In terms of mobile tech, 2015 was arguably the year of the action camera.
These small, lightweight and durable cameras have developed from being somewhat of a niche gadget into something that is now widely accessible.
They’re easy to use and are capable of capturing amazing footage that otherwise would not be possible using a regular video camera or smartphone.
The market leader in the action cam world is undoubtedly Go-Pro, with other manufacturers seemingly trying to play catch up with latest Go-Pro device.
In fact, Go-Pro is so dominant that it’s name is well on the way to representing the whole of the action camera market, in the same way that ‘iPod’ came to represent portable MP3 players, as did ‘Hoover’ in the world of vacuum cleaners.
And whilst there is no denying Go-Pro’s quality, with that quality comes a price tag which is potentially a sticking point for some consumers. A top spec Go-Pro, complete with full range of extras is likely to cost you upwards to $200.
Recognising this, device manufacturers have flooded the market with more affordable gadgets to rival the mighty Go-Pro.
One such device is the Xiaomi Yi, which at around $65 retails for a fraction of the cost of Go-Pro and other entry level devices, despite its impressive specs.
After originally only being available in China, the Xiaomi Yi is starting to become available in other countries and can also be purchased online at sites like Gearbest.com, which is where we got the one pictured in this review.
Three things struck me when I first saw the Xiaomi Yi.
First, there is no screen on the of any kind on the device whatsoever. In order to take photos, video, or to adjust the settings you need to connect the device to its mobile app.
Secondly, unlike any other action camera I’ve come across, the Xiaomi Yi does not come with any additional accessories, such as a waterproof case, mount or even an SD card. Despite the price of the Xiaomi Yi I still found this a little surprising.
Finally, the third thing of note was that the instruction manual was all in Chinese, which actually didn’t end up being a problem because A) the Yi is so easy to use via its mobile app a lack of instructions wasn’t really an issue. B) I’m not really one to read instructions anyway!
All you get inside the box is the camera, battery, micro USB cable and Chinese instruction manual.
To use the camera you will need to download the accompanying mobile app. I was only able to test this on Android but if you search the Google Play Store for ‘Xiaomi Yi’ you should have no problem in finding it.
The app itself is very easy to use, so easy in fact that I had the camera up and running in just a couple of minutes.
The app uses the Yi’s built in Wi-Fi to connect to your phone. It is through the app that you then take photos and videos or change any of the camera’s settings. It also comes with a heap of handy tutorials and as I say, is very easy to use.
It wasn’t all good though, at times the app would disconnect from the camera or freeze between changing from video to photo mode.
For its price the Xiaomi Yi boasts some impressive specs, which means it is capable of capturing 1080p video at 30, 48 and 60 fps and can snap 16 megapixel photos.
By comparison, the Yi beats other entry level, yet more expensive devices such as the Polaroid Cube and GoPro Hero. In fact, the Yi beats just about anything else in its price range.
The Yi’s ability to capture what are good quality images for what is an entry level device is due to the Ambarella chip which is running the camera. Ambarella chips are also found in many of the camera on the DJI quadcopters, as well as in many more expensive action cameras.
The Yi also includes a 1010mAh battery, which full charged provided about 1.5 hours of recording.
Simplicity is very much the key feature in the design of the Xiaomi Yi. The benefits of this are that the Yi is very easy to work out and you can use it straight out the box in next to no time.
There are only three buttons on the device. Its power button, which you can also use to switch between photo and video is located on the front next to the lens. The shutter release is located on the top and remaining button the side of the device is to turn on the camera’s Wi-Fi.
A standard tripod mount is located on the bottom of the device.
Whilst the Yi is very easy to use, it certainly doesn’t feel all that solid or robust.
Its plastic casing feels flimsy, like if you drop it, it will almost certainly be game over. Also, the covers which protect the slots for the Micro SD card, HDMI and USB ports, located on the reverse of the device, as well as the one which covers the battery can be removed really easily, so easily that I feel I’d end up losing either of them before long.
Good: The Xiaomi Yi is very affordable and easy to use. It is capable of shooting excellent quality photos and video.
Bad: The Yi does not come with any extra accessories such as waterproof casing or mounts. It also does not even include an SD card.
Verdict: The Yi offers excellent value and is arguably one of the best entry level action cameras on the market today. With that being said, the don’t expect the Yi to put an end to the dominance of Go-Pro any time soon.
Sony Exmor R BSI CMOS 16 Million Pixel Sensor inside.
Ambarella A7 chip.
Support wireless connection mobile phone, WiFi Connectivity (Up to 100 Metres), easily transfer video and photos to your smartphone.
Support Micro SD Card(up to 64GB, need to buy separately) Recommend to use Class 10 for better experience.
Support Android Only.
Battery type: Removable
Charge Way : USB charge by PC
Working time: 80 minutes 1080 60fps
Decode Format: H.264
Video Format: MP4
Video Resolution : 1080P (1920 x 1080)
Video System: PAL, NTSC
Video Frame Rate: 30fps, 60fps
Image Format : JPEG
Audio System: Built-in microphone/speaker (AAC)
Weight: 0.050 kg
Size (L x W x H): 6 x 2.1 x 4.2 cm / 2.36 x 0.83 x 1.65 inches
Package Contents: 1 x Action Camera, 1 x Battery, 1 x USB Cable
Jonathan is our Google Nexus and Android enthusiast. He is also fanatical about football which makes it all the more strange that he should support Stockport County. In addition to writing about tech, Jonathan has a passion for fitness and nutrition and has previously written for one the UK’s leading watch and horology websites.