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Polaroid XS100I Wi-Fi action camera review: Budget-friendly waterproof Wi-Fi action cam for families and kids

Lightweight and waterproof with Wi-Fi and a nice accessory package, the budget-friendly XS100i is just enough camera to make it worth checking out.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Senior Editor / Reviews

Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering laptops and the occasional action cam or drone and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.

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The Polaroid XS100i is more or less a commodity action cam. By that I mean that it's a fairly generic camera that's been branded with the Polaroid name and doesn't compete with the bigger names in the category.

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7.0

Polaroid XS100I Wi-Fi action camera

The Good

The Polaroid XS100i is an overall solid package for the money including built-in Wi-Fi and bike and helmet mounts as well as several other accessories. It has a standard tripod mount and is compact, lightweight, and waterproof without a housing.

The Bad

The battery is built in, so you can't swap it out when the battery runs out of juice. Curved lens makes underwater video soft. Any camera shake causes Jell-O effect. Two apps are required to use all wireless features and there's some delay with live preview that might prove frustrating.

The Bottom Line

As long as you respect its limitations and keep the camera steady, the Polaroid XS100i is a good easy-to-use budget-friendly option for dabbling in hands-free video.

There's nothing wrong with this really and, in this case, it works out to be a pretty nice deal for those who just want a decent POV camera to mess around with. The XS100i sells for less than $180 (£140), and for the money you get a small waterproof camera with a good feature set and an accessory package that's a microSD card shy of complete.

Like most things, though, you get what you pay for when it comes to action cams and if video quality is your main concern, you'll want to spend more money. Still, if you can live within its limitations, which mainly means avoiding camera shake as much as possible, the XS100i is a budget-friendly action cam worth considering.

Design and features

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Sarah Tew/CNET

One of the easiest ways for action cam makers to sweeten the deal is with accessories, and Polaroid comes through here. The camera has a standard 1/4-20 tripod mount (made of plastic, unfortunately) on the bottom, however the mounts that are included use a quick-connect clip system. The clip screws into the camera's tripod socket and then slides and locks into a mount. Included are horizontal and vertical ball-and-socket mounts for helmets (adhesive or vent) and handlebars.

It's the same system used for Monoprice's MHD action cam and iON's Air Pro models, so finding additional compatible mounts isn't too difficult, and, again, you can always use any mount that screws into the tripod socket, including GoPro mounts.

The bullet-shaped camera is reasonably compact measuring 4.3 inches long by 1.7 inches high by 1.7 inches wide (108 by 42 by 42.4 mm) and weighs 4.8 ounces (136 g). The plastic body is waterproof -- no housing necessary -- allowing you to dive down approximately 30 feet (10 meters), which means taking it in the sand and surf or snow or rain isn't an issue.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

A locking twist-off cap on back keeps water and dust from reaching the microSDHC slot (cards up to 32GB are supported) and Mini-HDMI and Mini-USB ports. (Well, as long as you keep the seals free of debris, anyway.) There's also a switch for recording in full HD or 720p.

What you won't find is access to the rechargeable battery: it's built-in. Battery life is rated at 2.5 hours, though that's likely at 720p at 30 frames per second and not 1080p, and definitely with the Wi-Fi shut off. In mixed use with occasional use of Wi-Fi I got about an hour and a half out of it, which is on par with similar models, so expect somewhere in between that and 2.5 hours for straight recording.

Using the camera is easy. For video, you can just slide the switch on top forward and after a couple seconds the camera will vibrate to signal it's recording (there's an LED indicator on top, too). Slide the switch back and again the camera vibrates to let you know you've stopped recording.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

There's also a power button/shutter release in front of the switch. You can long press that to turn on the camera, which allows the camera to start recording as soon as you slide the switch forward. A short press on the button takes a photo.

When you insert a microSD card and power it up, the camera stores small applications on the card (Windows and Mac) for changing settings. Connect the camera to a computer, launch the software, and you'll be able to pick the recording resolutions associated with the switch on the back of the camera as well as what photo resolution and mode you want to use.

You can also use the software to turn on and off the camera's auto orientation feature that automatically rotates your video 180 degrees if you start a recording with the camera upside down (it will not rotate in the middle of a recording, however).

The camera can record at 1080p or 720p, each at 30 frames per second; 720p at 60fps; and 960p at 30fps (aka tall HD). For photos, the camera can take single shots at 3-, 5-, and 16-megapixel resolutions (though the last one is interpolated). You can set the shutter release to take one still, a 10fps burst, or 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.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

With the XS100i's built-in Wi-Fi you can directly connect to an iOS or Android device and remotely control the camera, including changing settings, or view and download your recordings. Setup and use doesn't require you to be too tech-savvy, though you'll need to install two separate apps, one for control and the other for viewing files.

To use the Wi-Fi, you basically power it up, wait for the LED on back to start blinking, and then head to the wireless network settings on your device. The camera should appear as a network. Just select it, put in the default password, and it should connect. Open the app you want to use and you should be good to go.

The Remote app gives you a live preview of what the camera sees, but there is a delay so it might take some time if you're using it to tweak the camera's positioning. There's also a brief delay when you use the app to start and stop recordings or snap photos.

The File app basically lets you view and download whatever you've recorded to your microSDHC card. You'll be able to see both the full- and reduced-resolution versions of your videos and your photos. You can view and download them to your device straight from the camera and edit and upload from there.

Video quality

The XS100i's overall video quality is good. Again, if you want better, expect to pay $100 to $200 more. 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 or in complex scenes.

The 170-degree angle of view really lets you see your surroundings and although you get a fair amount of lens flare, it's pretty much expected -- and even desired by some -- for this camera category. Polaroid doesn't specify the fixed focus distance of the f2.8 aperture lens, but by my estimates it's around 40cm (1.3 feet) to infinity, so anything closer than that (such as the underwater clip in the video above) will appear out of focus.

The camera's 1080p30 video averaged a variable bitrate of about 15Mbps, which is above average for its class and can result in some sharp, fine details. (The curved lens makes underwater video look soft, though.) There is no electronic image stabilization, though, and with just a little bit of camera shake, video looks Jell-O-ey.

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. Don't judge it by the wind noise in the clips above, though: That's par for the course with these cameras and you're likely going to cover up the camera audio with music or narration anyway.

Conclusion

What's nice about the Polaroid XS100i is that it's a simple solution for basic action cam video. There's no housings or special mounts needed. It has just enough shooting options to grab nice-looking movie clips for online sharing. And it's easy to use and if you manage to lose it or break it while recording, you didn't spend a fortune on it.

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7.0

Polaroid XS100I Wi-Fi action camera

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Image quality 6