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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Ion Air Pro WiFi review:

Ion Air Pro WiFi

The Wi-Fi Podz adds ad-hoc Wi-Fi connectivity to the Ion Air Pro camera allowing users to interface with the Ion Air Pro via an iOS app for iPhone. The app allows users to view the video files stored on the microSD card, download those files to the iOS device, and share the photos and videos to social networks, such as Facebook. There's also a remote feature that lets the user view a live stream of what the camera sees with the iOS device's screen. From there, users can also trigger and stop recordings and adjust many of the camera's settings from the app.

Don't have an iOS device? The Ion Air Pro Wi-Fi's Wi-Fi Podz will also connect to a PC, Mac, or any other Wi-Fi-enabled device with a browser. Simply make the ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection and go to "wifi.podz" in your browser to access the files stored on the SD card and view a live stream from the Ion Air Pro. This browser-based interface doesn't give users remote-control functions or access to settings beyond changing the camera's SSID and password. The browser interface is a good function for a quick check before formatting the camera's card or double checking that the camera is aimed correctly before recording.

With the standard battery, using the W-Fi Podz will reduce the Ion Air Pro's battery life to an estimated 1 hour. Fortunately, the Podz can be turned on and off with the touch of a button. Ion camera is planning to release other PODZ in the future that add additional functions to the Ion Air Pro camera, such as an extended battery pack.

In sum

The Ion Air Pro Wi-Fi is a worthy third addition to what was just a two-player battle between GoPro and Contour cameras. Combining the ruggedness and water resistance of GoPro with a bit of the user-friendliness of the Contours, the Ion Air Pro slots right in the middle of this brawl. However, the GoPro is still the most customizable and rugged camera in the group and the Contour still manages to be more flexible and user friendly. Additionally, most of Contour's cameras also feature GPS tagging and tracking (the exception being the entry-level ContourRoam).

However, the Ion Air Pro isn't without its own charms. The ability to quickly snap a photo without having to stop recording or switch modes is a great addition to the standard action-camera feature set. So is the camera's ability to simultaneously record a WVGA thumbnail video for quick sharing and previewing on the go.

Ion Air Pro WiFi
Available wireless connectivity and well integrated still photography modes elevate the Ion Air Pro's profile. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Speaking of "on the go," the Wi-Fi Podz that comes as part of the Ion Air Pro Wi-Fi kit places the Ion camera's abilities on par with (and a bit beyond) that of the Contour+ or the Contour GPS with the Connect View card addition. However, by using Wi-Fi, Ion gains the advantages of range and bandwidth over the Contour's Bluetooth connection. Additionally, the built-in browser-based interface adds a level of universality to the camera's interface.

Finally, the Ion Air Pro kits have an advantage in the pricing department...sort of. Compared with the top-of-the-line Contour+, the Ion Air Pro Wi-Fi kit ($349) represents a savings of about $150. Granted, the Contour+ is probably a slightly superior camera where video quality is concerned, but it's not submersible and isn't more ruggedly constructed than Ion's camera. (The battered condition of our long-term loaner Contour+ should be an indicator of that. I'm not sure that I'd want to spend that much extra money on something that's likely to end up smashed.

If you don't care about Wi-Fi or apps, the Ion Air Pro Plus is probably the best point of entry. This kit includes the Ion Air Pro camera, the Cam-Lock mounting system, a selection of mounting accessories (including adhesive mounts, straps, and a bicycle handlebar mount) for $289. That's comparable to the GoPro HD Hero2 Outdoor kit for a $10 savings. The GoPro's on-device interface and extremely rugged construction makes it one of our favorites, but in many ways the Ion Air Pro is its match. Likewise, GoPro offers a BackPac system that is similar to Ion's Podz system. GoPro's established ecosystem of accessories gives it the edge for now.

Finally, at the entry level is the Ion Air Pro basic kit, which is a bare-bones kit that just includes the camera, a mini tripod, and an international charger for $229. That's $30 more than the $199 ContourRoam (itself a very basic waterproof camera that ships with very few mounting options), but the Ion is head and shoulders a much more fully featured camera.

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