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★★★★★ £266 • From www.ama­zon.co.uk

Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS - Christo­pher Mi­nasians

GoPro fi­nally gets a real ac­tion cam com­peti­tor in the Yi 4K+

VER­DICT

Better than the GoPro Hero 6 Black and cheaper, too, this cam­era is sim­ply su­perb value

FOR A LONG time, the mar­ket for ac­tion cam­eras has been dom­i­nated by GoPro, but that might be about to change. The Yi 4K+, hail­ing from China, is a stun­ning new ac­tion cam­era that not only ri­vals the lat­est GoPro Hero 6 Black (Shop­per 361) on qual­ity but man­ages to beat it on price, too.

Specif­i­cally, it matches the Hero 6 Black’s head­line act of record­ing at up to 60fps in 4K, and can also han­dle 120fps at 1080p and 240fps at 720p. As for the price, it’s nearly £140 cheaper than the GoPro’s £399 cam­era; this is largely ac­counted for by the 4K+ hav­ing no GPS func­tion­al­ity or built-in wa­ter­proof­ing. It does come with a wa­ter­proof case for rainy days and un­der­wa­ter shoot­ing, al­though keep­ing it in­side this case seems to ad­versely af­fect au­dio record­ing qual­ity.

HIP TO BE SQUARE

The Yi 4K+ is a lit­tle smaller than the GoPro, mea­sur­ing 42x65x30mm. It’s an oth­er­wise fa­mil­iar de­sign, with a rec­tan­gu­lar body, pro­trud­ing lens, 2.2in 640x360 touch­screen at the rear and mul­ti­func­tion but­ton on the top. A nice touch here is that the but­ton has an LED em­bed­ded in it, which flashes red when record­ing.

On the left-hand side there’s a flap cov­er­ing a USB Type-C port, which is used both for charg­ing and au­dio in­put. Con­nect the bun­dled USB Type-C-to-3.5mm adap­tor and you can add an ex­ter­nal mi­cro­phone. You can also pur­chase a Type-C-to-RCA adap­tor. Un­der­neath is a ¼in tri­pod mount, and you’ll find the bat­tery and mi­croSD com­part­ment down here as well.

Just like the GoPro, the Yi 4K+ is rather picky with mi­croSD cards. Be­cause of the sheer vol­ume of data be­ing trans­ferred to the cam­era, you’ll need one of the fastest cards around; a U3-class card to be spe­cific. If you’re not sure your card is up to the task, com­pat­i­ble cards are listed on Yi’s web­site.

LIVE AND KICK­ING

We found the 4K+’s on­screen in­ter­face very easy to un­der­stand, yet it still pro­vides a deep level of cus­tomi­sa­tion for bud­ding en­thu­si­asts. From the home screen, if you swipe from top to bot­tom, you get a set of quick tog­gle op­tions.

Swipe from ei­ther side and you can quickly switch be­tween video and photo modes. Scroll up­wards and you can jump to other modes, such as Time Lapse Video, Slow Mo­tion, Burst, Timer and Live.

That’s right, you can use the 4K+ to live-stream di­rectly to your Face­book page or YouTube chan­nel, pro­vided you down­load and in­stall the Yi Ac­tion Cam­era App on your phone to set it up. This is great if you like sharing your mo­ments in real time with friends, fam­ily or fans.

By touch­ing the small cog on the screen, you’ll be pre­sented with a flurry of op­tions un­der the video tab, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to record in flat colour mode (use­ful for colour match­ing in pro­fes­sional projects), and ad­just me­ter­ing, ISO sen­si­tiv­ity and shut­ter speed.

SMALL TALK

If you find op­er­at­ing the cam­era a lit­tle too fid­dly with the tiny touch­screen, you can con­trol var­i­ous func­tions via the An­droid or iOS app. This works flaw­lessly and con­nects to the cam­era via 802.11ac Wi-Fi. There’s also Blue­tooth, which al­lows you to con­nect wire­lessly to a re­mote or a com­pat­i­ble selfie stick. If you pre­fer to go hands-free, there’s a re­mote voice con­trol op­tion, too. This lets you start and stop record­ings, snap stills and switch off the cam­era, all of which could come in handy if you’re us­ing the cam­era on a hel­met mount or in a car. You need to be in a quiet en­vi­ron­ment and speak clearly for it to work, though. None­the­less, the touch­screen and menu sys­tem is so re­spon­sive and us­able that we sel­dom had to even con­sider voice con­trols, and that’s thanks to its quad-core Cor­tex A53 64-bit CPU. Un­like the GoPro equiv­a­lent, the Yi 4K+’s on­screen an­i­ma­tions are clean, smooth and re­spon­sive to the touch.

You can use the 4K+ to live-stream di­rectly to your Face­book page or YouTube chan­nel. This is great if you like sharing your mo­ments in real time with friends, fam­ily or fans

The lack of GPS is a shame, how­ever. The Hero 6 Black pulls ahead in this re­gard by not only in­clud­ing GPS, but an al­time­ter, com­pass and G-force in­di­ca­tor as well.

