DJI Mavic Pro review: A powerful flying camera anyone can take anywhere

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The Good The DJI Mavic Pro's compact foldable design makes it more travel friendly than any other camera drone with similar capabilities. Its gaming-style controller is equally compact, but still has all the controls you need to fly and control the camera and it can be piloted with only an iOS or Android device. Battery life is very good for a small quadcopter.

The Bad The phone mount is a little awkward to use. Not user repairable. Camera lens is a little narrow for landscapes.

The Bottom Line If you've been looking for a discreet, but powerful travel-friendly camera drone, look no further than the DJI Mavic Pro.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Battery 8
  • Features 9
  • Ease of Use 8

There have been several kinder, gentler camera drones this year -- from the large PowerVision PowerEgg to the compact Yuneec Breeze -- but the DJI Mavic Pro is the only one to combine high performance, lots of automated flight modes and obstacle avoidance in an ultracompact body. Add in DJI's assortment of safety and ease-of-use features and you've got a drone that anyone can take anywhere.

One of the few complaints I've had about the company's Phantom models is that they aren't particularly travel friendly, mainly due to the camera and gimbal position and the fixed landing gear. The Mavic doesn't have these issues and its propeller arms and the props themselves fold up so there's no need to remove them.

The smaller size -- of both the drone and its controller -- and decidedly un-Phantom looks make it more approachable and less obtrusive. The thing is, you still get nearly the same performance as you would from the company's top-of-the-line Phantom 4. It'll cost you about the same, too: $1,000 in the US, AU$1,700 in Australia and £1,100 in the UK.

The Phantom 4 has a higher maximum speed and can withstand stronger winds, and its camera has a wider field of view. The Mavic Pro is basically better in every other way, though. For example, its new OcuSync encrypted transmission system, gives you control up to 4.3 miles (7 km) away and streams video at 1080p. The Phantom 4 has a max range of 3.1 miles (5 km) and streams at 720p.

Also, while it might not have the power to cut through really strong winds (DJI says it can handle winds up to 19-24 mph or 29-38 kph), it was able to keep the camera stable and fly steady in 10-15 mph winds and still get between 22-25 minutes of flight time before it landed itself. It does warn you when the winds are too strong for its motors, too.

Like the drone itself, the controller is very small, but still has a monochrome screen for important flight data and physical camera controls. Want to see what you're shooting? You can connect a phone and mount it just below the control sticks. Getting your phone in the mount is a bit of a pain and requires you to remove any case you might have on it, but it does mean your phone isn't blocking your view of the controls.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

DJI added a switch to change from RC to a Wi-Fi mode, so you can quickly launch and control the Mavic with only your phone at distances up to 80 meters (262 feet) with a top speed of 4 meters per second (13 feet per second). It's nice to have for things like quick selfies, but using the actual controller is better.