Yi 4K+ Snap Verdict
The Yi 4K+ has more on offer than any action camera in its price range – so much so that it rivals the GoPro Hero6 Black when it comes to pure specifications, yet it costs half the price.
4K at 60fps, slow motion, voice activation and touch screen all match the GoPro’s features, but then it goes further with a feature that people have been screaming for: live streaming to Facebook and YouTube.
When it comes to specifications, the Hero6 and 4K+ are close, but while the GoPro will remain the choice for the extreme sports enthusiast, the Yi 4K+ could well become the choice for everyone else.
- 60fps at 4K
- Voice activation
- Live video streaming
- Requires waterproof case
- Limited to 120fps @ 1080p
- Social side not as slick as GoPro
The world of action cameras is changing, in as far as it’s no longer about hurling yourself off the nearest cliff or capturing your latest spectacular stunt. Instead, it’s now all about reporting on life.
Companies such as Yi have opened the floodgates, and unlike other action camera manufacturers, they have made little attempt to chase the action dream, instead aiming their cameras at everyone else.
Now the Yi 4K+ has arrived, and although the price tag is almost half the price of the GoPro Hero6 Black the features and quality appear at least on paper to be very similar.
The Yi 4K+ is one of the only action cameras out there that doesn’t attempt to challenge the number 1 placing of the GoPro as the ultimate action camera, but rather like the Sony RX0 aims to offer something very different.
Like all the latest action cameras, when it comes to features there’s far more to look at than just the resolution and frame rate, but as ever it’s a good place to start.
The Yi 4K+ captures full 4K resolution footage at an outstanding 60fps.
Although 1080p might seem a little old school, it’s still by far the most popular format and the Yi packs in a maximum 120fps at this resolution.
As well as video, you can also shoot 12mp images. As with the GoPro, you have a choice of shooting JPEG, RAW or both – which is handy.
Powering this video capture is the Ambarella H2 SOC chipset, Cortex-A53 ARM Processor and Sony IMX377 1/2.3-inch 12mp CMOS image sensor.
On the back of the camera is the 2.2-inch, 330ppi, 640×360 resolution touch-sensitive screen.
Of course, 5GHz Wi-Fi is as standard so you can easily connect to the app.
Connectivity is the significant feature here on the Yi 4K+, and unlike the GoPro Hero6 Black, you can stream your footage directly using the app to either YouTube or Facebook.
On the front of the camera is the small f/2.8 lens that delivers a 155º field of view. This lens features seven layers of glass to maximise the image quality.
The Yi 4K+ features built-in lens distortion correction (LDC) which helps minimise fish-eye distortion of footage (something that is a typical action camera trait).
Ensuring you always have plenty of control over quality there are a series of manual exposure options including Shutter, Exposure Compensation, ISO, Metering mode and White Balance.
There’s also advanced image stabilisation and low auto light built-in.
Powering the new camera is a high-density lithium polymer battery rated at 3.8V 1400mAH. In real terms at 4k 30fps Yi state life expectancy at 88 minutes, and at 1080p 60fps 104mins.
Although not highlighted to any degree in the literature around the camera, the Yi 4K+ does have a built-in G-Sensor. This is a Bosch BMI160, 6-axis gyroscopic that provides acceleration and angular rate data that can be used when editing the footage.
Now onto the two prominent features: Voice Control and Live Streaming.
As with the GoPro Hero6 Black and Garmin Virb Ultra 30, the Yi 4K+ features voice control.
Voice control enables you to take photos, start and stop recording, and switch the camera off. All handy for when you want to operate the camera hands-free.
Each operation is fronted by “Yi Action” followed by the command.
Examples of the Yi 4K+ Voice Control
- Yi Action take photo
- Yi Action shoot burst
- Yi Action begin recording
- Yi Action stop recording
- Yi Action turn off
If you’re sceptical about this new voice control fad, just give it a go. After a while, there is no way that you’ll go back!
