When it comes to the best drones and the best cheap drones under $100, there's a sizable gap between performance and features. That gap is narrowing ever so slightly with the DJI Mini 2 SE, the company's newest — and cheapest — drone, which goes on sale in March for $369. That's $80 less than its next model, and a price that could be compelling to many would-be fliers who have balked at DJI's more expensive options.
Here's a look at the DJI Mini 2 SE, its specs, price and features, and how it compares to DJI's other drones in this price range.
DJI Mini 2 SE: Price and availability
The DJI Mini 2 SE will be available for sale on March 23. The standard bundle, which includes the drone, a battery and a controller will cost $369; the Fly More Combo, which comes with all of the above plus two extra batteries, a battery charger, a carrying case, and extra rotors, will cost $519.
By comparison, the DJI Mini 2's starting price is $449, while the DJI Mini 3 starts at $559.
When the Mavic Mini was available, it was priced at $399, so there's a little bit of a price reduction here.
DJI Mini 2 SE: Design and specs
At first glance, the Mini 2 SE looks to be pretty much like the now-discontinued Mavic Mini, the first of the company's drones to weigh less than 250 grams — the threshold for which you need to register it with the FAA.
Not surprisingly, the Mini 2 SE also looks identical to the DJI Mini 2; a dull gray body with four arms that fold out for flight. The whole thing fits comfortably into the palm of your hand, and is so airy that you might forget you're holding it.
In the front of the drone is the camera and its two forward-flight sensors; the back has a slot for the battery, a microSD card, and a USB-C port.
The Mini 2 SE looks to use the same controller as the Mini 2 (the RC-N1 controller), which requires you to use your smartphone as a display.
The biggest difference between the Mini 2 SE and the Mavic Mini is that the newer model uses DJI's O2 transmission technology, which works in theory to a distance of up to 10 km (6.1 miles); by comparison, the Mavic Mini's transmitter was only effective for up to 4 km.
DJI Mini 2 SE: Camera
Also like the Mavic Mini, the Mini 2 SE has a 1/2.3-inch CMOS camera that takes 12MP photos and 2.7K videos, and is mounted on a 3-axis gimbal.
That's a step down from the Mini 2, which has the same size sensor, but can record video at 4K/30 fps. The Mini 3 can also record at 4K/30 fps, but its camera can also rotate 90 degrees, to allow you to take vertical photos and video.
The Mini 2 SE also has a 4x digital zoom, as well as DJI's standard QuickShots and Panorama modes, which make it a bit easier to get some real cinematic-style shots.
DJI Mini 2 SE: Flight time
The Mini 2 SE is rated for a flight time of 31 minutes, the same as the DJI Mini 2. The DJI Mini 3 has a longer flight time of 38 minutes, and that jumps up to 51 minutes if you purchase the extended battery.
A half an hour in the air is still quite good; when it comes to cheap drones (the ones under $100), the flight time can often be counted on one or two hands.
DJI says that the Mini 2 SE can handle winds of up to 10.7 m/s, which translates to 24 miles per hour. It's doubtful you'd want to be outside in winds that strong.
DJI Mini 2 SE: Outlook
DJI must be feeling the crunch if it's releasing a sub-$400 drone. With the launch of the Mini 2 SE, the company will now have five drones that start at less than $1,000 — the Mini 2 SE ($369), the Mini 2 ($449), the Mini 3 ($559), Mini 3 Pro ($759), and the Air 2S ($999) — which represents the bulk of its consumer-focused fleet of camera drones.
Still for most, a drone with a camera that can take 2.7K video and stay aloft for 30 minutes will be more than enough, and should make for an appealing gift for many the aspiring pilot. Will the Mini 2 SE take away sales from DJI's pricier drones? We'll wait and see.