My son is 9, and like most kids his age he’s into YouTube. He likes to make his own videos and wanted a cheap GoPro camera. I found out quickly that there really is no such thing as a cheap GoPro. For the cheapest entry level version (like the Hero) you’re talking $130 – $150, and they go up into the hundreds fromm there. He also wanted it for Christmas, and there’s the whole “I don’t want a single present to be half of my Christmas” problem as well. So let the Google searching begin for a reasonably priced GoPro clone or alternative.
There are all kinds of cheap online gadget stores selling sketchy merchandise from China and other foreign lands. You never know what you’re going to get, or how long it’s going to take to get it. An HD camera is a little bit different from a phone case for $10. It has to be durable, easy to use and configure, and take good video.
I have been watching the Xiaomi company for some time. For last few years at least. Who is Xiaomi you ask? They are a Chinese electronics company, in fact you might call them the Apple of China. A few years back, within a single year, they became the #1 phone company in China (overtaking Apple). In fact they have their own hardcore cult base of fans (just like Apple). The clincher is – their products cost about half of what Apple’s do. A lot of tech blogs were talking about Xiaomi last year.
Xiaomi has been trying to expand into a lifestyle brand, and they not only sell iPad alternatives as well as phones, they also sell fitness bands and other products. Including headphones, a fitness band, an air purifier, portable chargers, and even flat screen TV’s with their built-in alternative to Apple TV. What else do they sell? A GoPro alternative called the “Yi”.
This is what the Xiaomi Yi looks like. There are two versions, white, and blue/green. I chose to show the blue/green because this is the one we purchased. It cost about $80 (free shipping with Prime – woot!).
So when I first found the Yi the first thing that impressed me was the price. It was under $100. I could feel way more comfortable about giving this to my 9 year old to fool around with. Next I checked the specs. It was 1080p and H.264, and had a wide angle lens and noise reduction. It had bluetooth with remote control via an app, as well as wifi connectivity. I really didn’t expect a camera this cheap to have all of those features. Next I perused the reviews, and it had nearly 4.5 stars on Amazon from hundreds of people. They say that the GoPro model with competing features is almost 2-3 times as much (meaning this has more than their entry level model).
Suffice to say we decided to order the camera. It had nice packaging no English instructions, but that really wasn’t a problem (for us). My son installed the Yi camera app on his Android tablet. It showed in seconds how to hold down the wifi button on the side to connect to the app as a remote control. He initially got great delight in running around the house with the camera as we watched the video on his tablet from the couch. We also figured out that the camera has both a video and camera mode with the simple press of a button. He liked the fact that he could just walk around the house snapping pictures as well.
So about what we didn’t know. We didn’t think about the fact that it had an micro SD card slot and no onboard storage. So we had to run to the store and get one because he wanted to use it that day (which was way more expensive than Amazon). We also didn’t think about the fact that to edit the video, he would have to take the microSD card out of the camera and connect it to the computer to download the video. The first time he did this, he jammed the micro SD card into the SD card slot of my computer (frying the card and wasting $20 instantly). I’m just letting you know so you can prepare in advance, it has nothing to do with the quality of the camera itself (which has been great).
So would we recommend the Xiami Yi as a cheap GoPro alternative? Yes we would, especially at this pricepoint. You Oumers 16 and 1 Xiaomi Yi Camera Accessories Kit. For $23 this thing had it all. You get a selfie stick, handlebar mounts, head mounts, chest mount, wrist mount, dashboard mount – you name it! Now my son can mount the camera or use it practically anywhere, which makes it 100x more usable.
The last thing I would recommend is getting your micro SD card on Amazon as well. You can get a 16GB micro SD Kingston card right now for like $5. We paid $21.99 for the same damn thing at CVS because we had to have it that day. I so wish we would’ve had some lying around the house.
Last, you might want to check out this YouTube video. It helps you get started in just about 5 minutes.
If you end up getting a Yi – let us know, we’d like to see your video!