Best Drones iMore 2021
Drones have come on so much in popularity in recent years and are no longer a niche item for enthusiasts and professionals. Modern drones are accessible to all, and the market is now full of brilliant flying machines. It makes choosing pretty tough, but if you're looking for the absolute cream of the crop, then you'll find it in the DJI Mavic 2 Pro.
- Best Overall: DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- Best for Beginners: DJI Mavic Mini
- Best for Travel: Parrot Anafi
- Best for Professionals: DJI Inspire 2
- Best Budget: Ryze Tello
- Hidden Gem: FIMI X8 SE
Best Overall: DJI Mavic 2 Pro
Is it any surprise that a DJI drone is the best you can buy? Hardly. The company has been at the forefront of consumer drone technology from the beginning, and its innovations are constantly pushing the boundaries. The Mavic 2 Pro is a fine example of all of that, combining the now-iconic folding form factor with DJI's incredible software and a pretty amazing camera.
There are two versions of the Mavic 2 for consumers (and a third for Enterprise users), but the Pro is the one to get, albeit at a slightly higher price. That's because, on the front, you have a 20MP Hasselblad camera with a 1-inch sensor that can shoot 4K video and RAW images. Never before has a drone this compact had a camera this good.
That means photographers and videographers will love the Mavic 2 Pro. The high-resolution images also lend themselves well to producing aerial maps, and DJI's own GS Pro app works with the Mavic 2 Pro. DJI's software is smart and intuitive, with manual and automatic controls galore, and with up to 31 minutes of flight time per battery, it can stay up for quite a while, too.
If you can stretch to it, get the additional Fly More package as well; with the extra batteries and accessories, it's the best value and will save you money in the long run.
- Amazing camera
- Portable, folding design
- Good battery life
- Easy to fly
- Quite pricey
- Limited internal storage
Best for Beginners: DJI Mavic Mini
The spiritual successor to the DJI Spark, the Mavic Mini is the tiny folding drone we always wanted. One of its most important features is that at 249g, it comes in (just) under the weight limit requiring FAA (or CAA in the UK) registration to fly. So if you're a beginner, it's a perfect drone to get started with and not have to worry about all the additional paperwork.
It's also just a great drone. It's very similar to the larger Mavic drones in its software and features. The controller is essentially the same core design as every other recent DJI release, and it supports a heap of smart flying features, as well as the ability to ditch the controller and just fly it with your phone for the ultimate portable experience.
The Mavic Mini does lose out in some areas to its siblings, notably in range since it uses regular wireless, not DJI's Ocusync technology. Still, even with its size, you get a three-axis gimbal, video up to 2.7K, and a flight time of up to 30 minutes per battery. All from something you can carry in your pocket.
- Easy to fly
- Incredibly compact
- Under the FAA weight limit for registrations
- Good battery life
- No 4K video
- Limited range
- Controller battery life is weak
Best for Travel: Parrot Anafi
Parrot used to be known best for its in-car Bluetooth kits for phones, but in recent years the company has put out some truly remarkable drones. The Anafi is the latest and most impressive to date, not least because its slender body and folding arms make it incredibly easy to pack in a bag when you travel.
Size is important, naturally, but with the compact body, you're not losing features, which is even more critical. Each battery will give you up to 25 minutes of flight time, which, while not class-leading, is still very good, and the camera on the front will take some fantastic images and videos.
The 20MP sensor can also shoot 4K video and HDR, and thanks to its unique gimbal that also rotates vertically up past the horizon allowing for some unique angles when shooting. The companion app is intuitive yet simple to use, the smart features work well, and if you spring for the extended kit (which you should), the Anafi is also excellent value.
- Compact size
- Great camera with unique gimbal
- Good value
- Easy to fly
- Future development unclear
- Features behind paywalls
- No obstacle avoidance
Best for Professionals: DJI Inspire 2
The Inspire 2 isn't for the faint at heart, but for the professional market, it's an incredible platform to use. Sure, it's huge, but with that size also comes great flight time at up to 27 minutes (from a dual-battery) system, smart features like return to home, and an incredibly stable drone. It's also pretty fast with a top speed of over 50 mph.
The power of the Inspire 2 is partly down to what you can attach to it. DJI has its own camera system, the Zenmuse, with a couple of options that now includes 6K video or a micro four-thirds system that allows you to use standard, interchangeable lenses on the drone. And because it's DJI, its also packed with smart features that make even this goliath a doddle to fly.
There's a lot potential with the Inspire 2, particularly for videographers, and DJI has even ensured that the workflow from shooting to editing is as seamless as possible, even supporting CinemaDNG and Apple ProRes. It's large and expensive, but for the professional market, it's worth it.
- Powerful camera options
- Great flight time
- Fast and stable
- Packed with DJI smart features
- Pretty massive
- Package is a significant investment
- Dual-battery system means you'll need a lot of spares
Best Budget: Ryze Tello
The Ryze Tello is a great drone for kids, and anyone who wants something great to fly that doesn't cost a lot. It may be small, but it's incredibly smart, flies beautifully indoors or out, and has a better camera than just about any other drone this cheap.
The Tello is made by Ryze but in partnership with DJI, which explains why it flies so well. Inside it has DJI technology, and without getting into the weeds, it results in a stable drone that's responsive, easy to fly, and full of smart features. It's even programmable!
The 5MP camera on the front has no stabilization and is pretty poor for video, but still images look great. It's controlled entirely from your smartphone, though there's an optional controller you can buy, and for added fun, Ryze also has an Iron Man-themed Tello for the Marvel fans out there.
- Great price
- Only needs a smartphone to fly
- Decent camera for stills
- Poor video quality
- Limited range
Hidden Gem: FIMI X8 SE
FIMI is a brand backed by Chinese giant Xiaomi, and the X8 SE isn't its first drone, but it's definitely its best and something of a hidden gem. Getting one in the west can be tough and command a little premium, but if you were looking for DJI quality with a lower price then the X8 SE, it might be just what you're looking for.
It follows the current trend of compact, folding drones, which makes it easy to stash in your bag, while upfront, it boasts 4K video at up to 100 Mbps bitrate from its 12MP Sony IMX 378 sensor. Photos and videos look great, and a three-axis gimbal stabilizes them.
The controller for the FIMI X8 has been designed to accommodate both smartphones and tablets, which is a nice touch, and the app is packed with smart features. The motors are quiet, the battery lasts for up to 33 minutes of flight time, and it can even transmit real-time GPS co-ordinates while boasting a 5KM range.
- Great camera
- Portable, folding design
- Brilliant battery life
- Controller supports tablets
- Hard to get in the west
- Support/future development questionable
There's never been a better time to be a drone enthusiast. Whatever your skill, requirements, or budget, there are some truly amazing drones out there. There really is something for everyone. But if you want the absolute best, then you want the DJI Mavic 2 Pro as its simply untouchable right now.
It's not just because of the incredible camera on the front, though that certainly helps, as it's a significant step forward in what's possible on a consumer-grade drone. But honestly, there's a reason that DJI is the brand everyone immediately thinks of when it comes to drones. The quality, innovation, support, and software all combine to make any of its drones easy and enjoyable to fly.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Richard Devine is an Editor at iMore. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict with a soft spot for drones, he joined in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him usually covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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