GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition review: GoPro design, solid HD video

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The Good The GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition combines excellent HD video with recording options up to 1080p at 60fps and the same design as the company's other cameras so you have access to a large selection of accessories and mounts.

The Bad The $100 savings from the Black Edition costs you many shooting options and some video quality, particularly in low light. Battery life can be brief depending on the features you're using. Plan to buy accessories, including a microSD card.

The Bottom Line If you like GoPro's camera design and just want solid HD video, you might be able to save yourself $100 and get this instead of the $400 Black Edition.

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7.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

As the highest-end model in GoPro's camera lineup, the Hero3+ Black Edition gets all the attention. At $299, however, the Hero3+ Silver Edition is the one more people will consider buying.

After all, it is just one step down from the top; the cameras appear identical (a silver "3" on front is the only difference), and it's priced $100 less with at least part of that difference coming from the $80 Wi-Fi remote that comes with the Black Edition but not the Silver.

Plus, GoPro has positioned the Black Edition as professional grade, while the Silver is targeted at prosumers. For the most part, this means the Silver Edition doesn't have things like the Black's Protune mode for high-bit-rate video, advanced color settings, and 24 frames per second recording for professional video production. Stuff that I'm guessing many consumers don't need or won't use.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

However, at least part of the reason the Silver Edition can't do these things is because it has a different sensor and processor than does the Black Edition. So if you were expecting identical video quality between the two cameras, but fewer features and no Wi-Fi remote, that's not the case.

Video quality does take a hit because of the change. Color and exposure are still very good, and the camera adjusts smoothly when lighting conditions change -- at small screen sizes, clips look really good. (When watching the video above, keep in mind that video straight from the camera looks a bit better before it's been compressed and uploaded.)

But, there is definitely some detail loss compared to the Black Edition, and highlights seem to blow out more easily. Artifacts are more noticeable, too, especially when video is viewed at larger sizes. Low-light video is loaded with color noise and artifacts and is considerably softer than video shot in good lighting.

This is GoPro's midrange camera, so it's not surprising that the video is not as good as the Black Edition. It's also not surprising that video quality and shooting options aren't the only differences.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

As mentioned earlier, GoPro doesn't include its Wi-Fi remote with the Silver Edition. It does have Wi-Fi, however, which can be used with the Wi-Fi remote if you buy it later, or for connecting to mobile devices via the GoPro app for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8. The remote gives you the same menu interface, screen, and buttons that you'll find on the camera. It's fine for starting and stopping recordings or changing shooting modes but can be frustrating for changing settings. For that, you're better off connecting to the app.

The GoPro app gives you a live preview of your shot and there is only a one or two second delay between camera movement and what's on screen. The app also lets you start and stop recordings, change all of the camera's settings, and play and download clips from the camera onto your device. However, not all resolutions are supported for playback and download.

Wi-Fi does put a hurt on battery life, however. These are small cameras with small batteries that capture high-res video at fast frame rates. GoPro claims better battery life with the Hero3+ Silver Edition, and going by its engineering estimates, you can get up to 3 hours of battery life shooting at 1080p 30fps with Wi-Fi off. Using faster frame rates or activating the Wi-Fi will bite into that time. Also, Wi-Fi doesn't shut off when you turn the camera's power off. If you don't turn Wi-Fi off separately, it will continue to drain your battery.

Basically, if you're going out for extended shooting, you'll want to get extra batteries. At least it has a replaceable battery, unlike other action cams whose batteries are built-in. (By the way, the longest battery life I've seen is from the Drift Ghost-S with up to 3.5 hours recording at 1080p30, and its battery is replaceable, too.)