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DJI Mini 4 Pro
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Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

I’m still blown away by the fact that I live in a time when I can have a flying, stabilized 4K camera that can fly hundreds of meters away, detect and avoid obstacles, and make its way back home in the event of a disconnection from the controller.

Ans all this is packaged in a drone that weighs less than 250 grams (8.8 ounces).

And I can get my hands on this technology for less than $1,000. 

Also: DJI gives its smallest drone a big upgrade

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I’ve flown a lot of DJI drones, big ones and small ones, and I have to admit that I’m increasingly drawn to the smaller ones. There’s an ease and simplicity to a tiny, foldaway drone that I can slip into the pocket of my hoodie, and yet is good enough to capture stunning photos and video.

And because of this, I was very excited to get my hands on the new DJI Mini 4 Pro

DJI Mini 4 Pro

ZDNET RECOMMENDS

DJI Mini 4 Pro

The DJI Mini 4 Pro is a state-of-the-art mini-camera drone equipped with omni-directional obstacle sensors and a camera capable of megapixel photos and 4K video.

DJI Mini 4 Pro tech specs

  • Camera: 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor, f/1.7 aperture, dual-native ISO
  • Weight: Sub 250 gram
  • Photo resolution: Maximum 48MP image resolution
  • Video resolution: 4K/60fps HDR video and Slo-Mo video at 4K/100fps, supporting HLG and 10-bit D-Log M
  • Flight time: Up to 34 minutes (up to 45 minutes using the optional Intelligent Flight Battery)
  • Max transmission range: 20 km 

I typically break my drone review into two parts — the first I look at the hardware, then I look at what I can do with it. So here I’m going to look a the drone itself, and focus on the improvements over the existing line — especially its predecessor, the Mini 3 Pro — as well as look at some things I think still need attention. 

Note that here I’m reviewing the DJI Mini 4 Pro Fly More Combo kit, and not the more basic — and cheaper — Mini 4 Pro with RC-N2 controller.

Also: Best drones right now

The Mini 4 Pro is very much like the Mini 3 Pro. Apart from the branding, the easiest way to tell the two apart is that the Mini 4 Pro has landing struts on the front legs, a feature that wasn’t present on the Mini 3 Pro. 

On, and there are those extra rear-facing omnidirectional sensors.  

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The front-facing sensors are joined with sensors that cover the rear of the drone.

The front-facing sensors are joined with sensors that cover the rear of the drone.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

I’ve seen a lot of criticism of DJI on social media for not revamping the look of the drone, but in all honesty, that Mini 3 Pro’s design was second to none. It just worked. I’ve flown my Mini 3 Pro for many hundreds of miles, and not had a single problem, even in high winds or baking sun. 

Also: This foldable drone fits in the palm of my hand and takes the best selfies

But despite this winning design, there are some subtle and much-appreciated improvements. For example, the gimbal cover is now not an odyssey to refit. I hate how much of a hassle refitting the gimbal cover on the Mini 3 Pro is. With the Mini 4 Pro, it just clips into place in a fraction of a second.

Improved gimbal cover on the Mini 4 Pro.

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Improved gimbal cover on the Mini 4 Pro.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The prop holder that prevents the props from flapping about in storage has also seen a redesign, making it much easier to take off and refit.

New, redesigned prop holder

New, redesigned prop holder

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Another area of improvement is cooling. 

The Mini 3 Pro gets hot if left on but not flying, so much so that it can be hard to update the software unless you have a fan flowing across it. And while the Mini 4 Pro does indeed get hot, it’s not the same sort of runaway hot that plagued its predecessor because the passive cooling system does a good job of dissipating the heat generated by the drone’s onboard systems.

Improved passive cool helps prevent the drone overheating when on but not in flight.

Improved passive cool helps prevent the drone overheating when on but not in flight.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Thermal image of the Mini 4 Pro

The Mini 4 Pro’s passive cooling does a good job of dissipating the heat generated by the drone’s onboard systems.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The underside of the drone is also a lot cooler.

Thermal image of the underside of the Mini 4 Pro.

Thermal image of the underside of the Mini 4 Pro.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

There are things that annoy me though. For example, one of the toughest jobs a user could do on their Mini 3 Pro was to change the props. It’s something that you have to do in the event of them getting damaged — which is pretty inevitable — and yet social media and Facebook groups are full of tales where people chew up the screw or break it odd, both of which lead to a lot more headaches.  

It doesn’t seem like the Mini 4 Pro has any improvements here.

Changing the props on the Mini 4 Pro still involves tiny, easy to strip and break, screws.

Changing the props on the Mini 4 Pro still involves tiny, easy to strip and break, screws.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Another pain point is screwing the joysticks onto the controller. Sure, doing them at home is easy, but put gloves on, or try to do it at night, and it becomes a really fiddly endeavor. I’ve not lost a stick yet, but every time I have to do this, I hate it. 

Whoever designed this has never had to attach a joystick at night or when wearing gloves.

Whoever designed this has never had to attach a joystick at night or when wearing gloves.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

These small issues aside, it’s hard to fault DJI hardware, and the Mini 4 Pro is no exception. 

It’s clear that DJI is making improvements to the design of its drones with every iteration, and this means that even if you don’t want to pick up a Mini 4 Pro because you already have a drone that’s doing all you need, when you do come back to the market looking to buy again, you’re going to benefit from years incremental improvements.

Stay tuned for part two of this review of the Mini 4 Pro, where I’ll be seeing what this drone is capable of capturing.

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