When I used to think of hoverboards I tended to view them as fun, dangerous toys. That changed when I got my hands on a Ninebot Segway Mini Pro. It’s the hoverboard re-thought. It’s safer, easier to steer and has some really cool extra features. Actually, when Segway’s PR company got in touch to ask if I’d be interested in doing a review, they described it as the Rolls-Royce of hoverboards — and I think they’re right.
Let’s start of with what matters most: what it’s like to ride and how easy it is to use.
The Mini Pro is not at all hard to balance on. The self-stabilization on this machine is truly incredible. As soon as you power it on, it stands upright and stays that way — whether you are on it or not. So even if you push it it doesn’t tip over — and even when you fall off (or step off) it remains perfectly balanced. It’s impressive to see and experience.
What I noticed immediately upon hopping on was how insanely easy it is to ride in a straight line (which is not something I could say about the previous generation of hoverboards, which now seem so… primitive). This is because the default “stance” on the Mini Pro is simply forward or backward.
While the base looks very similar to other, inferior, hoverboards, you don’t use your feet to do any steering. Instead, Segway has you use your knees to push a lever that looks like a mini bike seat left and right and it definitely takes some getting used to. Compared to older hoverboards, steering is a lot less sharp. It’s also smoother. Part of me likes it and part of me doesn’t; but I like it more than the unpredictable steering mechanisms we all knew and loved to hate from previous hoverboards.
For me, once I realized that leaning your whole body left or right feels more natural on the Mini Pro, steering became a lot easier and much less awkward (than trying to steer by moving my knees one way or another while trying to remain straight).
The Mini Pro drives great on non-smooth surfaces (when you want to cruise off the pavement). Grass, dirt and even bumpy brick-paved roads are not an issue. And going over curbs and bumps can be done pretty casually (whereas it was always a bit scary on hoverboards Circa 2015).
The overall ride is very smooth partly because of the stabilization, of course, but also because of the large tires which are actually filled with air. That means they do a much better job of conforming to the terrain you are rolling over.
Still, as with any hoverboard I’ve ridden in the past, I do get a bit of leg fatigue after about 10 minutes of riding or so. My body tends to acclimate after several days of riding, but just something to keep in mind. Also, I never hear anyone else talk about this… so maybe it’s just me lol.
So in every single way the riding experience is leaps and bounds better than older hoverboards (but yes, you still have to actively pay attention to what you’re doing — it’s not like there’s autopilot or something).
Aside from what it’s like to use, I did make some other interesting observations.
First, this thing is quite heavy (despite what the website says). It’s certainly light enough to load into your car, for instance, but I don’t think I’d go around telling people this is actually “light” — it’s not.
The Mini Pro is also going to look better for a lot longer than other, older hoverboards. There are two reasons. First, the stabilization means the device won’t roll down a hill scuffing itself from here to eternity. Second, the wheel covers are higher, and less. That means that if you run into anything, you’re likely to mostly hit the tire, rather than the plastic on the wheel coverings.
The app that comes along with the Mini Pro is well designed. It looks good, works good and packs some fun features. You can easily change the light colors and patterns that display while you ride (just like a smart light), you can see the speed you’re going, you can lock out other drivers and set limits for them and you can control the device remotely (when you’re not on it). More on that in the next paragraph — but I do want to say I’m glad that the software side of the equation wasn’t an overthought.
So I’m not sure why Segway decided to include remote controlling as a feature for the Mini Pro. I really can’t think of a time when it would be useful, and even if it were — it doesn’t work all that well. That’s because forward in the app is relative to the position of the Mini Pro (it’s front) rather than relative to your position (your front). It’s kind of chaotic. A company that got it right was eHang with the Ghost Drone 2.0 interface (see my recent review if you’re interested). I know controlling the Mini Pro remotely sounds cool, and you can do it, but it’s cumbersome in my humble opinion.
One thing I suppose I’ll mention is all of the safety hoops Segway ensures you jump through before you can ride the Mini Pro normally. There is a lengthy tutorial and a speed limit which you can’t get past until you ride a certain length and there are plenty of warnings telling you that improper use could result in death. These are somewhat annoying for seasoned riders who just want to get going right out of the box, but I’m sure they are very good to have in place for first-timers.
There’s good news about the battery: it seems to last for quite a long time (and comes fully charged right out of box). It always outlasts the amount of time I spend riding it per session (whereas I remember my old hoverboard dying on me while riding it and causing me to nearly eat concrete).
I really like the useful handle that pulls up from the top of the knee control bar. You can use it to walk next to the Mini Pro on terrain that wouldn’t normally be ridable such as hills that are too steep. It’s nice and responsive.
It’s funny: even though hoverboards have been around for quite awhile now, you still get lots of crazy looks while you’re riding out in public. It’s still a novelty to many people, so be prepared (and if you’re around any kids they will inevitably ask to try it out…).
To summarize my experience with the Segway Mini Pro I’d say that it was solid. This is a very high-quality hoverboard in every way. From the aircraft-grade alloy used in the frame to the polish put into the app it’s a thorough, thoughtful product. In short, it’s what you’d expect from a luxury-class hoverboard.
But at the end of this review I’m left wondering who exactly the Mini Pro was built for. The quality is such that is could be an actual transportation device — but I can’t picture myself ever using it in that way. I’m stuck with the feeling that this is just a really, really nice (and super-fun) toy. If thats what you’re after then it comes highly recommended from me.