DJI Mavic Mini vs. Air – Battle of the Midrange Drones

mavic mini vs mavic air

This post was updated on: Tuesday, November 1, 2019

Are you in the market for an entry-level consumer drone?

If you are, I’m sure you must have thought about getting a small drone from DJI. They have an impressive reputation in drone technology and their long line of pocket-sized drones  has proven to be very popular among drone enthusiasts.

Anyway, did you know that they have a new release, DJI Mavic Mini? 

This is the smallest drone in their Mavic series, but the specs on this quadcopter will more than impress you. To get you better acquainted with Mavic Mini features, we are pitting it against it’s predecessor, Mavic Air.

So, DJI Mavic Mini vs Mavic Air, where should you place your money?

Read my detailed comparison article to find out!


DJI Mavic Mini

DJI Mavic Air

Weight

249g

430 g

Size

Folded:140 × 82 × 57
Unfolded:160 × 202× 55

Folded:214 × 91 × 84
Unfolded:322 × 242 × 84

Speed

29.08 mph / 46.8km/h (S mode)

42.5 mph / 68.4km/h (S mode)

Range

4 km

4 km (2.4 miles)

Max Service Ceiling Above Sea Level

3,000 m

5,000 m

Max Flight Time

Satellite Positioning Systems

GPS+GLONASS

GPS+GLONASS

Gimbal

3-axis

3-axis

FOV

83 degrees

83 degrees

Photo Size

4000 by 3000

4000 by 3000

Bitrate

40MBPS

40MBPS

Price

Now let's compare and contrast all the features individually and see how they differ in the Mavic Mini and Mavic Air:

Design & Physical Attributes

The Mavic Mini has an ultra-compact body, measuring just 140 × 82 × 57 inches when folded and 160 × 202× 55 when unfolded. This makes the drone very portable and would be the perfect choice for any drone enthusiast who travels regularly. 

The Mini also weighs only 249g, making it the lightest in the DJI Mavic Series. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, anyone who owns a drone weighing 250g or more must register with Unmanned Aircraft registry (UAS) before flying them outside.

This implies that Mavic Mini just falls under the threshold required to register in the US with the FAA to fly your drone outside, exempting you from all the bureaucracy in registering. 

The Mavic Air also holds its own as far as size & portability are concerned. It measures 214 × 91 × 84 inches when folded and 322 × 242 × 84 when unfolded. At 430g it weighs significantly higher than the Mini, though. 

When it comes to the physical attributes, both drones appear to be the same size when unfolded, but the difference will be clear once you fold them. If you are a traveler who’s keen on maximizing the space in your backpack, the Mavic Mini would be the better choice for you. 

Considering that it weighs below the threshold for registration with the FAA, this makes it even more convenient when you want to fly it throughout your adventures without worrying about the authorities.

Winner: Mavic Mini

Range

When you consider the range of these two drones, both the Mini and Air can fly as far as 4km away, which is quite impressive for small drones. However, you should know that this is the range in FCC mode and if you are buying the drone from Europe, the range will be notably different since they use CE frequencies.

FCC and CE modes refer to the mode in which a drone and controller operate with a lower CE signal or higher FCC signal. FCC or Federal Communications Commission is an American agency charged that regulates the principles of using radio frequencies to communicate for devices based in the USA.

CE or Conformité Européenn, on the other hand, is placed on products that satisfy European Union directives. The designation is for devices sold and used in Europe, which should be adopted to the regulations in advance.

The FCC mode for the Mavic Mini and Mavic Air is 4km whereas the CE mode for both aircrafts is 2km. This means that the two drones will offer the same flight range when flying in the US. 

The FCC mode is only designed for the US, and it does not qualify in the EU. Here, the flight range for the Mini and Air is 2km, which is a big difference from the 4km you get in the US.

Winner: Even

Flight Time

Traditionally, we’ve become accustomed to the idea that the smaller the quadcopter, the less time it takes hovering in the air, but this is where the tables turn when you put the Mini against the Air. 

The Mavic Mini boasts a battery which can last 30 minutes.

Yup, you read it right - this is mind-boggling when you consider that the bigger Mavic can only last 21 minutes. The flight time should be one of the most impressive features on the Mini, although this figure is only true when you are flying the drone in perfect flight conditions.

In real-life scenarios, the flight time drops to 27 minutes while the Air will give you 17 minutes of playtime. This makes Mavic Mini a much more reliable camera drone than the Mavic Air.

We’ll have to acknowledge the “sorcery” that DJI performed on their latest small drone model.

Winner: Mavic Mini

Flying Speed

When you look at the Mavic Mini sitting alongside the bigger Mavic Air, you’d probably assume it would be slower given the smaller motors and consequently, less overall power. 

True to form, the Air has a higher maximum speed at 42.5mph in sport mode, but you’ll be surprised that the Mini is not far behind at 29mph in sport mode. Furthermore, when it comes to the maximum ascent and descent speed, the two drones feature the same speed at 4m/s ascend and 3m/s descend respectively. 

Winner: Mavic Air

Camera Capabilities

The cameras on both drones come equipped with ½.3-inch 12Mpx CMOS sensors, as well as a 3-axis gimbal. This makes side movements much smoother in these drones compared to the 2-axis gimbal DJI Spark.

Video Modes & Quality 

Some technical elements differentiate these two models, but what will interest you the most is the maximum video resolution offered.

