Yi 4K+ Action Camera review

The Essential Review

This is TechRadar’s review summary that gives you all the key information you need if you’re looking for quick buying advice in 30 seconds – our usual full, in-depth review follows.

The Yi 4K+ Action Camera is just as good as the GoPro Hero6 Black, but it’s not identical. The Yi 4K+ Action Camera is just as portable as its more well-known rival – and with just as poor a battery life (less than two hours), while the Yi 4K+ Action Camera can record in 4K at 60fps, just like the top of the range GoPro Hero6 Black. That’s more detail and smoothness than you probably need to capture your adventures. For those who want to shoot stills, its 12MP photos are great, too – sharp and colorful – and it also shoots in raw (though not natively in HDR). 

Where the Yi 4K+ Action Camera gets one over on a GoPro Hero6 Black physically is with its weight (93g vs the GoPro Hero6 Black’s 117g) despite having a slightly larger touchscreen. It’s also easier to use, thanks to a super-fast processor and an impressively simple user interface your granny could master. 

However, the Yi 4K+ Action Camera is more affordable than its rival, and that comes with a few cut corners. Unlike the GoPro Hero6 Black, the Yi 4K+ Action Camera is splash-proof, not waterproof (not without adding a separate housing, though these are pretty affordable), while it also lacks GPS, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope. Are any of those omissions deal-breakers? Probably not.  

So if you’re aquatic-minded, or you need to know exactly where you were, and how fast you are going when you took a video, buy a GoPro Hero6 Black. However, if you’re more interested in saving a few quid on features you didn’t even want, the Yi 4K+ Action Camera is one of the simplest and best designed gadgets around. Everyone considering buying an action cam should have a look at the Yi 4K+ Action Camera because it’s almost exactly the same and, in some ways, even better than a GoPro. 

Who’s it for and should I buy it?

If you have your eye on a GoPro for some time, but haven’t yet  investors in one, is a great opportunity to save a bit of cash. Almost as good as its more famous rival in almost every way, the Yi 4K+ Action Camera is nevertheless not natively waterproof. Do you care? Action cameras like these tend to be used sporadically, and how often any of them actually get taken underwater is anyone’s guess. However, simplicity is the Yi 4K+ Action Camera’s biggest attribute, and if you’ve no need for the GPS, accelerometer and gyroscope found on the GoPro Hero6 Black, why pay for them? 

Lightweight, easy to use and producing great quality 4K video and stills that’s so easy to transfer to a phone for sharing, the Yi 4K+ Action Camera is an impressive way to save a substantial slab. However, this follow-up to the Yi 4K Action Camera is more tweak than overhaul, with the main improvement being that the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera can film in 4K at 60fps, so if you’ve already got Yi’s first action cam, skip this second version and wait for the third. 

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Yi 4K+ Action Camera price

  • Current price: £299/ $339.98 (both prices include waterproof case)

An action cam that’s much better value than a GoPro

Yi 4K+ Specs

4K video: up to 60fps

1080p video: up to 120fps 

Still images: 12MP (JPEG and raw)

Rear screen: 2.2-inch touchscreen

Image stabilization: 3-axis up to 4K/30fps

  • Built-in image stabilization
  • Not natively waterproof
  • Recharges via USB-C port

The Yi 4K+ isn’t incredibly different to the original Yi 4K, the main addition being an ability to shoot video at 4K at 60fps, just like a GoPro Hero6 Black. Requiring a U3 class microSD card to be used, shooting in 4K/60fps does mean a maximum bitrate of 120Mbps, which is double what the Yi 4K offered. It’s also worth bearing in mind that although the Yi 4K+ does have electronic image stabilization onboard, it only works up to 4K/30fps.

Inside is the same 12MP Sony IMX377 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with Exmor R as on the Yi 4K, but this version has a new Ambarella H2 + Quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor. They work terrifically well together, allowing the Yi 4K+’s operating system to work fluently and without a hitch despite the bigger bitrate. 

You’re probably not going to use the Yi 4K+ much for photography, but you can. It shoots very usable 12MP images, and it’s possible to save in JPEG or keep the raw files, which is outputs as universal .DNG files. It doesn’t deal in HDR, as the GoPro Hero6 Black does, but since it shoots in raw that’s no big deal. 

Unlike the original Yi 4K, this new version recharges via USB-C port , and in the box is an adaptor for hooking-up an external microphone. It takes a microSD card up to 64GB. 

So why would anyone buy GoPro? There are a few tiny corners cut on the Yi 4K+. Unlike the GoPro Hero5 Black or the new GoPro Hero6 Black, the Yi 4K+ is not natively waterproof, although a separate Waterproof Case Kit – which is also apparently ‘dustyproof’ – is available. However, the only really noticeable difference between the Yi 4K+ and GoPros are that the Yi 4K+ lacks the GPS, gyroscope and accelerometer sensors, so your videos don’t include tags for geographical positioning, direction and speed. You either care about that, or you don’t. Unless you’re a performance athlete obsessed by data, it’s probably irrelevant. 

However, what is annoying – and it’s exactly the same with all GoPro products – is a short battery life. The Yi 4K+ has a 1400mAh battery that lasts for just over an hour in 4K mode, a little longer if not. 

A small, portable and money-saving design

  • Weighs just 93g
  • Not waterproof
  • Corning Gorilla glass

Aside from its attractive, subtle checkerboard pattern on its font, the Yi 4K+ looks exactly the same, physically, as its forbear, the Yi 4K. 

