Looking to strap an action-cam to your drone, dog, helmet or the like? The gold standard has long been the GoPro, but ye gods, the prices! The current models range from $300-$500. There are cheaper alternatives, of course, but most of them fall short in one or more key areas.
Enter the Xiaomi Yi, which I can't even begin to pronounce because I'm not fluent in Chinese. It debuted at this year's Mobile World Congress and quickly generated a lot of buzz. Because it looks like a GoPro and works like a GoPro, but, brother, it sure ain't priced like a GoPro.
Rather, it retails in the US for around $100. But for a limited time, and while supplies last, GeekBuying.com has the Xiaomi Yi action camera for $68.88 shipped. That's for the white model; the slightly jazzier yellow/teal version runs $10 more.
The Yi is unabashedly a GoPro knockoff, albeit one with a Sony image sensor and an Amabarella chipset like the one that powers the GoPro Hero3+ Silver.
It can capture 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second and single-shot or burst-mode 16-megapixel images. It features a microSDXC slot for storage and Micro-USB and Micro-HDMI ports. And it has Wi-Fi, which lets you link to the camera via an Android or iOS device to modify settings, live-stream video and so on.
OK, so how does it really compare to a GoPro? For that I'll turn you over to. He praised the camera's video quality and shooting options, but struggled a bit with the all-Chinese instructions and total lack of accessories.
Pay attention to the latter: The Yi comes without a mount, a memory card or any kind of housing. But scroll down a bit on the GeekBuying product page and you'll see a huge bundle of pretty much everything you need (and then some). All told, it brings your price to just under $150 -- still a steal compared with a GoPro, but perhaps not quite the impulse buy that the Yi is all by itself. And you can pick and choose the stuff you need; it's not all or nothing.
Right now I look upon GoPros kind of like I look upon iPads: wonderful devices, but wayyyy too expensive. Thankfully, there are more affordable options for folks who want the same end result and don't mind cutting a few corners to get there.
Bonus deal: If you have even the slightest interest in making music, grab Fiddlewax Firo for iPad while it's free. Regular price: $19.99(!). Formerly known as Fiddlewax Pro, this music sketchpad and MIDI controller lets you compose songs, create loops, record live audio and much more. From what I can tell there's a bit of learning curve, but anyone versed in music-making should have no trouble scaling it. (See what I did there?)