Our Verdict

Can YI Technology's latest challenge GoPro? This well constructed POV cam shoots the same 4K 30fps video and 12MP stills as a GoPro Hero5, yet has a bigger touchscreen and a lower price. There's no voice control, but aside from that the YI 4K is a polished performer, and terrific value.

For

  • Detailed 4K video at 30fps for two hours
  • Smooth 1080p at 120fps
  • Weighs just 94g
  • Bigger touchscreen than a GoPro
  • 155° wide-angle lens

Against

  • No voice activated controls or GPS
  • Too easy to switch on and off accidentally
  • Can't shoot stills in raw format
  • Image stabilization could be better
  • Only waterproof with additional housing

Everyone knows that GoPro makes the best action cams (or POV cams) for extreme sports enthusiasts, and that the GoPro Hero5 Black is what everyone’s using to shoot 4K at 30fps. Everyone, that is, except YI Technology, which is tackling GoPro head-on by matching a lot of the specs of its rival. 

Ultra-detailed 4K at 30fps and smooth 1080p at 120fps? Yup. 12-megapixel stills? Check. And, at around $200 / £230 it's almost half the price of a GoPro Hero5 Black. Has the Xiaomi-backed YI Technology done the impossible with the simply named YI 4K Action Camera? 

Features

  • 4K video capture at 30fps
  • 2.19-inch touchscreen
  • 12MP still images

With a touchscreen user interface, one-button control, Wi-Fi Direct for connecting to a YI Action phone app, and plenty of video resolution options all the way up to 4K at 30fps (for 120 minutes continuously), the YI 4K Action Cam is an appealing all-rounder.

The fixed lens offers a wide field of view and a fast f/2.8 aperture, and you can also take photos while recording video (though only via the app), cue up 4K timelapses and slow motion sequences, and loop record for a specified time. Manual adjustment options are exhaustive, but it's generally easier to ignore most of those and just go with the default settings. 

Not surprisingly the YI 4K Action Camera is all about taking on GoPro, but it slightly pre-dates the GoPro Hero5 Black; this effort is about matching the GoPro Hero4 Black spec for spec. In some areas it’s a little behind the times when you look at the very latest features found on the Hero5 Black, although we’re talking about features that you may not even want (step forward, voice control).

And depending on your preferences, the YI 4K still has some notable advantages over the GoPro Hero5 – it’s got a larger touchscreen at 2.19 -inches (that's 330 pixels per inch), it's 22g lighter at 95g, its battery lasts much longer, and it's cheaper.

Design and accessories

  • Black, white, and rose gold color options
  • Large battery
  • Not waterproof

Aesthetically, the matchbox-sized YI 4K Action Camera is conventionally sleek in either of the three color choices: matte black, white, and rose gold. A tough plastic look is the order of the day here. On the right-hand side as you look at the front of the camera is the lens, which slightly protrudes. On the underside is the lid for accessing the battery compartment – this houses a 4.4V lithium-ion 1400mAh power pack, which compares well to the 1220mAh inside the GoPro Hero5.

Alongside it is a microSD card slot; YI recommends a variety of U3-class micro SD cards, though Class 10 and U1 cards work just as well in practice; a 64GB card will give you about 80 minutes of 4K recording. 

The extra real estate offered by the 2.19-inch screen does make onscreen menus easy to navigate. It’s also reasonably sharp. It offers readouts on the shooting mode it's in – video or photos, with an indicator of the resolution, too – as well as an icon for the remaining battery charge. Along the top, sandwiched between two microphones, is a single button that both switches-on the YI 4K Action Cam, and activates and deactivates recording. 

Accessories appear to be widely available online. You can also protect your YI 4K Action Camera with a  leather cover and lens cap cover bundle for $19.99/£16.99, though only the lens cover is practically necessary; the native casing itself is sturdy enough.

Semi-pro users might want to consider the YI Handheld Gimbal ($280/£225), which offers three-axis pan/tilt/roll through 320 degrees. Pet owners may want the YI Pet Mount for US$33.99 (Ali Express shows the YI 4K strapped to a cat).