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iON Air Pro 2 Wi-Fi review: Good design and features for price

In an action cam market flooded with options, iON packed a lot of camera into the waterproof Air Pro 2.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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7 min read

Despite the large number of action cams on the market, many of them aren't waterproof without a housing. Some of them can't even be mounted without some sort of casing.

Ion_Air_Pro_2_03_35567000.jpg
8.0

iON Air Pro 2 Wi-Fi

The Good

The <b>iON Air Pro 2</b> is a simple-to-operate 1080p action cam that's waterproof without needing a housing; has very good video quality and battery life; and a nice feature set and accessory options for easily adding Wi-Fi, an extra battery, or wireless remote control.

The Bad

The camera's audio quality isn't great (though there is an external mic jack if needed); only one adhesive helmet mount is included; and its Android app is currently a work in progress.

The Bottom Line

One of the better action cam options available, the iON Air Pro 2 improves on the original, while still offering a good value.

The iON Air Pro 2, however, is both mountable and waterproof without a housing. It's also very compact and lighter than much of the competition. And thanks to a unique expansion system, accessories can be added to the camera to meet different needs.

Video quality is very good, too, and although I have a few issues with it, none are deal breakers for me. Basically, the Air Pro 2's design bests a lot of the its competitors and in general is a pretty solid little action camera at a reasonable price.

In the box

Sarah Tew/CNET
When you first open the Air Pro 2's tin of included accessories, it feels like you're getting a lot of stuff. In reality, you're getting just enough to get you started, assuming you want to attach it to a helmet.

What you'll find is a Micro-USB cable and wall adapter for charging with several adapters for different types of electrical outlets; a helmet mount with a single adhesive pad; a quick-connect clip and safety string for use with the mount; a mini tripod; a storage pouch; and a cap for covering the camera's back when you don't want or need Wi-Fi and full waterproofing. The cap also has an opening to use the camera's external mic jack.

No microSD card is included (it supports up to 32GB), so you'll have to get one of those before you start recording. And it would've been nice to include a strap for vented helmets and not just an adhesive pad, but I guess you can't have everything. One extra that you will find is 8GB of cloud storage space powered by MiMedia that you can use for backup or sharing your clips and photos online (though, really, that's only 1GB more than you get from MiMedia for free anyway).

Design and features
The iON Air Pro 2 doesn't look any different than the first Air Pro. It's still a compact, lightweight bullet-shaped fully waterproof HD camcorder that starts recording with a simple slide of a switch. Without any additional housing you can dive down 30 feet underwater.

Inside the camera is a new image sensor bumping the Air Pro's still resolution from 5 to 14 megapixels, and an updated lens on front expands the camera's field of view up to 180 degrees. The lens is still fixed in one position, though, so if you need to mount a camera at an odd angle, you might want to go with one of Contour's cameras or the Drift HD Ghost, which have rotating lenses.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The big sliding switch makes stopping and starting recordings easy. If you prefer to turn on a camera first before it starts recording, you can do that with the large button in front of the switch. The power button doubles as a shutter release for pictures. Regardless, whenever you start and stop a recording, take a photo, or turn it on and off, the camera vibrates a little -- very handy when mounted on a helmet.

On the bottom you'll find a standard tripod mount, which means you've got a lot of mounting options available to you. However, iON also includes its quick-connect CamLock mount that allows you to snap the camera securely into a variety of mounts. It just so happens to be the same system Monoprice uses for its MHD action cam, so you can also use its mounts with this camera.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One of the big standout features of the Air Pro is its Podz system, which consists of exchangeable caps on the back of the camera for different functions. In the case of the $299 version of the Air Pro 2 I tested, it came with the Wi-Fi Podz, which allows you to wirelessly connect the camera to a computer or smartphone or tablet. (If you don't think you want the Wi-Fi Podz right off, you can save yourself $50 and get just the camera with the standard back cap. If you decide you want it later, though, it's only available as part of iON's $99 Connect kit, which also includes a battery booster for charging up your battery when it's running low.)

Along with the Wi-Fi Podz, there's a wireless remote one that can control up to eight cameras from up to 60 feet away. A battery Podz is also planned, which will extend the camera's two-hour battery life.

