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Autel EVO Nano Plus drone review: My first impressions

The first real competitor to DJI's Mini 2 drone.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Drones are incredible. When I was a kid, the idea of a flying camera that I could control from the ground with a handheld device would have just been unbelievable.

Well, we're living the dream.

Drones are now commonplace, and you can have a flying, stabilized 4K camera that has a range of many miles and a half-hour of flight time.

And drones are getting smaller.

It's now possible to get a fantastic drone that weighs less than 250 grams.

What's special about drones weighing less than 250 grams? Well, not only do regulatory issues mean flying a sub-250g drone in some countries is easier, but a smaller drone is more portable and easier to take with you on your travels.

So, enter the new player in the sub-250g drone arena -- the Autel EVO Nano+.

Autel EVO Nano+

Autel EVO Nano+ 

Note that there are two versions of Autel EVO Nano drone, a regular Autel EVO Nano, and the Autel EVO Nano+, and the main difference is that the Nano+ has a better camera.

The drones also come in a standard and premium bundles, with the bundle having two extra batteries and spare props.

Autel EVO Nano+ bundle

Autel EVO Nano+ bundle

Note: Autel did not have any input on this review, and the company didn't get to see it before it was published.

This is a first impressions of the Autel EVO Nano+.

If you've never seen a drone before then the Autel EVO Nano+ is either going to look big or tiny, depending on what a drone means to you in your head. Folded, it's about the size of a can of cola, and with the arms spread out it transforms into a flying machine bigger than a dinner plate.

Autel EVO Nano+

Autel EVO Nano+ 

The drone comes in four colors -- Autel Orange, Arctic White, Blazing Red, and Deep Space Gray.

The EVO Nano+  features a 1/1.28-inch (0.8-inch) CMOS sensor with a f/1.9 lens mounted on a 3-axis stabilization gimbal that can shoot 12.5-megapixel and 50-megapixel photos and 4K video up to 30 frames per second.

The drone has a top of 15 m/s and a maximum rated flight time of 28 minutes. According to the specs, the drone has a wind resistance rating of level 5, which means it is rated for wind speeds of 19–24 mph/29–38 km/h.

The controller, which has a clam for holding a smartphone, feels chunky, rugged and well-made.

It feels a lot like a gaming console controller, and it's nicely balanced in the hand even with a big smartphone attached, with all the controls being easily accessible. Autel has supplied cables for the iPhone, and Android devices using microUSB and USB-C.

My only real complaint about it is that there's nowhere to store the thumbsticks when you take them off, and you can't keep the thumbsticks attached when storing the controller in the carry case. DJI solved this problem by having more inserts to hold the thumbsticks in place.

Autel EVO Nano+ controller

Autel EVO Nano+ controller

When looking at the Autel EVO Nano+, it's hard not to draw comparisons with the DJI Mini 2, currently the leading sub-250g drone in the market.

Compared to the Mini 2, the EVO Nano+ feels more plasticky, cheaper, and not as well built. The fit and finish of the EVO Nano+ is a bit rougher, but that may be in order to accommodate the front-, rear-, and downward-facing obstacle avoidance sensors designed to assist the pilot in not crashing the drone.

Autel had to shave off weight somewhere, and I don't think that the changes make the drone any more fragile (hit something during flight with either of these drones and the chances of breaking something are very high).

But there are a couple of places where the fit and finish feel poor. The gimbal cover is a nightmare to fit back on, even when in the comfort of your office. This is not something I'm looking forward to having to do when outdoors.

Autel EVO Nano+ gimbal cover

Autel EVO Nano+ gimbal cover

The batteries also feel like they fit badly. I'm not sure if this is because the shell is easily deformed when holding the drone, or it's a fitment issue.

But either way, it just doesn't feel good, especially given the price.

The Autel EVO Nano+ is not cheap when compared to the DJI Mini 2. The standard bundle has a recommended retail price of $949, while the premium bundle is $1,099.

It's a lot of money. But you are getting a camera with a significantly bigger sensor and more light-gathering capability than the camera on the Mini 2, and this is something that might pay off when shooting in low-light conditions.

But I think the main trick that this drone has up its sleeve are those sensors that are there to help prevent crashes.

If these work, then it might be worth the money.

And there's only one way to test these sensors.

Stay tuned for the flight tests.

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