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GoPro Hero review: Stripped-down GoPro Hero still pumps out good video

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The Good The GoPro Hero offers very good video quality for the money, gets you into the large mount ecosystem and the integrated housing is waterproof to 131 feet (40 meters).

The Bad The camera is permanently in its polycarbonate housing; the battery is built-in; it doesn't have GoPro's port for adding a touchscreen or extra battery pack or Wi-Fi; very limited shooting options.

The Bottom Line Though the GoPro Hero is nearly devoid of features, this entry point for GoPro's lineup is just enough to get you started in the world of little, mountable cameras.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 7

For the past few years, while GoPro was dominating the upper end of the action cam market, it sort of neglected entry-level buyers who wanted the GoPro experience, losing them to other camera makers. That changes to some extent with the Hero.

Priced at a very reasonable $130, £100 or AU$169, it's a stripped-down version of the Hero3 White Edition, capable of recording at 1080p at 30fps, and 720p at 60fps.

It's not a great "bang-for-your-buck" camera with features that are a far cry from the Hero4 Black and Silver models or even the $200 step-up White model. But it is priced well given that it's waterproof with good video quality and with a wide variety of mounts available. If that covers your main needs, it's worth buying, especially if you're looking for an inexpensive way to do multi-camera shoots.

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Design and features

At first glance, the Hero looks like GoPro's other cameras weighing in at 111g (3.9 ounces) with its integrated housing. That's right, unlike GoPro's other cameras the Hero is permanently in its rugged housing. With its standard back panel, the housing is waterproof to 131 feet (40 meters) and there is a skeleton door that lets more sound reach the built-in mic.

However, since you can't pull the camera out entirely, if you damage the housing you're not easily swapping it for a new one. While it can certainly handle a lot of abuse, if you manage to scratch the lens glass, you're stuck.

The Hero has a microSDHC card slot supporting cards up to 32GB and a Mini-USB port. So what's missing? The Hero lacks a Micro-HDMI port and the GoPro accessory port. The former lets you playback directly from the camera to a display or HDTV, which isn't a huge loss.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Without the accessory port, though, there's no way to add Wi-Fi, an LCD or an extra battery with GoPro's BacPac modules. That means there's no way to preview your framing and, because the battery is built in, you have no simple way to extend battery life (you can power it off of the Mini-USB port, if necessary). Also, the Mini-USB doesn't support an external mic cable like the other models.

Shooting options are barebones, too. Video resolutions include 1080p at 30 frames per second and 720p at 60fps. There's also a 720p at 60fps with GoPro's SuperView feature, which basically takes 4:3 video and digitally stretches it at the sides so you get a taller 16:9 video. The 720p settings have GoPro's Auto Low Light feature that drops the shutter speed so your video isn't too dark when shooting in dim light.

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