GoPro Hero5 Black vs. Yi 4K: Which 4K action camera is worth your money?


Action cameras are a fairly recent phenomenon. Typically designed to record video as a priority over stills, these cameras have compact and rugged bodies, and have come to be associated with outdoor sports more than anything. Being lightweight and compact, they are frequently attached to helmets, handlebars and such, for a unique first-person perspective when recording videos. GoPro is generally regarded as the pioneer of the action camera, being the first to make cameras capable of doing this since 2004.

Over the years, there have been significant improvements in action cameras and more equipment manufacturers have joined the fray. One such competitor is Xiaomi, eating into GoPro’s market share with the relatively inexpensive Yi 4K and the Yi 4K+ action cameras. These cameras are extremely popular not just due to their relatively low price, but also their capabilities. The Yi 4K+, in fact, upstages GoPro’s current flagship, the GoPro Hero5 Black, with 4K video recording at 60fps.

We had promised a detailed look at the GoPro Hero5 Black, and since we have the Yi 4K at our disposal as well, a thorough comparison of the two 4K action cameras was in order. Both cameras look remarkably similar. They have not only similar form factor but they even feature the same mounts. No prizes for guessing who has imitated whom! Read on to find out how the two action cameras compare in terms of image quality, ergonomics, software, and battery life.

GoPro Hero5 Black vs. Yi 4K: Design and Ergonomics

The GoPro Hero5 Black features a waterproof design (it is resistant to water up to a depth of 33 feet) without an external housing, and is the first GoPro camera to do so. The Yi 4K, on the other hand, isn’t waterproof by itself. It can be used with a waterproof housing, which is an extra accessory that can be purchased for about 1200. The Yi 4K uses the same plastic mounting hardware as the GoPro. Additionally though, the Yi 4K features a tripod mount, allowing it to be usable without any extra proprietary hardware.

At first glance, both cameras look a lot like each other. An immediately obvious difference in design is the LCD display on the front panel of the GoPro Hero5 Black which displays basic information like the current shooting mode, a battery indicator, and the space your microSD card has remaining for photos and videos. The rear touchscreen display on the Yi 4K is marginally larger (2.19-inches as against the 2-inch display on the GoPro Hero5 Black) and higher resolution as well.

The Yi 4K has only one button – to start and stop recording video or to take a picture. Changing modes or other settings requires that you use the camera’s touchscreen. This is fine when using the camera without the waterproof housing, but when you use it with a waterproof housing, there is no touchscreen functionality, so changing settings becomes a complicated experience. There is a mode in the Yi 4K designed for when the camera is being used with a waterproof housing, which lets you use the shutter button to scroll through the camera’s modes. The button on the casing that I used with the Yi 4K with was a little stiff, and the experience of using it with the casing wasn’t the most pleasant one.

The GoPro Hero5 Black has just two buttons; one to start and stop recording video at the top of the camera, and a mode button on the side that doubles up as a power button as well. As the Hero5 Black is waterproof without casing, none of the Yi 4K’s problems mentioned above affect its usability. In my opinion, both cameras have fairly well-designed and easy to use menus, and picking one over the other would just be a matter of personal preference.

The GoPro Hero5 Black also features voice control, which I found to be quite useful, especially when using the camera mounted to my chest using GoPro’s chest plate and harness. A simple set of voice commands lets you access various camera modes. I found voice control to be a great feature, letting me start and stop recording video without having to hold the camera in my hand or press a button.

GoPro Hero5 Black vs. Yi 4K: Display Quality

In my use of the two cameras, I found the Yi 4K’s touchscreen to be far more responsive than the GoPro Hero5 Black’s touchscreen. At 2.19-inches, the display is also slightly larger than the 2-inch display on the GoPro Hero5 Black. Its display was also brighter and sharper. When used with the casing in bright sunlight, however, legibility decreases significantly. Also, you won’t be able to use the touchscreen when the Yi 4K is inside the waterproof casing.

GoPro Hero5 Black vs. Yi 4K: Image Quality

GoPro Hero5 Black image sample

While the GoPro generally yields brighter results and punchier colours, the images aren’t as sharp or detailed as the output from the Yi 4K. There is also a lot more noise, especially in photos shot in low-light. Fortunately, since the Hero5 Black lets you shoot in RAW, with some post-processing it should be possible to reduce noise levels, and get results that are at par with the Yi 4K’s photo output.

