The DJI Mavic Mini launched at a crucial time for the drone market. Drone laws were changing around the globe, and the allure of a consumer-grade machine priced at a thousand dollars or more was becoming a tough sale.
Potential drone pilots that want to get a good drone, without breaking the bank, have a few solid options. The DJI Mavic Mini was probably the best option for under $500 when it first launched, holding that title until the Mini 2 was released in 2020. What do you get for the price? Let’s find out in this DJI Mavic Mini review.
Note: This review was originally posted in December 2019.
Why trust Drone Rush?
I’ve been a fan of flight since a young age; while I’ve had few opportunities at the helm of manned aircraft, the hours on my fleet of drones continue to grow. I enjoy putting cameras into the sky, silky smooth aerial imagery makes me happy. My goal is to help all pilots enjoy flight legally and safely.
DJI Mavic Mini overview
The DJI Mavic Mini is the sort of drone that we’ve all wanted. It’s small, light, extremely portable, capable, reliable, affordable, and it shoots good photos and video from the sky.
DJI Mavic Mini may not need to be registered, but it is still a drone, you still have to follow the drone rules in the sky.
Weighing in at 249 grams, or 0.548 lbs, you do not need to register the Mavic Mini with the FAA before you fly. Of course, the moment you add the prop guards, or a heavy decorative sticker, it may tick over and require registration. Part 107 operators need to register regardless the weight.
Having said all that, the DJI Mavic Mini may not need to be registered, but it is still a drone, it’s still an aircraft in the sky, there are rules you must follow.
As great as the Mavic Mini seems to be for beginner pilots, and folks that do not need the very best camera in the sky, it has compromises that the larger drones offer. Primarily, the Mavic Mini has a downward facing visioning system, which is superb for helping land safely, and often directly in the same spot if you’ve enabled auto landing through the RTH function.
Related reading: The drone laws you need to know before you fly
Other than the downward facing sensor, there are no other obstacle avoidance sensors. It does use the camera on the front for some avoidance techniques, but there are no dedicated sensors for the task. The DJI Mavic 2 series of drones offer all-way sensing to avoid a crash in any direction, for example. This is an understandable compromise in order to keep the price and weight down, but an obvious disadvantage compared to the larger DJI drones.
Thirty minutes of flight time is fantastic for a drone this size. At this weight, the Mavic Mini competes with mere toy-class drones, most of which offer less than ten minutes of flight time with a very limited set of flight features.
The Mavic Mini is equipped with GPS functionality, as practically all DJI drones are. In between this and the downward facing sensor, the drone has the ability to hover in place extremely well. Again, this is a trait of all recent DJI drones, but we were very worried that GPS would not be included when we first heard how light this drone is.
The Mavic Mini manages to scoot around at up to 29 mph, and the little 2,600mAh battery provides up to 30 minutes of flight time. Not bad at all!
Overall, the flight capabilities and camera quality exceed our expectations of a drone this size, and at this price point, we are impressed.
Android Authority Podcast: Mavic Mini
One year later
It’s been a full year since our very first flight with the Mavic Mini. We try to keep a subjective mind on things, but we cannot but appreciate the benefits of the larger and more expensive DJI Mavic series drones over the Mavic Mini. Of course, these machines are designed for different needs, and at vastly different price points. What we’re trying to say is, we prefer our Mavic 2 series and Mavic Air 2 drones over the Mavic Mini when it comes to capturing video from the sky, but the Mini 2 is the only drone under $500 that we think is better than the Mavic Mini.
If you need a very portable drone, that is reliable and inexpensive, you’re still looking in the right place!
DJI Mavic Mini design
In terms of the build and configuration of the DJI Mavic Mini, it is true to the Mavic line of drones. It offers the same folding propeller arm configuration as the Mavic Pro, Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom. It has the same design of remote control as all the other Mavic and smaller DJI drones, even if it has fewer buttons on it.
The body shape is similar to the Mavic Pro and larger machines as well. The camera hangs off the front of the drone, mounted on a 3-axis stabilized Gimbal. The camera housing itself is more rectangle shaped than the circular Mavic Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom offerings.
The materials used to build the Mavic Mini are very light-weight. Obviously. They are very obviously plastic, and things are quite flexible. After the extreme flexibility of our toy Syma X5C, we like this about drones. Rigid frames tend to snap easier than soft and twisty frames. Just be careful with the front landing gear, there are antenna in there.
We can’t deny, the overall feel of the drone in hand is a tad underwhelming, at least as compared to previous Mavic models. One of the compromises to keep the weight down was a sacrifice in premium materials and some of the fit and finish. There are many exposed plain screws, as opposed to some of the hidden and all Torx or other fancy screws in the larger Mavic models.
We have mixed feelings on the two-piece propellers. On the one hand, it’s great that you can replace a single blade if it breaks, instead of having to replace the full propeller, but on the other hand, the props screw on, instead of the quick release design we’ve come to love.
We like that the battery lives inside of a trap door at the back. Just slide the battery in and out, leaving almost the entire top of the drone as a flat surface to decorate or attach things. There is an optional accessory mount you can snag, it clips on and mounts thins above the drone. Which can be fun.
There is a microSD 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 the drone. We’re not going to get into the topic of choosing micro USB instead of USB Type-C, that’s just not a battle we want to fight right now.
Although it sounds like we’re thoroughly unimpressed with this thing, the truth is quite the opposite. DJI has managed to build a reliable machine, that offers much of their best features, into a frame that weighs only slightly more than my smartphone. (If you care, I’m now using the Google Pixel 4 XL with a hefty case.)
Bottom line, if you enjoy the design of the Mavic Pro, Mavic 2 Pro and/or the Mavic 2 Zoom, but wanted something a little smaller, the Mavic Mini is, well, a mini Mavic. It’s exactly what you’d expect it to look like.