tech

Why I chose the DJI Mavic Pro

DJI Mavic Pro and the GoPro Karma

Like many drone enthusiasts, I was eagerly following the back-to-back product announcements from both DJI and GoPro in late September. I quickly threw together this post containing a table of all the known spec data (at the time) for the DJI Mavic Pro, the GoPro Karma, and several other top tier consumer drones. It took me about a week of mulling it over, but I did eventually decide to back the DJI Mavic Pro and placed my pre-order.

DJI Mavic Pro and the GoPro Karma
DJI Mavic Pro (left) and GoPro Karma (right)

Now, I’m of course rather frustrated and disappointed that DJI over-committed themselves here. They’ve delayed the launch of the Mavic by several weeks now. They originally wanted to start shipping on Oct 15th, 2016 but that didn’t happen. It’s now early November and I still have no indication if my drone is on it’s way to me. With all of that said, it’s giving a lot of people time to really think about the differences between these two new drones defining the “fold-able drone” class.

Here are my reasons for why I chose the DJI Mavic Pro:

It’s smaller

It is amazingly small! About 50% smaller than the Mavic Pro when folded. While both drones are impressively small, the smaller Mavic Pro means less stuff to lug around, and an easier time taking it with me. It’s so small that I don’t have to worry about throwing it into my laptop backpack when I go through security at the airport. That’s pretty nice. The Karma, on the other hand, would be a separate carry on that I would have to bring, in addition to my laptop bag and whatever else I needed.

It’s smarter

The Mavic is just plain “smarter” than the Karma. While some of the smarts might be changeable via software updates to the Karma, the Mavic will always have the upper hand because it comes with extra hardware. Thanks to this extra hardware, the Mavic is able to offer obstacle avoidance and accurate location keeping. The Karma will never be able to do these things. And on day one, the Mavic will have more “intelligent flight paths” than the Karma, so it’s just a no-brainer here for  me.

It’s more capable

The Mavic can fly higher, further, and longer than the Karma. To be honest, the only one that really stands out to me is the length of flight time. But since Mavic beats the Karma on all three capabilities, it’s a win for the Mavic. The Mavic flies nearly 2000 ft higher than the Karma. It also flies 3+ miles further, and almost 10 minutes longer.

Some personal influencers

I also had some “personal influencers” that lead to my decision. For one, I already have a handheld GoPro stabilizer, and a GoPro Hero 4 Black. While having the Karma’s Grip and Hero 5 Black would certainly be a nice upgrade, it’s not giving me anything I don’t already have.

Potential backlash

Several other bloggers and tech reporters have been writing about the Karma and the Mavic, and at least two who have actually tried both gave criticisms of the Mavic and ultimately recommended the Karma. I didn’t save links to their posts, but I’ll summarize what they said. Keep in mind, this is heresy, not my opinion or fact.

First, the reviewer said he was focused on ease of use, and really felt that Karma nailed it. The Mavic, while easy, was just not as easy. And the additional requirement of attaching a separate device to act as your screen is cumbersome. So, I can totally see his point, and agree on the last bit. I really wish DJI included a nice screen, but that would have increased cost and it’s already a pricey drone. I can get over the fact that the Mavic may be a little more complicated than the Karma, especially since you’re getting more capabilities.

Second detraction, the reviewer said he favored the Karma because of the image quality. He compared the built-in camera on the DJI  Mavic Pro to the GoPro Hero 5 Black, which comes bundled with the Karma if you buy their “highest tier” package. He might be on to something there, but I haven’t been able to try it myself. I also haven’t really taken a hard look at the technical specs of the cameras. He made a quick claim that the technical specs, even on paper, favored the Hero 5 Black, but didn’t provide any of the metrics for it. I might go digging on this myself, but honestly, I feel like it can’t be that bad. While quality in cameras is a real thing, these are both top of the line drones. He showed some side-by-side photos, and the Mavic photos did tend to look darker than the Karma’s. But this is possibly something that can be corrected in software or settings.

In the end, I’m not too worried yet. I want to get this thing in my hands and play with it! I think it’s going to be a great drone and I’m looking forward to taking it on travel with me.

Roku Ultra after one week (review)

Roku Ultra device

I’m throwing in the towel and giving up on the Amazon Fire Stick. Between the 5.1 audio problems, laggy performance, and crashes, I decided to look at the current state of home media streamers. I couldn’t have picked a better moment, because literally the same day I made the decision I was walking around Best Buy and noticed the new Roku Ultra. I didn’t buy it on the spot since I wanted to do some more research. After going home and convincing myself that it was worth the $129 price tag, I placed my order on Amazon.

The new Roku Ultra arrived in a snap thanks to 2-day Prime Shipping, and I had it plugged into my TV faster than you could say “Smart TV”. From the very get go, setup was a breeze. A simple, guided wizard takes you through the process, and orients you to the new device. “Channels” are what Roku calls apps, and you pick out your favorite in order to get it to do exactly what you want. For me, that’s mostly Plex, Netflix, and YouTube. But I also browsed the catalog a bit and found several other interesting ones to add, such as NatGeo, HGTV, a few news channels, etc.

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Using Roku Ultra’s search is also pretty impressive. Press and hold the magnifying glass on the remote and speak into the top of the remote. Release when finished speaking. Roku will then search the channels you’ve added for content, and return the results for your selection. It’s pretty cool that it will search multiple channels! Definitely makes finding content much easier. I was also impressed because I asked it for a live stream of the Presidential Debate. The Roku Ultra pulled it right up on the Fox News channel/app. I’m a guy that doesn’t have regular cable television, so it’s really cool to be able to do this.

The point-anywhere remote is also a good touch. Most users might under appreciate this, but that’s kind of the point. The remote just works. I have other traditional IR remotes that get fussy when they aren’t lined up just right with the receiving equipment.

My only complaint so far is that sometimes buffering audio is about 1-2 seconds off. I’ve noticed this in both Plex and Netflix, so I’m wondering if it’s a systematic problem. Basically what happens is that when I select a video to watch, the video will start playing, but I won’t be able to hear any audio for the first 1-2 seconds. It’s a small thing, and something I can definitely live with, but if Roku is looking to polish the edges here, this would be one thing to buff(-er) out! (Pun intended for my nerd friends!)