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Here’s the YI 4K+ Action Camera, a decent GoPro alternative

by Justin Herrick | December 20, 2017December 20, 2017 7:00 am PST

Unless you’re into extreme sports, the 4K+ Action Camera from YI Technology is a better choice than anything GoPro sells. That’s true as long as you’re someone who’s seeking to save money. YI prides itself on high-end features being included at budget-friendly prices. Of course, though, there have to be compromises. The 4K+ Action Camera just doesn’t make any of them clear. It shoots in 4K and 60 frames per second, which isn’t common for devices in the category.

YI doesn’t make the 4K+ Action Camera stand out from its other offerings, and that’s totally fine. Action cameras aren’t like phones, tablets, or computers that are always on display. The 4K+ Action Camera looks pretty plain, showing a rectangular body made of what seems to be rubber and plastic. And it’s only sold in black. So, if you’re someone who likes a little flare from the designs of your belongings, you’re out of luck. But again, no one cares what an action camera really looks like. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

If anything is special about the design here, it’s the patterned front. YI uses a matte black finish on most of the construction, but the front area surrounding the lens is covered in a checkered pattern. The look and feel is definitely less complicated than GoPro’s entire lineup.

The 4K+ Action Camera includes a touch-enabled 2.2-inch screen covered by Corning’s Gorilla Glass, a capture/record button doubling as the on/off button, a USB-C port for charging and data transfers, a microphone and a speaker, and a mounting port. Everything is self-explanatory, but the display should get extra attention. YI included not only a durable piece of glass for it but also a high quality panel. As a viewfinder while taking pictures or recording videos, the the display is excellent. And it shows everything you just shot without fuzziness or buffering.

The design may be simple, but you can’t complain about that from an action camera. YI’s 4K+ Action Camera excels with its display, though. That’s where the competition often falls short. Usually on an action camera you’re forced to upload content to a phone or computer for viewing to decide whether or not the content is worth keeping.

Because it’s a crowded field dominated by one brand in particular, YI needs to include the best specifications possible while maintaining a low price. The 4K+ Action Camera, though, isn’t a bargain bin-level product. You’re paying a bit more than what YI normally charges but getting a better experience overall. It ships with a Sony IMX377 sensor (12MP), an Ambarella H2 processor to stay efficient while recording 4K UHD video, and electronic image stabilization. All of this is yours for less than $300.

Full disclosure: Cameras in general aren’t my thing. If you want to know everything there is about sensors and settings on a camera, you’ll have to go somewhere else as the mobile industry is what I’m crazy about. The perspective I provide on products like this one is pretty straightforward. Can it take good pictures or videos? Is the content easy to move to another device for storage? Will the battery get me through whatever I’m doing? Just remember that while I go over the 4K+ Action Camera’s performance.

Those who need full specifications on the YI 4K+ Action Camera can visit the company’s site for additional details on what’s inside.

When it comes to choices, you’ve got plenty of them. The 4K+ Action Camera can shoot inĀ a lot of resolutions. It can go as high as 4K at 60 frames per second and as low as 480p at 240 frames per second. YI wants you to have the exact resolution desired. For resolutions, you have over a dozen to choose from. Then there’s an even bigger number of frames per second, albeit with limitations as to which resolutions they can be paired with.

YI also lets you adjust the field of view, ranging from narrow to ultra-wide. Video files are saved in H.264, .mp4 format after you’ve selected your settings and go to town recording the world around you.

Now, the answer to my first question mentioned earlier. Can it take good pictures or videos? I think so. Generally I’m picky when it comes to how pictures and videos look, but I felt the 4K+ Action Camera pulled off decent shots. Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t able to test the action camera in water (too cold in New Jersey for a swim), while snowboarding (a trip to Maine is coming soon), or skateboarding (yours truly has bad balance).

Videos turn out much nicer than pictures, frankly. It’s fair to say picture-taking isn’t nearly as important on an action camera anyway. If someone wants to take a picture of their activity at a specific time, it’s more likely they’ll switch over to their phone or dedicated camera or have someone nearby handle it. Action cameras are primarily for recording videos. The 4K+ Action Camera manages well under the pressure of even 4K and 60 frames per second. No matter the resolution, videos come out as expected or better. Even though the 4K+ Action Camera is YI’s premium model, I’m still surprised by how well video plays back.

If I had to make a suggestion for future iterations, it’d be to improve low-light performance. YI’s action cameras, not just this one, often do well in well-lit settings but dramatically drop in quality once the sun hides away.

YI gives you a waterproof case at no extra cost, at least with the model we were provided. Anyone who purchases the model with just the camera can pick up the waterproof case separately for $39. The mount for it to be secured on something else is included as well. If you need anything more, you can shop on Amazon for official first-party accessories. YI doesn’t leave you on your own to find stuff that plays nice with its action camera. The company makes protective lenses, leather cases, selfie sticks, grip sticks, mounts for everywhere imaginable (including on cats), and a carrying case.

Using the 4K+ Action Camera is a breeze. I’ve actually used other models from the company, and sometimes they’re slow or buggy. This one, however, gave me no problems. On the display you always get to see the amount of storage left, battery life, and current setting. The bottom left is where you’ll see a Gallery icon, and on the bottom right is a button to head into the settings. YI doesn’t use fancy jargon or elaborate animations to describe anything. The user interface is clean and direct, always labeling exactly what you’re seeing and able to change.

Use the YI Action app to sync the action camera with your phone for seamless updates. It also enables additional features. The 4K+ Action Camera will soon be able to stream live on social media, but you can already update to the latest firmware and use the device hands-free courtesy of voice commands. The app will also allow you to easily transfer images and videos for sharing on social media.

YI’s 4K+ Action Camera is $20 less than GoPro’s Hero5 Black. It may not seem like a lot of money, but there’s seemingly nothing from a hardware standpoint that gives GoPro an advantage. Maybe the comfort of a familiar brand can sway people toward the longtime leader, but the average consumer isn’t going to know the differences between them. And, if they look hard, they’ll find only YI’s action camera allows you to record 4K video at 60 frames per second. With displays on televisions and computers moving toward that resolution, you’re going to want an action camera capable of shooting at that level.

If you’re interested in the YI 4K+ Action Camera, it’s available on Amazon for $279. Those who pay for a Prime membership will get free shipping with the item arriving in 1-3 days.


Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...

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