Yi 4K Image Sample

Here are links to full-resolution samples of the Yi 4K and the GoPro Hero5 Black. Take a look at the pictures in their full resolution. The GoPro Hero5 Black yields a visibly noisier output than the Yi 4K, with smudging of fine detail. GoPro needs to work on their image processing algorithms to make images that contain more detail.

GoPro Hero5 Black vs. Yi 4K: Video Quality

Here’s a look at how the two cameras fare with 4K video. There is no electronic image stabilisation in any of these action cameras when recording video at the 4k resolution at 30fps. Once again, the output from the GoPro Hero5 Black is visibly punchier. While the colours are vivid and more true-to-the-scene when compared to the output from the Yi 4K, the output is also noisier, especially in shadowy areas.

Image stabilisation is only available when recording video at the 2.7K resolution or lower, on both cameras. At the 2.7K resolution, both cameras allow for video recording at 60fps and electronic image stabilisation turned on. Here’s a look at some video footage from both cameras at 1080p, shot at 30fps, and with the EIS mechanism acting on the videos.

GoPro Hero5 Black vs. Yi 4K: Audio Quality

The GoPro Hero5 Black’s default casing doesn’t cover the device entirely, and is specifically designed to keep the wind noise at a minimum. Compared to the Yi 4K’s output, sound recording is better, both with and without casing on the GoPro Hero5 Black. The Hero5 Black also allows you to record a separate audio track as well, letting you apply processing based on the manual audio control setting you’ve chosen. You can choose to lock your GoPro in either stereo or wind reduction mode.

GoPro Hero5 Black vs. Yi 4K: Battery Life

The Yi 4K packs a 1,400mAh battery, while the GoPro Hero5 Black has a slightly smaller 1,220mAh battery. In my use, I found the GoPro Hero5 Black would run out of juice faster than the Yi 4K almost invariably, despite having charged both devices simultaneously and used to shoot the exact same things. To re-verify this, I set both the cameras up to record 1080p video at 60fps without image stabilisation, and found that the Hero5 Black barely manages to last its claimed 2-hour battery life. I clocked the Hero5 Black at 1 hour and 47 minutes, while the Yi 4K’s battery lasted 2 hours and 28 minutes, which is impressive.

GoPro Hero5 Black vs. Yi 4K: Software & Apps

I found the menus to be fairly well laid-out on both cameras. The GoPro Hero5 Black has three basic shooting modes – Photo, Video, and Timelapse – with settings for each mode resting within independent menus in each of these modes. The Yi 4K lets you choose from various shooting modes, and has a separate tab for global settings. The Yi 4K has a better touchscreen, which makes changing settings a bit easier when compared to the GoPro. Having said that, the GoPro Hero5 Black still has a small edge here, thanks to voice control. I assume that once you have the voice commands memorised, which may take a short while, you’d be far more at ease, manoeuvring your way around the various shooting modes of the camera.

GoPro’s Quik app lets you splice video clips, add effects, music, filters and has a few other basic editing feature. The app is a light video editing software that lets you access, manage, make simple edits and share your content with ease via Facebook or YouTube.

GoPro Hero5 Black vs. Yi 4K: Verdict

In terms of picture quality and video quality, the output from the GoPro Hero5 Black is only marginally better than the output from the Yi 4K. While its touchscreen isn’t as responsive as the Yi 4K’s touchscreen, the voice control feature makes the user experience significantly better, especially when the cameras aren’t being handheld and are mounted on a chest harness or a helmet. The Yi 4K, when mounted using the protective casing, isn’t very user-friendly. Without the access to touchscreen and voice control functionalities, changing settings or switching between modes is quite difficult and cumbersome.

The Yi 4K isn’t Xiaomi’s flagship action camera. The Yi 4K+, launched earlier this year, capable of 4K video at 60fps and 1080p video at 120fps is. Even so, the Yi 4K has just about all the same shooting modes as the GoPro Hero5 Black, and at 18,990, it definitely offers greater value for the money than the 38,000 Hero5 Black. The only noteworthy features it lacks are waterproofing (without a protective case), and voice control. You’ll have to decide for yourself if shelling out an additional 18,000 for the above mentioned features is truly worth your money.