GoPro Hero5 Session review: GoPro's awesome cube camera begs to come along for the ride

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The Good The GoPro Hero5 Session is a big improvement in video and photo quality from the original Hero Session. Additions like voice control, electronic video stabilization and USB-C help justify the $100 price difference.

The Bad You'll have to connect to a phone or tablet to see what you're shooting. The built-in battery means that once the battery is drained, you'll have to stop to charge or connect to a power source to keep recording.

The Bottom Line The GoPro Hero5 Session brings top-notch features to an already great design.

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8.2 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

GoPro's Session camera got off to a rocky start.

The tiny cube-shaped shooter -- the smallest the company had ever made -- received praise for its design while simultaneously being bashed for middling video quality and too few features for too high a price. It wasn't until GoPro cut the price in half to $200, £200 or AU$300 that consumers were able to look past its shortcomings.

The original remains in the lineup as the company's entry-level model at that $200, but is joined by the improved Hero5 Session. It's still going to seem pricey to some at $300, AU$460 and £300, but at least now it has some higher-end features to back it up, including 4K-resolution video. That's excellent for such a tiny camera.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Before I dive into the features, you should know its design is essentially unchanged. If it weren't for the branding and a USB-C port for faster charging and transferring content, you couldn't easily tell them apart.

The smaller size forces some feature compromises, the worst of which, at least for me, is that there's no removable battery. Short battery life is one thing (it's about an hour and a half recording at 1080p at 60fps), but not being able to swap out for a fresh pack means you just might miss the best action of the day.

With limited room for controls, there's just a small screen and two buttons for changing settings on the camera and there's no screen for framing your shots. Its larger rectangular linemate, the Hero5 Black, gets you a removable/replaceable battery and a built-in touchscreen along with more shooting options including video faster frame rates and raw and wide-dynamic-range photos, a Micro-HDMI output and GPS for adding data overlays to your videos. If you want the best GoPro camera to date, the Hero5 Black is it.


One button press turns it on and sets it recording in seconds.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Simply fun

The Session, though, is just a lot of fun to use. Press the one big record button on top and it kicks on and starts recording. Press it again and it stops and turns itself off. Don't want to touch a button at all? GoPro added voice controls for starting and stopping recordings, snapping photos, changing modes and even tagging highlights in your clips.

Voice control always seems like one of those features no one really needs, but it works great for when you've mounted the camera out of reach, or you don't want to take off gloves to switch from recording video to a time-lapse, or maybe you just enjoy yelling commands at inanimate objects. The only time it fell short was in noisy environments like while I was biking around New York. The GoPro Remo waterproof voice-activated remote fixed this, making it possible to control the camera mounted on my helmet hands-free.