Live streaming is the other new (and frankly essential) feature for today’s socially connected world.
I’m still amazed that GoPro failed to add anything along these lines to the Hero6, but again it’s probably more than possible to combine with a slight firmware update at some point in the future.
Live streaming does require a mobile connected phone or tablet and once set up it works incredibly well. It also supports all the major social video platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.
Build quality and handling
The quality of action cameras varies greatly; thankfully the Yi 4K+ is at the upper end when it comes to design and finishes.
It does keep things simple, there’s no fuss in the design, but it’s by no means dull.
Instead, the finish of the housing is solid, although I did have a few issues with the lever lock when releasing. The clip that keeps the lever lock attached to the housing was a little loose so when undone the lever can sometimes detach completely.
However, when the lock was in place, it was all solid enough. The rest of the housing is of excellent quality, and although I do sometimes have doubts about the water tightness of some cases, the Yi’s is solid.
One feature that I always look for is a flat case lens; this just makes it easy to clean when caked in mud. Sure enough, the Yi 4K+ provides a beautifully flat lens. It also only features one button on top that enables you to start and stop recording.
At the base of the case is the GoPro style mount, this means that the Yi 4K+ is compatible with almost any GoPro accessory.
When it comes time to release the camera there’s a small secondary lock on the level lock that is pulled aside, adding an extra element of security.
This second lock can be a little fiddly, but then that’s why it’s there to ensure that you don’t accidentally release the case.
With the back open the camera can be popped out, usually with a firm shake or tap – another good sign, demonstrating that the camera won’t rattle around inside the case.
Inside the housing, there’s a rubber pad around the back and another where the lens fits into the case. These again hold the camera in place but moreover help to avoid any knocks or rattling by the camera.
With the camera out of the case, you get to see the chequered design on the front, a slightly rubberised texture around the edges, and large 2.2-inch screen on the back.
On the lens side of the camera is a single USB-C port. On the camera’s base there’s a standard 1/4-inch thread where a selfie-stick or tripod can be attached. The bottom also features the door that gives access to the battery and MicroSD card slot.
This door is held closed by a simple push down catch.
On top of the camera are the microphone and next to that the power/shutter button.
To power the camera up, the shutter button needs to be held down for a couple of seconds. As standard, the camera is set to only power-up, but dive into the settings and you can fix it to power-up and start recording.
Then you can then use the large touch screen on the back to navigate through settings and review footage.
The interface design is simple, there isn’t the design flair that you have with GoPro. That doesn’t by any means diminish the usability, as everything from resolutions to frame rates are all quick to find.
If your using the camera out of the waterproof case, then this screen is incredibly intuitive and enables you to switch between the settings and shooting modes that you need. However, inside the case with just that one button you’re restricted to start and stop recording.
However, these days who needs buttons?
The Yi 4K+ is fully 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi enabled and features BlueTooth 4.0.
Connection speeds between the Yi and app are fast, not as fast as GoPro as the lag is noticeable, but it’s still good.
The app itself is also packed with features including the ability to switch to Live Stream as well as the more usual video settings and other options.
Of course these days we fully expect voice control on all our tech, and sure enough, the Yi 4K+ doesn’t fail us.
The voice control for the Yi is different from the GoPro Hero6 Black and Garmin Ultra 30 in as far as it requires you to go through a configuration process.
This voice control set up procedure enables you to go through each of the commands which you speak to the camera; such as “Yi Action Start Recording”. Once the process is complete, you’re then ready to use the voice commands.
In use, the camera was able to pick up my commands almost every time even in noisy areas and compared well with both the GoPro and Garmin.
There’s no doubt that the touchscreen makes navigating around the camera and settings incredibly easy.
I found it was more comfortable to use than the GoPro, especially when changing resolution and frame.
The resolution options are grouped with the frame rates, and then another tap enables you to change the frame rate from the one selected.
