For the past couple generations, GoPro's Black model has been the one to buy because like the majority of top-of-the-line models, it had the best features and best performance and was markedly better than the step-down model, the Silver.
That's what makes the GoPro Hero4 Silver a bit of a head-scratcher. The Silver is still the step-down model, but has more than a little in common with its pricier linemate, the, as well as the , the company's previous top camera.
For $400, £289 or AU$549, the Hero4 Silver records video at up to 4K at 15fps, a more useful 2.7K resolution at 30fps, and perhaps most importantly 1080p at 60fps and 720p at 120fps. Those are what the Hero 3/3+ Black was capable of, too, but the Hero4 Silver is using updated components and has a host of new recording options found in the Hero4 Black, too.
By the way, GoPro is also leaving two older models, theand Hero3 White, in its line, and has the new $129 Hero as well, but none of them can touch the Silver's quality for the price.
The Hero4 Black still has the edge when it comes to resolutions, frame rates and bit rates, but the Silver has a built-in touchscreen -- a first for a GoPro camera. Having the screen not only makes framing up your shots easy, but it also means you don't have to rely on the small front screen for setting changes and you can view your results immediately on the camera. Just to be clear, it's not the only action cam with a screen, but it's nice that it's not just an add-on and that it doesn't make the camera any larger.
Considering all that it does and its generally excellent video quality for the category and that it's all topped off with a touchscreen, the Hero4 Silver earned our Editors' Choice Award. Still, there are some things to know before you buy.
Design and features
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.
GoPro kept the basic dimensions the same as the Hero3/3+, so if you have one of those, you can still use those housings as well. What you can't use are your old batteries.
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. The conspiracy theorist in me says GoPro did this to force you to buy new batteries at $20 a pop (£16, AU$34) and a new external charger (though Blue Nook already has its non-OEM Wasabi packs in production).
On the left is a removable easy-to-lose cover protecting Micro-HDMI and Mini-USB ports and a microSD slot supporting cards up to 64GB. The Mini USB port is used for charging and transferring content off your microSD card, but can also be used with an optional 3.5mm stereo mic cable so you can attach an external mic. Also, next to the touchscreen is the Hero port that lets you attach GoPro's Battery BacPac, though you'll be blocking the screen if you do.
The camera's button layout remains the same, but what was the Wi-Fi power button on the right side is now a "Hilight Tag." Going through hours of video looking for that one cool moment can be tedious. While recording with the Hero4, you hit the button immediately after that cool moment happens and it's tagged so you can find it fast later when viewing in GoPro's free mobile app or desktop Studio software. It's not the first, but it's a nice addition.
When not recording, the button accesses your settings menus. The menus on past models were a mess, but GoPro made things a bit easier by making everything sensitive to which mode you're in. That means if you're in video-capture mode and press the settings button, you'll only get the settings options for video.
Given that there are so many resolution, frame rate and other shooting options, this cuts down significantly on the menu hunting. Plus, now that you have to go into a separate settings mode to turn on Wi-Fi it means that it won't accidentally kick on in your bag and kill your battery.
The 1.5-inch touchscreen on back can be used for changing modes and settings, too. Just swipe in from the right and select your mode. Then swipe up from the bottom and change your mode settings.