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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.