Before you drop $300-$500 on a GoPro, consider this extremely capable competitor.
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Looking to strap an action-cam to your drone, dog, helmet or the like? The gold standard has long been the GoPro, but ye gods, the prices! The current models range from $300-$500. There are cheaper alternatives, of course, but most of them fall short in one or more key areas.
Enter the Xiaomi Yi, which I can't even begin to pronounce because I'm not fluent in Chinese. It debuted at this year's Mobile World Congress and quickly generated a lot of buzz. Because it looks like a GoPro and works like a GoPro, but, brother, it sure ain't priced like a GoPro.
Rather, it retails in the US for around $100. But for a limited time, and while supplies last, GeekBuying.com has the Xiaomi Yi action camera for $68.88 shipped. That's for the white model; the slightly jazzier yellow/teal version runs $10 more.
The Yi is unabashedly a GoPro knockoff, albeit one with a Sony image sensor and an Amabarella chipset like the one that powers the GoPro Hero3+ Silver.
It can capture 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second and single-shot or burst-mode 16-megapixel images. It features a microSDXC slot for storage and Micro-USB and Micro-HDMI ports. And it has Wi-Fi, which lets you link to the camera via an Android or iOS device to modify settings, live-stream video and so on.
OK, so how does it really compare to a GoPro? For that I'll turn you over to Joshua Goldman's expert review . He praised the camera's video quality and shooting options, but struggled a bit with the all-Chinese instructions and total lack of accessories.
Pay attention to the latter: The Yi comes without a mount, a memory card or any kind of housing. But scroll down a bit on the GeekBuying product page and you'll see a huge bundle of pretty much everything you need (and then some). All told, it brings your price to just under $150 -- still a steal compared with a GoPro, but perhaps not quite the impulse buy that the Yi is all by itself. And you can pick and choose the stuff you need; it's not all or nothing.
Right now I look upon GoPros kind of like I look upon iPads: wonderful devices, but wayyyy too expensive. Thankfully, there are more affordable options for folks who want the same end result and don't mind cutting a few corners to get there.
Bonus deal: If you have even the slightest interest in making music, grab Fiddlewax Firo for iPad while it's free. Regular price: $19.99(!). Formerly known as Fiddlewax Pro, this music sketchpad and MIDI controller lets you compose songs, create loops, record live audio and much more. From what I can tell there's a bit of learning curve, but anyone versed in music-making should have no trouble scaling it. (See what I did there?)