[Abstract] Given its position as GoPro’s mid-level action cam, you might think the GoPro Hero4 Silver is an underperformer like its predecessor, the Hero3+ Silver Edition. In fact, you could call the Hero4 Silver the Hero3+ Black Edition v2.0, as it is identical in almost every way, save for the welcome new touch screen round the back. The Hero4 Silver takes the Editors’ Choice crown from the now-discontinued Hero3+ Black Edition. It’s basically the same camera with an LCD for the same price. Just be warned that using the display reduces the Hero4 Silver’s already unimpressive battery life. Here is one of the reviews of this best action camera in 2016. Let’s enjoy the health technical life.
Humanized Design and Features
The GoPro Hero4 Silver looks and feels exactly the same as the Hero3+ Silver Edition, except for one crucial feature: For the first time ever, there’s a built-in 1.5-inch touch screen on the back (where the battery used to be), which helps you frame your shots and lets you review footage on the spot, rather than using the mobile app or waiting until you get to a computer. As a result of the touch screen’s location, the battery housing is now located on the bottom edge and the cell itself is slimmer than the chunky GoPro batteries of yore.
With the new built-in touch screen, you no longer need to contort or move yourself around to the camera’s front to change settings using the monochrome display (you still can if you want to, though, and it’ll save you some battery life). You swipe left to quickly select your desired capture modes, and swiping up offers the settings for that specific mode, which you navigate by scrolling and tapping.
For your money, you’ll get the camera, a waterproof housing that’s good down to 131 feet (40 meters), skeleton and touch back doors, two adhesive mounts (one flat and one curved), horizontal and vertical quick-release buckles that attach to the bottom of the camera’s housing and a three-way pivot arm, so you can mount the camera on the top, front, or side of a helmet.
A small locking plug (also included) can be used to help prevent the buckles from accidentally releasing from the mount from force or vibration. There is no charger in the box for the camera, just a Mini-USB cable for charging via computer or USB wall adapter if you have one. There is also no microSD card included for storage, so plan on getting at least one of those.
Easy to Handle
The Mode and Record/Capture buttons remain in their usual locations (on the front and on the top edge, respectively), but the Wi-Fi button previously found on the camera’s right side has been exchanged for a Settings button. This represents a minor, but useful improvement in GoPro’s menu system, as tapping the button will display your desired mode’s settings (such as resolution and frame rate) rather than requiring you to cycle through the mode menu first. It gives you much quicker access to your desired mode’s configuration.
If you prefer using the monochrome display and physical buttons to change settings, you can lock the touch screen by simply touching the display for about three seconds. Or, you can turn the touch screen off altogether by pressing the tiny button on the bottom left of the GoPro’s rear surface. GoPro did well to include an easily accessible On/Off button for the touch screen, as it does drain battery quite considerably (more on this below), and you probably won’t want to keep it on all the time.
Otherwise, the Hero4 Silver has the same dimensions—1.6 by 2.25 by 1.12 inches (HWD, with protruding lens)—as the previous Hero3 and Hero3+ series, with the same slimmer and lighter waterproof housing that was introduced with the Hero3+. The only cosmetic differences are the new black border around the monochrome display, and the LED indicator lights to the left of the screen, which have taken a new, narrow oblong shape. At 5.2 ounces with the housing, the Hero4 Silver is also slightly heavier than the Hero3+ Silver Edition, which weighs in at 4.8 ounces (also with housing), but the difference is negligible.
More Powerful Battery
The battery compartment was redesigned so that you just slide open a door on the bottom and load the pack into a slot. It makes swapping batteries out much easier, but it also required a new battery design.Unfortunately, GoPro’s battery life continue to disappoint, but most other action camera batteries aren’t great, either. The 1,160mAh pack isn’t quite as big as the Hero3+’s, but GoPro claims the Hero4 lasts about the same one hour and 40 minutes of recording time. And at least it’s removable, so you can carry a spare and exchange it on the go. Unsurprisingly, keeping the screen on had a detrimental effect on battery life in my tests. The camera lasted less than an hour while it was switched on and not recording.
High Perfect Performance
In testing, the Hero4 Silver was a huge improvement over the Hero3+ Silver Edition, which shot surprisingly blurry and jagged footage in the tests. Indeed, the Hero4 Silver is likely a rebranded Hero3+ Black Edition underneath the surface, as it employs a similar (if not identical) 12-megapixel sensor. And it records in the same resolutions, including 4K at 15 fps; 2.7K at 30 and 24 fps; 1440p at 48, 30, and 24 fps; 1080p at 60, 48, 30, and 24 fps; 960p at 100 and 60 fps; and 720p at 120, 60, and 30 fps.
Support 4K Video
You also get Superview options for 1080p and 720p resolutions, which dynamically stretch the default aspect ratio to a full 16:9. That means you can get more details into your footage, but at the cost of some added distortion around the edges. You even get Protune, which records raw footage without GoPro’s automatic color, brightness, and contrast adjustments, as well as Low Light options, which adjusts the camera’s settings to shoot better footage in low-light situations. All of these features were flagship, Black-Edition exclusives in the Hero3 and Hero3+ series, so it’s nice to see them here. Interestingly, the 17:9 aspect ratio option we saw in the Hero3+ Black Edition for 4K and 2.7K resolutions is no more, likely because it’s rarely needed.
Perceivable video quality is also similar, if not identical, to the Hero3+ Black Edition—which means footage looks sharper and clearer than any action camera we’ve reviewed to date, with only iON’s Air Pro 3 to rival it.
Extremely Photo Quality
Still photo quality remains extremely, even when compared against other action cameras, details appear crisp and sharp. But once you try zooming in to objects further than a dozen feet away, the image becomes blurry. However, the Hero4 Silver has a new shooting mode that records video as well as still photos in five, 10, 30, and 60-second intervals. Additionally, the new Hero4 Silver has a Night setting for taking better still pictures in low light. This option did improve low-light test shots by brightening up some darker areas in our dark room, but there’s still some noticeable graininess, and unless you use a tripod, photos won’t come out sharp at all.
Conclusion: the Best Action Camera
The Hero4 Silver is excellent all around, and should fulfill every criterion if you’re in the market for an action camera. The touch screen makes it easier to frame your shots and review your footage, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s a battery drain.
The Hero4 Black appears to have a similar 12MP sensor, which could mean that it records identical quality 1080p footage as the Silver. But the Black can record 4K resolution footage at 30fps, which will make the 4K option actually worth using, and you’ll be able to record 2.7K footage up to 50fps, too. But, again, not many of us have (or can afford) TVs capable of more than 1080p, so there may not be much value there for those of us without UHD TVs capable of playing 4K media. For now, at least, the Hero4 Silver is the best action camera we’ve tested to date, and our Editors’ Choice.
Why did I suggest the Hero 4 Silver over the Hero 4 Black and the Hero 3+ Black? Three reasons:
- The Hero 4 Black does not come with an LCD (because of heat issues from 4k they could not put on an LCD).So really if you bought an LCD BacPac for the Black edition, it would cost you more.
- The two models BOTH have improved sharpness compared to the Hero3+ Black.This video compares the sharpness of the Hero3+ Black, to the Hero4 Silver, and the Hero4 Black:
As you can see the sharpness between the Hero 4 Black and the Silver is the SAME. They both have the same upgraded sensor/lens and it’s definitely improved over the 3+ Black.
- At 2.7k 30 FPS, the Black only lasts 1 hour and 10 minutes while the Silver lasts 1 hour and 50 minutes!! This is the SAME resolution. Why? Because the Black has a more powerful processor to handle the 4k, and this causes it to eat up more battery regardless of the frame rate.