Removing the Podz gets you access to a Micro-USB port for charging and transferring photos and video to a computer; a mic input that lets you improve audio quality by adding an external mic; a microSD card slot; a Mini-HDMI port; and a switch for quickly changing between recording resolutions.

The camera can record at 1080p or 720p, each at 30 frames per second; 720p at 60fps; and 960p at 30fps. For photos, the camera can take single shots at 3-, 5-, 14-, and 16-megapixel resolutions (though the last one is interpolated) and a 10-shot burst at 5 megapixels. You can also take time-lapse photos at 5, 10, 30, and 60 seconds. Also, the camera stores two versions of your movies: one at full resolution and another at a reduced resolution to make uploading and sharing online faster and easier.

A small application for Windows (a Mac version is available for download from iON's site) is stored on your microSD card (cards of up to 32GB are supported) when inserted in the camera. Launch it when the camera is turned on and connected to a computer and you can make changes to the camera's video and photo settings. In the software you can also turn on and off the camera's auto orientation feature. This will automatically rotate your video 180 degrees if you start a recording with the camera upside down.

These settings can also be changed using the iON iOS and Android apps when the camera is wirelessly connected to a smartphone or tablet.

Wi-Fi and apps
Connecting to the Wi-Fi Podz is pretty straightforward: turn on the device and the Wi-Fi Podz, go to the Wi-Fi settings on your smartphone or tablet, select the Podz as your network, put in a password, and you're done. There are apps available for iOS and Android and with them you can view battery level (important since there's no battery indicator on the camera itself), change settings on the device, view and download recordings or photos, and remotely start and stop recordings as well as get a live view before you start recording so you can set up your shot.

The iOS app works very well. The Android app, on the other hand, is a bit of a work in progress. It was originally developed more than a year ago, so if you have an older device with a pre-Jelly Bean version of Android, it might work fine. But, an iON representative said that because of the multiple variations of the Android OS, getting the app to work across a wide spectrum of smartphones is a challenge for iON and all app developers. It continues to update the app regularly and a recent update has it working on devices with Android 4.0.3 or above.

If you can't get the Android app fully working, there is a bit of a workaround using the Web browser on your smartphone or tablet. Once you've created the wireless connection between the camera and device, you can open your device's browser and enter 192.168.1.2 or wifi.podz. That will give you access to your recordings as well as a live stream of what the camera is seeing. You can't start a recording with it, but at least you'll be able to see if your shot is framed right.

Lastly, the Wi-Fi Podz puts a serious dent in your battery life (which probably why iON pairs it with a battery booster when sold separately). You'll want to use the Wi-Fi sparingly and use the standard Podz cap whenever possible.

Video quality

Colors are bright and pleasing and changes in exposure are handled smoothly and relatively quickly. Like most of the category, video is best viewed at small sizes, especially if you're sitting close to your display. Viewed at larger sizes, you'll want to distance yourself from the screen or you'll be able to see plenty of artifacts, particularly in video shot traveling at high speeds. The camera's 1080p30 video averaged about 12Mbps, which is on the bottom end of midrange for action cams.

There is no electronic image stabilization. With lots of shake, video looks a bit Jello-y, which is typical for the category, but it's not too bad. Low-light videos are noisy and soft, so you'll want to have as much light as possible when recording.

The camera does have a built-in mic, but the audio quality isn't great. Everything sounds a bit muffled mixed with some compression artifacts, which is usually the case with cameras that are fully waterproof without a housing (you can hear some sample audio at the very end of the video clip above). The fact is you'll probably put music with all your action videos anyway, and for those times when you need really good audio there's the jack for connecting an external mic.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Photo quality is good, especially if you're just looking to throw some action shots into your videos. They're nothing you'd probably want to make poster-size prints with, but for sharing on Facebook and Twitter or, again, slipping into your movie clips, they're fine.

Conclusion
The iON Air Pro 2 Wi-Fi is one of the better action cam options available. Video quality could always be improved and, if you need the best in the category, you'll have to go with the pricier highest-end GoPro. The Air Pro 2's advantages are in its simple operation, its waterproof body without a housing, and accessory options. Considering all that it can do, it's well priced, too.

Ion_Air_Pro_2_03_35567000.jpg
8.0

iON Air Pro 2 Wi-Fi

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8Image quality 7
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