It weighs just 93g, and it’s rectangular little 65 x 42 x 30mm body hosts a 2.19-inch colour touchscreen coasted in tough Corning Gorilla glass. Better still, that touchscreen – as well as being a large – is of excellent quality; it’s colorful and contrasty, with a great viewing angle, and it’s extremely sensitive to touch. That makes the clear, concise operating system a breeze to use; I would go as far as to say that the Yi 4K+ has among the simplest and speediest user interfaces I have come across in the last 15 years. 

Its new voice control software does add to that, though results are mixed despite having to first have the Yi 4K+ record a voice sample. Shouting ‘Yi Action take photo’, ‘Yi Action record video’ and ‘Yi Action turn off’ (among other voice commands) at the Yi 4K+ does herald results, but it doesn’t work too well if you’re outdoors … which is kinda’s all what this camera is for. 

Linking reliably to a smartphone via Wi-Fi on either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, the app can access all the settings on the camera, and hosts an almost instant live feed

The Yi 4K+ has a standard tripod thread on the bottom, which is a boon for anyone wanting to connect it to the plethora of mounts available (as well as a standard camera tripod). Despite the natively easy to use Yi 4K+ not requiring a good app to make the device usable (which is so often the case), its free Yi Action app is impressive. 

Linking reliably to a smartphone via Wi-Fi on either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, the app can access all the settings on the camera, and hosts an almost instant live feed. Once you’re done, you can transfer images and videos to your phone, apply some filters and image effects (from HDR and a the 360-degree camera-style ‘Tiny Planet’ and ‘Spial Galaxy’ to more run-of-the-mill ‘vintage’, ‘nostalgia’ and ‘romance’), and share to Facebook, Instagram and – showing its Asian heritage – Line. 

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To battery life, which on the Yi 4K+ we measured at around an hour on 4K/60fps, and almost two hours on Full HD 1080p, which is relatively good compared to the GoPro Hero6 Black. However, that doesn’t mean such a super-short battery life is acceptable, and seems to me to signal that the Yi 4K+ is too small for its own good. 

Image quality

  • Clean but jumpy 4K/60fps
  • Smooth but noisy Full HD
  • Good wide-angle JPEG and raw photos

The Yi 4K+ does 4K at 60fps. Great, but in practice that headline-grabbing feature does come with a few caveats. For example, its 4K Ultra 4K mode – its most detailed – tops-out at 30fps. So does its 4K HD mode (which contains 4000×3008 pixels instead of the standard 3840 x 2160 pixels). However, stick it in 4K mode and the Yi 4K+ can record in 60fps (or 48fps, or 30fps). 

At 60fps the results are impressively sharp and contrasty, with well saturated colour. Video can be a little choppy if you hand-hold, which is a result of the low frame-rate (particularly noticeable on camera pans) and the fact that Yi 4K+’s electronic image stabilisation only applies to 4K/30fps and below. Still, that’s something for the follow-up from Yi, and besides, image stabilisation can be overdone (see the Sony FDR-X3000R review for proof of that). 

Those after the smoothest possible video from the Yi 4K+ should consider shooting in Full HD 1080p, which can be done in all kinds of frame rates, from the ‘cinematic’ 24fps right through to 120fps, which is good for slow-motion footage. That jumps to 240fps if you shoot in 720p. It’s also worth knowing that if you shoot in 4K/24fps it’s possible to use an ultra wide field of view mode, which stretches the sensor. 

The Yi 4K+ also takes good still images, albeit all in a wide-angle. That means you have to get really close to your subject – uncomfortably close, sometimes – though it produces a reasonably sharp images nevertheless. I didn’t notice too much fisheye effect and, besides, it can be easily removed later. However, the finished JPEGs often appear very compressed, contrasty, and with over-exposed areas.  

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This JPEG straight from the Yi4K+ doesn't appear to have much fisheye effect, but does seem very compressed. Luckily, the camera can also shoot in raw as a .DNG file

This JPEG straight from the Yi4K+ doesn’t appear to have much fisheye effect, but does seem very compressed. Luckily, the camera can also shoot in raw as a .DNG file

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The Yi 4K+ can also shot in raw; the image on the left is the original JPEG, and on the right is the same image processed in Photoshop from the .DNG file

The Yi 4K+ can also shot in raw; the image on the left is the original JPEG, and on the right is the same image processed in Photoshop from the .DNG file

As well as producing JPEGs, the Yi 4K+ records raw images at DNG files. However, shooting in raw does require a little patience, with an approx. 10-seconds wait between each shot. It also doesn’t produce the cleanest raw photo you’ll ever see, but they’re good enough to produce some much better-looking results through Photoshop. 

Not convinced? Try these

If the Yi 4K+ action camera isn’t for you, here are three excellent alternatives for you to consider… 

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GoPro Hero6 Black

The only other action camera to achieve 4K/60fps, the market leader is also natively waterproof without any casing needed. It also adds GPS, gyroscope and accelerometer sensors, and slightly better voice recognition that the Yi 4K+.

Read our in-depth GoPro Hero6 Black review

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Sony FDR-X3000R

Although it maxes-out at 4K/30fps, Sony’s 4K shooter does have some unique features, most notably a smart-watch contraption that allows a remote live view, and control. It’s also got almost dream-like image stabilization.

Read our in-depth Sony FDR-X3000R review

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Olympus TG-Tracker

Stylish like the Sony, and also offering 4K/30fps, this first action cam from Olympus has the GPS and motion sensors the Yi 4K+ lacks, though using them does drain its battery quickly. 

Read our in-depth Olympus TG-Tracker review

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