BETTER OFF VID

Im­age qual­ity, on the other hand, is a lot more close-fought; in fact, to our eyes, the cheaper 4K+ ac­tu­ally comes out on top. The core of the cam­era’s imag­ing engine is its Sony IMX377 1/2.3in 12-megapixel CMOS im­age sen­sor with Ex­mor R, and this is topped with an f/1.8, sev­enele­ment lens that pro­vides up to a 155° field of view.

The com­bi­na­tion of the im­age sen­sor and lens de­liv­ers stun­ning im­age qual­ity. Pic­tures are rich in colour, with good con­trast and oo­dles of detail. In com­par­i­son to both the Hero 6 Black and the older Hero 5 Black, we found the Yi 4K+ pro­duced slightly more colour-ac­cu­rate im­ages and videos. The Hero 6 Black’s footage looked some­what softer and warmer, al­though this it­self was a slight im­prove­ment on that of the Hero 5 Black.

The Yi 4K+’s still im­age qual­ity is also ex­tremely im­pres­sive, and low-light per­for­mance isn’t bad, ei­ther. Of course, there is im­age noise in the back­ground, but that’s to be ex­pected. En­abling Auto Low Light mode re­duces im­age noise a touch.

Video cap­ture is what it’s all about with this cam­era, how­ever, and that’s sen­sa­tional. As with still im­age qual­ity, the Yi 4K+ records videos with su­pe­rior colour ac­cu­racy and con­trast to the GoPro range.

It records at a much higher bit rate, too, which re­sults in crisper videos and better detail re­ten­tion. Us­ing the Me­di­aInfo app to ex­tract this in­for­ma­tion from our test clips, we saw the 4K+ hit a bit rate of 135Mbit/s at 4K/60fps, as well as 105Mbit/s at 4K/30fps; the Hero 6 Black, by con­trast, tops out around 80Mbit/s. In prac­tice, this meant cleaner lines, less blur­ring and more crisply ren­dered de­tails from the Yi 4K+.

BREAK THE SHAKE

If 4K isn’t your cup of tea – not ev­ery­one has a dis­play to watch these clips on, of course – then the 4K+ can be di­alled down. At 1080p and 120fps, the 4K+ still beat the GoPro on over­all qual­ity, with cleaner de­tail­ing and su­pe­rior colour re­pro­duc­tion.

The only down­side of this su­pe­rior qual­ity is the sheer size of the re­sul­tant files. For a 56-sec­ond clip recorded at 4K/60fps on the Yi 4K+ you’re look­ing at 917MB, while a 49-sec­ond clip recorded on the GoPro at 4K/60fps is much smaller at 353MB. That’s a huge dif­fer­ence.

For move­ment, Yi Tech­nol­ogy uses elec­tronic im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion (EIS) to pro­vide a more sta­ble im­age. Alas, just like on the Hero 6 Black, EIS doesn’t work at 4K/60fps, but will smooth out footage at lower res­o­lu­tions and frame rates, in­clud­ing 4K/30fps. The EIS is ef­fec­tive but if you’re look­ing for the ul­ti­mate in smooth, sta­ble video out­put – or you want smooth 60fps 4K video – you should in­vest in a hand­held gim­bal.

MIKING UP

While im­age qual­ity is great, how­ever, au­dio qual­ity isn’t so good. De­spite all three cam­eras record­ing in 48kHz at 128Kbit/s, the 4K+ doesn’t sound as wide or deep as ei­ther the GoPro Hero 6 Black or the Hero 5 Black.

On the plus side, with the bun­dled USB Type-C-to-3.5mm adap­tor, you can plug in an ex­ter­nal mi­cro­phone. This will then pro­vide far su­pe­rior au­dio qual­ity, even if it’s a cheap clip-style mic such as the Sony ECM-CS3. Since the 4K+ is so much cheaper than an equiv­a­lent GoPro, it’s worth spend­ing a lit­tle ex­tra to get dras­ti­cally better au­dio record­ing.

Some­thing else worth not­ing is that sound qual­ity on the Yi 4K+ gets worse when it’s used with the wa­ter­proof case, with au­dio be­com­ing tinny and claus­tro­pho­bic. The same can be said with the GoPro’s wa­ter­proof cas­ing, but remember you don’t need to buy that par­tic­u­lar ac­ces­sory un­less you plan to go deeper than 10m un­der­wa­ter.

Oth­er­wise, the Yi 4K+ proves that even if GoPro continues to dom­i­nate the world of ac­tion cam­eras, it’s pos­si­ble to get some­thing that’s just as good, if not better, than the com­pet­ing top-of-the-line model for less cash. Not that £266 is ter­ri­bly cheap, but com­pared to the Hero 6 Black, it’s an out­stand­ing bar­gain, mak­ing this a great choice for any­one in the mar­ket for a high-qual­ity ac­tion cam­era.

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