Likewise, switch to manual settings, and again the touch screen enables you to change options.
Everything changes once you pop the camera into the case, at which point you can no longer quickly access the settings.
However from experience, once the camera is set-up for an activity such as mountain biking, shooting at 1080p 60fps, it’s unlikely that you’d want to be playing around with the settings during the ride.
The Yi4K+ does make things easy, and the voice control is a great addition when you’re out.
When it comes to selecting options although you do need to pop the camera out of the case that isn’t too much of an issue.
The options available are staggering for a camera of this size, and since the release of the Yi 4K+, I’m sure that it has steadily increased in price as retailers become aware that this is one the best cameras of its type on the market.
On the few occasions when I did want to adjust the shooting setting it was easy enough to do this using the app.
The off-road sports shooting experience of the camera is good, and the no-fuss one button action case coupled with the voice control is a joy to use. The voice control also copes well with crowded environments.
Removing the camera from the sporting environment and going selfie-stick without the case is where the Yi 4K+ most feels at home.
It goes from a standard action camera to something that separates it from the extreme sports market of the GoPro and the fitness arena of the Garmin.
Using the camera as a more general camcorder and again the experience is excellent; the quality of the screen and built-in image stabilisation are features that impress.
Where this camera excels is when it’s coupled with the app: a few button presses and you’re connected with the world, able to broadcast live.
The initial connection and set up process does take a little time as you need to configure your YouTube or Facebook accounts to enable live streaming.
Once done and you’ve entered in all the details you can then stream through either your mobile as a hotspot or through your Wi-Fi connection.
Both systems worked well once you understand how everything works together.
This system seemed far better than any other camera software combination that I’ve tried, outside of directly using a mobile phone.
The Yi 4K+ may have evolved from a similar mould as the GoPro Hero but as GoPro adapted so has Yi.
Encased within the secure safety of the waterproof housing the Yi offers that reassurance of rugged, robust design that so appealed to the extreme sports sector with the last generation design of GoPro.
But this is no copy of the GoPro Hero4 Black. It’s something different that only wears the housing as a skin of familiarity, endearing it to those used to this genre of camera.
Looking at the Yi 4K+ as a pure action camera, it ticks all the boxes. 120fps at 1080p and 60fps at 4K means that you can shoot decent slow-motion footage and capture action smoothly at 4K.
The housing protects the camera from mud, dirt and water and features refined detail such as the rubber inserts that elevate this camera above so many others.
Feature-wise there are so many leading technologies that match the latest GoPro Hero6 including the touchscreen, motion sensors and of course voice control.
What’s more, it seems that the small processor and sensor can take huge leaps in capability with each firmware update, so maybe we’ll see 1080p at 240fps in the not too far distant future.
The Yi Action camera always been about visual quality. Here it comes in abundance; the 4K footage clarity is clear and crisp with plenty of detail.
Compared with the GoPro Hero6 Black there’s little difference when it comes to clarity at 4K 60fps. Drop the frame rate to 30fps, and there is still little difference.
It’s surprising but when it comes to absolute visual quality the Yi, I feel, does just take the edge over the GoPro Hero6 Black, and you’ll see why when you look at those high contrast edges.
Whereas the GoPro shows significant signs of chromatic aberration, the Yi is clear.
Taking into consideration that Yi is more adaptive than GoPro, and the 4K+ launched before the Hero 6, I’d say the next Yi will mark the start of a significant shift in brands for many action camera users.
For me what makes the Yi 4K+ a better action camera than the GoPro Hero6 Black is that Yi has included a no-fuss live streaming solution for FaceBook and YouTube.
You may be able to do this on your phone, but it quickly drains the battery, is difficult to edit later and fills up your storage. The Yi enables far less drain on the phone’s resources meaning you can broadcast for longer.
For anyone wanting an action camera, and before you spend £500 / $500 on a GoPro, do consider the rather fantastic Yi 4K+.