Aong all of the smartphone and wearable tech news that came out of 2015's Mobile World Congress was a surprise from Chinese electronics brand Xiaomi -- the tiny Yi action cam.
Outside of China the company is best known for its smartphones, but it has a growing lineup of related devices such as the Mi Band fitness tracker and headphones that it's been putting the Xiaomi name on.
The Yi is one of those, continuing its expansion into other categories beyond smartphones (not unlike what HTC did last year with the Re camera) and further building its reputation for offering products with high-end features at budget-friendly prices.
Though it's primarily available in China for 399 yuan, you can buy one for just under $100 (about £65 and AU$120) from online retailers like GearBest.com, which is where we got ours. That price isn't quite as good as the converted price of about $65, but is still excellent for what you're getting.
Out in front of the little lime green and teal box (it's available in all white, too) is a nice f2.8 wide-angle lens with a 155-degree angle of view, while inside is a Sony-made 16-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, a Broadcom wireless module and an Ambarella A7LS system on a chip (SoC) running the show.
To give you some perspective, Ambarella's chips can be found in many POV cameras and DJI's quadcopters and, more specifically, the GoPro Hero3+ Silver, Ion Air Pro 3 and Drift Innovation Ghost-S use the A7LS chip family. Aside from the SoC, those cameras all have one other thing in common: prices of $300 or more.
Now, those cameras do offer things that the Yi doesn't, but it's because of what it does have that the Yi can do more than others at its price such as the Polaroid Cube and Monoprice MHD 2.0. Also, although the slightly more expensive entry-level GoPro Hero has very good video quality, the Yi still beats it there and on features and, depending on your needs, design.
Features and design
For starters, the higher-end specs mean it can capture 1080p video at 60, 48, 30 or 24 frames per second (fps); 960p (also called tall HD) at 60 or 48fps; 720p at 120, 60 or 48fps; and 480p at 240fps. It can also snap pictures at resolutions up to 16 megapixels one at a time; in bursts at 3, 5 or 7fps or 7 frames over 2 seconds; or at time intervals of 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 seconds. You can also set up a self-timer for 3, 5, 10 or 15 seconds. There's also a Snapshot mode that captures 10 seconds of VGA-quality video for quick social sharing.
Other cameras at the Yi's price offer a fraction of those options and typically record video at a maximum of just 1080p at 30fps and 720p at 60fps. However, unless you read Chinese, using the camera to do all that it can do is a little tricky at first.
Again, this camera is made for the Chinese market, so the instructions that come with it are in Chinese. If you've used a similar action cam or aren't afraid to press buttons, the Yi is simple to figure out. If you haven't or are afraid, well, it's still easy.
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