Remember that hoverboard craze? The fun toys that were mostly manufactured in China were a huge pop cultural phenomenon. That is until they started exploding and catching on fire. These cheap-arse hoverboards, which usually ran from $200 to $500, had the fatal flaw of randomly bursting into flames due to really terrible quality control of their poorly manufactured batteries. So the hoverboards were banned pretty much everywhere. Subways, planes, coffee shops, you name it, the hoverboard was banned. "Don't bring your exploding human transportation device anywhere near my artisanal coffee shop," a store owner might say.
What Is It?
Segway was clearly irritated about missing the boat on the whole hoverboard fad. The company sued a bunch of people over it, and it even secured an import ban because those Chinese hoverboards actually infringed on Segway patents. Now Segway has brought its own version of the hoverboard to market, called the miniPro. To be clear, Segway would prefer we use the accurate term: self-balancing scooter. Probably because most people associate the word hoverboard with fire, explosions, and Michael J. Fox. Yet for the layman unconcerned with technicalities, this is basically a really, really nice hoverboard. We will remember to do this for about five minutes at least.
This thing has everything you could ever want in a self-balancing scooter or hoverboard type device. It won't explode and catch on fire, as it's the only UL certified self-balancing scooter available in the US. Segway says the frame is constructed with magnesium alloy. This is not some shitty plastic hoverboard that will ignite your life savings stashed away under your bed. In fact, the build quality is one of the first things you notice about it. It seems sturdy and made to last, and can definitely withstand some drops or being run into a wall over and over again.
And when I rode it around the streets of New York, I wasn't afraid of riding through puddles or over curves. You can definitely take the miniPRO over somewhat rugged terrain. I wouldn't recommend taking it to, say, a BMX course, but it can handle inclines and uneven footpaths like a champ.
It's also ridiculously fun to ride. At first, it may seem intimidating to hop on and trust that the thing won't send you careening into a wall or down the stairs, but after a few seconds you realise you are in control. Some of my colleagues didn't take to riding the miniPRO immediately, but with some persistence most got it down pretty quickly. Whereas the firetrap hoverboards require that you steer by shifting your weight to one foot or the other, the miniPro has a middle steering bar you lean into, giving you precise control over where the miniPRO is going. You simply use your inner thigh to slightly tilt the steering bar in the direction you want to move, and the miniPRO turns with no hesitation. As with other self-balancing vehicles, to move forward, you lean forward. Same for going backwards. Just like a Segway.
After a couple hours of riding the miniPro, I joked that it felt like an extension of the body. Once you get over the very small learning curve, you stop thinking about how to ride it and just go. It has a max speed of 16km per hour, which feels a lot faster than it seems. At full speed, you can feel the wind blowing through your hair as you jet away on your luxury hoverboard, leaving all of your friends with their explosion-prone hoverboards in the dust.
Aside from being a solid, well-built product that performs its intended purpose (effortlessly moving someone around) extremely well, Segway also included all of the bells and whistles one could imagine. Yes, it has customisable LED lights. The lights are pretty cool if you're riding the miniPRO in the dark for some reason, but aren't really useful otherwise.
And yes, of course this has a companion app that you connect to the miniPRO via Bluetooth. Its there to give you a tutorial, and limit the speed of the miniPRO until you finish said tutorial. But the app, unlike the rest of the features on the miniPRO, feels like a complete clusterf**k.
It's buggy, constantly asking you to complete same tutorial you've already completed five times before, and it often feels like an afterthought that was quickly thrown together, as evidenced by its sluggishness and its propensity to suddenly crash, as noted by multiple users on the App Store. You can control the hoverboard and move it around via the app, which is useful if you want to make people think the miniPRO has been possessed by an evil spirit. Otherwise, trying to control it via the app is a complete crapshoot. The app's only redeeming quality is that it offers some interesting statistics about how long you've ridden the miniPRO for.
Should You Buy It?
Did I mention this thing runs for $US1,000? Seriously, this is the upper echelon of hoverboards. Personally, I would wait for the price to drop. This thing is really fun, but maybe not $US1,000 worth of fun.
Until cheap hoverboards become legal again, this is the only UL certified self-balancing scooter on the market. The miniPRO is positively loaded, and it is certainly a superior product to the knock-off devices. If you can afford this ridiculously expensive toy, and the idea of never walking again seems appealing, you should totally snag a Segway miniPRO. It's fast and fun, easy to use, and will likely last for a very long time.
- It will not explode
- It costs $US1,000. To you, that may be a pittance, to me, that's pretty expensive.
- It has a top speed of faster than a toddler
- It's built like a tank.
- The app limits your speed unless you do the tutorial, which is unfortunate because it insists on running through the tutorial every time you fire it up.