video clips with even speeds when panning and traveling in a specific direction.

The Camera Surprised Me, but Functionality Is Limited

DJI Mavic Mini Close Up Camera and Gimbal
Justin Duino

DJI’s consumer drones were never made to shoot blockbuster-quality photos and videos, but in the right hands, the footage can look cinematic and professional. Replicating that quality on the Mavic Mini is possible, but it requires some work.

The fact that this is an entry-level consumer drone is most prevalent when it comes time to capture content. Instead of being able to change shooting modes to capture RAW images or different video formats, the Mavic Mini only outputs JPG photos and MP4 videos without the ability to shoot with flat color profiles or change codecs.

For most people, the lack of customization won’t be a big deal. Those looking to use a drone for professional photo and video work should look at DJI’s higher-tier products.

You can find a handful of sample shots taken with the Mavic Mini below. These have not been edited other than to lower the resolution. I have also created a Google Photos album, which includes full-resolution versions of these images. I will continue adding photos as I take them.

The most disappointing part about shooting video on the Mavic Mini is the lack of manual controls. While snapping photos, you have control over the shutter speed and ISO. The auto mode typically creates an overexposed image, so the ability to finetune the settings helps immensely.

But in video mode, you’re stuck with auto settings. Fortunately, you can adjust the exposure value (EV), but that only does so much. I hope a future update brings more customization so that it’s easier to capture beautiful shots.

I have combined several video clips shot on the Mavic Mini that you can watch below. These were all shot at 2.7K, downscaled to 1080p, and have not been color corrected or edited.

The quality isn’t the sharpest, partially due to YouTube’s compression. DJI has been rolling out updates throughout the review period that has been massively improving the look of the footage.

QuickShots Are Fun but Lacking

DJI Mavic Mini Quick Shots Screenshot

In most of DJI’s ads, you see shots of the drone circling and following people. The videos are cinematic and make for great Instagram content. Most of these clips aren’t captured by someone manually flying the Mavic Mini but are instead preset “QuickShots.”

The four QuickShot options you can choose from on the Mavic Mini include Dronie, Rocket, Circle, and Helix. Each of these highlights a subject and perform a set motion while shooting a short video.

The most significant downside of the QuickShots on the Mavic Mini is that several are missing when compared to DJI’s high-end drones. Most notable are the shots that follow subjects. For example, on my Mavic 2 Zoom, I can have the drone track a car or group of walking people and automatically capture video until the feature is turned off.

The Mavic Mini has less processing power when compared to the larger DJI drones and, as such, can’t complete the same type of actions. Although I miss the functionality, I don’t think it’s a make-or-break feature.

Using the QuickShot feature is as easy as tapping a couple of on-screen buttons. You can watch the below screen recording, but the gist is that you select the “QuickShot” option, pick one of the pre-defined shots, set a distance (when applicable), highlight the subject, and then start filming.

Once the QuickShot is complete, the Mavic Mini will fly back to its starting point. With the clip saved to the microSD card, you can shoot another QuickShot or switch to the photo or video mode.

The Fly More Combo

DJI Mavic Mini Fly More Combo
Justin Duino

Our Mavic Mini review unit (courtesy of DJI) came with the Fly More Combo. In it, you get three batteries instead of one, more spare propellers, propeller guards, a charging hub, an 18W USB charger, a carrying bag, and other little accessories.

The best accessory in the combo is the charging hub. On top of being able to charge all three batteries and the controller at the same time, it offers intelligent features that help you get flying faster.

As you can see in the photo below, a charge indicator appears in front of each slot when you put a battery into the hub. When plugged into the 18W power adaptor, the hub will charge the battery with the highest battery life until it’s full and then moves onto the next. This feature allows you to then grab a full battery without waiting for all three to reach maximum capacity.

DJI Mavic Mini Fly More Combo Battery Hub
Justin Duino

The Fly More Combo adds $100 to the Mavic MIni’s price tag, bringing the total up to $499. As extra batteries cost $45 each, the bundle is definitely worth the premium upgrade.

Conclusion: Buy the Mavic Mini As Your First Drone

DJI Mavic Mini Leaf Blower
Justin Duino

My biggest complaint with the Mavic Mini comes from being someone who owns one of DJI’s premium consumer drones. When I’m not comparing the budget-friendly quad with options outside of its price range, I cannot find a reason not to recommend it to most.

You’re not going to be shooting a video for the next big Hollywood hit with the Mavic Mini, but you will be able to capture shots that shadow almost any home movie. Plus, as the company continues to roll out software updates, the craft’s picture and video quality will only increase.

With how easy it is for just about anyone to pick up and get flying, I think DJI’s latest offering is great for anyone who wants to fly a drone around their home on occasion or wants to learn how to fly before upgrading to something more serious. I wish I had learned to fly with something like the Mavic Mini so that it didn’t hurt my wallet as bad the first time I crashed.

Oh, and if you do decide to buy the Mavic Mini, make sure you also pick up a microSD card. The quad doesn’t include any built-in storage, so you’re going to need to add a card to save all of your photos and videos.

Rating: 9/10
Price: $399

Here’s What We Like

  • Inexpensive
  • Portable
  • Great for all skill levels
  • No FAA registration

And What We Don't

  • Limited collision sensors
  • Stripped-down camera controls
  • Lacks follow QuickShot options
  • Restricted controller range

Justin Duino Justin Duino
Justin Duino is the Technical Content Editor for How-To Geek. He has spent the last decade writing about Android, smartphones, and other mobile technology. In addition to his written work, he has also been a regular guest commentator on BBC World News and Radio to discuss current events in the technology industry. Read Full Bio »

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