The Mavic Mini provides 2.7K at 30fps or 1080p at 60fps - have a look:

Meanwhile, the Mavic Air offers 4K Ultra HD 3840 by 2160 at 30fps. This ensures that you get a greater image quality on the Air than on the Mini. Another feature that will help us differentiate the quality of the camera is the Bitrate offered by the drones.

Check out the DJI Mavic Air footage:

While the Mini has 40Megabits per second, which is pretty decent bitrate for a drone in its price range, the Air goes a step further with 100MBPS. Not to mention that the Mini is limited to the MP4 format whereas the Air offers MP4, as well as MOV.

As far as the quality of the camera is concerned, the Mavic Air takes the day! However, the Mini’s camera is good enough for more than 90% of users it is designed for. It’s only professional photographers that will look for superior specs.

Photo Modes

DJI Mavic Mini vs. Air – Battle of the Midrange Drones

Both Mavic Air and Mini can go up to 3200 ISO in manual mode while taking photos, which is way more than the 1600 that the DJI Spark can manage. However, one area where the Mavic Mini does not shine is the photo modes.

The tricks that Mavic Mini can manage are Single Shot and interval photo shots. This is less impressive than the panoramas, ShallowFocus, and burst HDR that the Mavic Air can do.

Winner: Mavic Air

Features and Controls

When it comes to obstacle avoidance, both Mavic Mini and Mavic Air come with bottom sensors that make them suitable for indoor flying and better landing. Mavic Mini lacks forward-facing sensors though, unlike the Air which has both backward and forward sensors. 

Because of this, the Mavic Air gets the nod.

Some people tend to deactivate sensors when flying their drones to have more freedom in flight, and may probably be willing to compromise this slight drawback. Although, the Mini doesn’t have active track features, it can actually track you during quick shots.

It’s possible that DJI chose not to include the active track function in the Mini as a matter of app software. Furthermore, it could be that given this drone doesn’t come with obstacle avoidance, it would be a challenge for beginner pilots to operate the drone in “Follow Me” mode.

On the other hand, Mavic Air has a really impressive follow me mode and a few more flight modes contrary to Mavic Mini, which has been stripped down to the basics. 

Depending on the situation, Mavic Mini can take quickshots in the drone app using modes such as Helix, Dronie, and Orbit (which can use subject tracking).

This simply implies that the Mavic Mini can follow the pilot while circling around him. 


Winner: Mavic Air

Controllers

dji mavic mini vs mavic air comparison - controllers

Drone transmitters don’t get simpler than the Mavic Mini’s. It has no display, no back custom buttons, and only comes with RTH buttons, camera, and photo button. The sticks on the controller feel slightly feeble and plasticky compared to other models from DJI, although they get the job done.

The Mini’s transmitter does come with a cable that you can connect to your phone remotely, meaning it has less latency. 

Just like in Mavic Mini, the Mavic Air’s transmitter doesn’t have an LCD screen. However, it features a latency reducing cable, as well as custom back buttons.

Mavic Air’s transmitter provides more detail and will be more exciting to fly with.

Winner: Mavic Air

Indoor Flying

For those of you who want to fly their drones indoors, you’ll be glad to hear that both Mavic Air and Mavic Mini are suitable for indoor flying. Thanks to its bottom sensors, Mavic Mini flies steadily and can maintain a hover even without GPS.

It uses vision positioning to deliver a stable flight indoors and the 360 propeller guards included in the Mini Fly more combo protect the drone from damage despite hitting the wall repeatedly. 

The Mavic Air will successfully take off indoors, but you’d be wise not to fly it in a relatively small space. This is because the obstacle avoidance will interrupt your flying when it senses too many obstacles around.

You may, of course, choose to override the obstacle avoidance feature to make it more possible to fly inside, but then you’ll be exposing the drone to hits and collisions. 

Winner: Mavic Mini

Price

The smallest quadcopter in DJI’s Mavic series will cost you just under $400, which is almost what you’ll pay for its predecessor, the Spark. This is a very impressive price, especially when you consider the superior features (particularly the flight time) offered by the Mini - it will easily top some of the best drones under $500 in the market.

Meanwhile, the Mavic Air will have you paying more than double the cost of a Mavic Mini. Apart from the under $900 retail price, you’ll have to make do with the FAA registration before flying it outside, which is another expense on its own. 

Registration costs $5 per aircraft and is only valid for a period of 3 years. But before you register, you must provide your email address, debit or credit card, mailing address, as well as the drone’s model.

Too much work, don’t you think?

Obviously, the depth of your pockets will determine how strongly you consider the price when deciding between the two drones, but given the almost $500 difference, I’d easily do with the Mavic Mini.

Winner: Mavic Mini

Verdict

When it comes to Mavic Mini vs. Mavic Air, it is clear that DJI has produced very functional consumer quadcopters that both new and continuing drone enthusiasts will enjoy. 

However, I feel like aside from the camera quality, intelligent modes, and obstacle avoidance, the Mini can comfortably hold its own against the Air. Furthermore, Mavic Air costs twice as much as Mavic Mini, but it’s not necessarily twice as good.

Finally, the Mini’s weight is very convenient since it saves you the trouble of having to register with the FAA before flying the drone. It makes everything so much easier for you!

Overall Winner: Mavic Mini

Last update on 2019-11-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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