Hands on: GoPro Hero 6 Black review

Looking at the tiny GoPro Hero 6 Black, it’s nearly impossible to tell it apart from last year’s GoPro Hero 5 Black. Luckily, there are plenty of noteworthy differences on the inside.

The Hero 6 has GoPro’s first custom chipset, aptly named the GP1 processor, enabling 4K video at 60 frames per second (fps) and super-slow-motion video in Full HD at 240fps.

There’s also superior dynamic range, better low-light performance and improved image stabilization, while offloading your footage is now three times faster over a 5GHz Wi-Fi connection. It makes a difference.

We tested the GoPro Hero 6 Black out for a full day at GoPro’s ‘Extreme’ launch event, and we’ll upload more footage as we process it. Here’s what we think so far.

Design

The GoPro Hero 6 doesn’t look any different from the Hero 5, and that’s a good thing. This action camera is a discreet as ever with a very small front logo, on this otherwise black-on-dark-gray device. You can’t even see the logo when the camera is wearing its frame.

It’s compact too, extremely durable, and finally waterproof (down to 33ft or 10m) without the need for a housing.

It has a 2-inch touchscreen on the back that allows for replay video and photos, and it uses what seems like the world’s tiniest touch-based user interface. It comes with a sturdy plastic frame that allows for all sorts fun camera mounts.

The entire design is incredibly tight, snuggly fitting the microSD card right up against the user-swappable battery (confirmed to be the same battery as the Hero 5, which is nice for cross-compatibility). GoPro has packed a lot of camera into this old design, and we’re even more impressed with it here.

Video and photo quality

This is where the GoPro Hero 6 sets new benchmarks. We were able to shoot 4K video at 60fps, and dial the slow motion back to 120fps at a 2.7K resolution and 240fps at 1080p.

The GoPro Hero 6 Black is built for catching action incredibly fast.

Everyone else who wants to record video at a normal frame rate will benefit too. Hero 6 has beefed up image stabilization, which slightly crops footage to reduce shakiness. It’s noticeable, but don’t throw away your GoPro Karma Grip as software-based stabilization can only correct so much.

Low light has always been a GoPro shortcoming, but the Hero 6 also delivers improved dynamic range, giving it better image quality both indoors and out (and everything in between). All of this comes thanks to the GoPro Hero 6’s processor.

Interface and apps

The Hero 6 Black takes uncompromised video, but offloading that raw GoPro footage has increasingly been a pain due to large file sizes and older phones. The company is tackling this with a three-pronged approach

This new camera, and updated mobile operating systems like iOS 11, support a new video codec: High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). It can halve file sizes, and that’s going to save both your iPhone’s internal storage and camera-to-phone transfer time.

Second, transfer times were faster in our early testing, and that’s thanks to the fact that the Hero 6 utilizes the 5GHz wireless frequency, which can be three times faster than what we experienced on the Hero 5.

Third, QuikStories returns as a way to transfer and compile your footage into a automatic video collage. It adds video, photos, transitions and even music. The best part is it’s fully editable if you want to make changes.

Taking GoPro video isn’t the hard part. Transferring hours of 4K 60fps video and 240 fps super slow motion movies can feel like a chore.

The Hero 6 Black does a good job at chipping away at the tasks involved. But we still find offloading and editing action camera footage still takes practice and discipline. There’s a reason it has such a dedicated fan base.

There’s still more to be done though. Although it’s easy enough to switch the frame rate to 240fps stationary, it’s not nearly as simple when you’re speeding down a dirt path through the woods in the middle of a bike ride.

We’d rather have voice controls allow us to say “GoPro, record a slow motion video.” The GoPro Hero 6 supports voice commands, but it’s not part of the command list yet (just “GoPro, record a video” works).

Early verdict

GoPro Hero 6 Black is instantly the best action camera you can buy based on the specs. The big highlight is 4K at 60fps and super slow motion 240fps at 1080p footage in such a small, versatile action camera make it a cinematic marvel.

At $500 or £500, though, the Hero 6 Black is $100 or £100 more than its now price-reduced predecessor, the Hero 5 Black. And that’s before you factor in all of the mount accessories you can to buy.

Is slow motion video worth the extra money? No, not for most people. But everyone will be able to take advantage of the improved image stabilization, wider dynamic range and better low light performance. The faster transfer speeds and small file sizes are a good universal perk as well. That’s worth the step up in price, even if everything looks the same on the outside.

Article by Matt Swider from tech radar.