A revolution in personal transport.
Whether you’re 5 or 50, there’s something about zipping around on a personal vehicle that puts a smile on your face. As we gracefully venture into our 30s with other couples and friends, I’ve noticed that the “big wheel” generation seems to design more inventive ways to get around than any generation before it. From scooters to hoverboards, to electric bikes and skateboards, there are more fun ways to get around the block and the workplace than there ever have been.
Although I’ve enjoyed hoverboards off and on in the past (and own a really great one), one ride on a similar device late last year was all it took to immediately sell me on a new way to get around. Six months after buying one for myself, it’s finally time to review the Segway miniPRO.
What Does It Claim to Do?
The Segway miniPRO (manufactured by Ninebot) is a self-balancing electric rideable that claims to be easy to learn and powerful enough to take you 14 miles on a single charge.
- 10 mph top speed
- 14 mile range
- 800 watt electric engines
- IPX4 water and weather resistance
- Theft protection and automation through the companion smart phone app
Is the miniPRO the rideable you’ve been waiting for? Read on to find out!
Look and Feel
Depending on how you feel about hoverboard-styled rideables, the miniPRO either looks awesome or downright bonkers. I fall into the “awesome” camp.
I opted for the white model, and right from the get-go, I was impressed by design of this thing. If you’re used to low-to-mid-range rideables (like most hoverboards), the miniPRO will immediately “wow” you. The components are heavy-duty and meticulously designed. The tires are beefy (with actual air inside). The LED headlights are awesome, and even the tail lights/turn signals are a sight to behold.
Truth be told, the build quality reminds me more of something like a moped than a battery-powered way to get around, and that’s a big compliment.
Yes, it’s kind of bizarre looking with its knee bar and large tires, but I bet bicycles looked strange the first time people saw them pass down the street too. From the thick knee pads to the unexpectedly cool (and minimalistic) battery indicator, the miniPRO feels like a luxury rideable.
Performance and User Experience
Any reservations you might have about its looks will fly out the window the second you hop on board for the first time; the miniPRO is so much fun to ride that it may become your favorite way of getting around.
The riding experience is brainlessly simple: push the sole button on the front to turn it on, and hop on board. The second the unit powers up, it will immediately level itself and signal that it’s ready to board with a single, happy chirp. Getting on board feels very similar to stepping onto the first step of a flight of stairs; place one foot on the platform, and (without shifting your weight), place the next foot on.
If you’ve ever ridden a hoverboard before, you’ll know that something is different right away; the panicky feeling that you’re going to lose your balance is missing entirely, replaced by a graceful balancing system that makes it feel almost like you’re controlling the miniPRO with your mind. I’ve never felt this comfortable on a self-balancing rideable, and that’s a massive achievement on Segway’s end.
Controlling the miniPRO is both simple and immediately intuitive. The companion smart phone app will start you off with a reduced top-speed to keep you comfortable for the first mile or so, and it’s great for getting you acclimated. Like a hoverboard, you slightly shift your center of gravity to go forward, and slightly lean back to stop or go in reverse. Turning left or right is where the miniPRO differs; instead of clumsily twisting your feet opposite of each other, you gently lean your shins/knees on the miniPRO’s unique knee bar. Slightly tilt your knees left to pivot left, and slightly shift right to pivot the other way. It feels odd for the first 30 seconds, but its so natural in the moments afterword that you’ll never want to steer with your feet again.
The companion app is a great help in getting you started, though I haven’t found much use for it after the first week of learning the device. It has a creative “anti-theft” Bluetooth feature and a built in speedometer, but the most run feature is a playful remote control feature that lets you control the unit with the app when you’re nearby. It’s great for messing around if your friends.
What I can’t stress enough here is how simple and safe it feels to zip around on the miniPRO. I’ve ridden a lot of new devices over the last few years (including SwagTron’s top-notch hoverboard), but the miniPRO is simply in a league of its own. It accelerates smoothly with whisper-quiet confidence. It handles normal inclines and slopes without breaking a sweat, and even stops on a dime. I’ve been riding it around my 30-acre work campus for 6 months now, and it’s an absolute joy to use, both inside and outside.
Battery life is equally astounding. I ride mine almost daily at work, and I tend to charge it about once a month(!) at this point. It’s rated for 14 miles on a charge, and I feel like it has outlived that estimate by a good amount (at least in my casual usage).
I love the miniPRO so much that I honestly have a hard time finding things to complain about. After 6 months of regular use, the joints make a minor creaking sound on heavy turns. It does great on paved parking lots (even ours with its occasional surface changes and minor potholes), but it’s not built for off-roading or wildly uneven surfaces.
The only real annoyance that I can think of are the artificial limits on its top speed. I know the setting is there for safety reasons, but if you really open it up outside, the 10 mph speed ceiling is easy to reach in a matter of seconds; when that ceiling is reached, you’re greeted with a shrill set of beeps as the miniPRO abruptly adjusts its balance to tilt you back and slow you down. Not only is that annoying, but that slight balance shift tends to throw you off and make you feel less in control than the feature is intended for.
The other thing to consider are the giggles and funny looks you might receive the first few times you ride around on this thing. There’s something in the jubilant geekiness of flying around the corner on the miniPRO that cracks people up, but any sense of silliness washes away the second you let them take it out for a spin. Everyone on my team at work has ridden it. My in-laws and parents have ridden it (and not just for a quick test; we’re talking all around the place). Complete strangers at church have ridden it. It’s an absolute blast.
Unless you’re in the market for the thrill and mobility of something like an electric skateboard (next up on my review docket!), I think the miniPRO is everything you’re looking for in a compact electric rideable. It blows every hoverboard I’ve ridden out of the water, and is still one of the highlights of my day every time I step aboard.
Build Quality and Reliability
As I mentioned earlier, the build quality of this little vehicle is of a higher quality than it has any right to be. Screws are mostly hidden, but where you see them, they’re thick and tightly in place. The tires have great tread and have barely any wear on them, even after 6 months of riding this thing non-stop.
The battery life is so good that it’s an afterthought, and really, that’s true of the function of the entire unit. It turns on instantly and hasn’t let me down or made me lose my balance in a single instance of riding it. I can’t say that about any other rideable I’ve used, and outside of a crazy riding scenario or damage to the unit, I can’t conceive of a time when that stellar performance would ever become an issue.
When the miniPRO first hit the market last year, it was priced as a premium product at right around the $999 mark. Although that puts it well above most other hoverboard-style devices on the market, it’s unparalleled stability and vastly superior build-quality actually lives up to that price tag.
The good news is that I regularly see it priced at $599 now, a price that might get you in far less trouble with your significant other (real talk). It’s a reasonably priced impulse purchase, and if you’re in an environment where you can ride it often, it becomes a steal.
I’ve had more fun with the Segway miniPRO than almost anything else we’ve covered on this blog. It’s not something that most families need, but once you ride one yourself, I think you’ll fall head-over-heels in love with it. It’s the first electric rideable for everyone, and I think, the most fun you can have with $600.