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GoPro Hero6 Black review: the best action camera, with compromises

Matthew Field
The GoPro and app - GoPro

GoPro has had a pretty tough time of late. Despite shipping high-end products to rave reviews, the company has been mired by layoffs and has cut its drone division entirely.

But underneath it all, GoPro is still making arguably the best action cameras out there. It has long defined the category, and its products are routinely the most popular.

So its GoPro Hero6 Black looks to maintain the company's reputation. The Hero5 Black was its best action camera yet, but the Hero6 adds plenty of tweaks and improvements to its 4K model to keep those who demand the best in camera footage satisfied.

That said, it does come with a heft price tag attached. The Hero6 starts at £399, although you can find it for significantly less. So who should buy the Hero6 and is it worth the upgrade?

How to set up and use your GoPro

The beauty of GoPro is that the company has largely perfected what makes an easy user experience with an action camera. Much of the competition over complicate matters with their apps or uploading, but with the Hero6 you can go from box to shooting in no time.

At a glance | GoPro Hero 6 Black

Out of the box you get your GoPro and case mount, plus the battery. Just inserting a Sim card and pressing the record button will get you filming straight away, although you can also download the GoPro app to link it up to your smartphone for transferring videos.

This is a little easier said than done. To connect the GoPro to your smartphone you have to use its Wi-Fi connection, which can be a little erratic. I found it lost connection on several occasions and needed a reset and a firmware update before working more smoothly.

The GoPro Hero6 has a 2-inch touch display, from which you can access features like changing the frame rate or recording quality. Controlling the Hero6 is far easier than the competition, swiping the screen to bring up your recent shots or tapping various settings to make changes. There are lots of rival models now out there, from the likes of Chinese firm Yi or brands like Garmin and Sony, which can't quite compete on this level of usability.

Footage quality

The Hero6 really does capture some excellent footage and its years of refining the product mean GoPro still sits at the top of what you can expect from other models. Keeping a stable image while you are out on adventures is one of the Hero6's strong suits and there is little visible wobble when using the camera, although it is not perfect since the camera is so small.

The camera can shoot in 1080p at 240 frames per second, meaning you can get high quality super slo-motion footage. It can also shoot 4K at 60 frames per second, giving you detailed footage at four times the pixels of normal HD. However, the GoPro does shoot in the HVEC format, which can mean some older devices struggle to upload and process the footage.

GoPro Hero6 Black in use Credit: GoPro

There are some issues with the footage however. While it looks stunning in bright light the GoPro still struggles with low lighting conditions and glare. 

It does handle this better than previous models, and with some post-editing skill you can create excellent footage. Just don't expect the perfect shot every time when conditions get really challenging.

Durability and reliability

One of the best aspects of the Hero series is their rugged aspect. The GoPro is waterproof to a depth of 33 feet out of the box, meaning you don't need a case like other models. It also feels hardy and is solidly built.

However, on one occasion an issue I experienced is the sudden freezing of the GoPro, even under pretty moderate use. Several others who have used different GoPros told me they experienced similar reliability issues, which are only resolved when you remove the battery entirely.

This could be extremely frustrating if you've just hit a run skiiing or on your mountain bike, only to find your GoPro unresponsive.

The Hero6 is waterproof up to depths of 33 feet

Battery life

It's clearly feature packed, but in such a small package there is obviously a trade off. Battery life is not one of the GoPro's strong points. When recording in 4K or switching between different modes I found myself eating through the GoPro's juice in just a few hours.

With the Hero6 battery life maxes out at around two hours even with limited settings. This is pretty poor and means you will almost certainly have to carry a spare if you plan to go trekking for long periods without a power source. 

That said, other action cameras we have used have similar issues, if GoPro could really nail a more efficient battery it would be leagues ahead.

GoPro App

The GoPro app

The GoPro app has some handy features that let you connect your camera and immediately view and edit footage. Connecting via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi you also have some options to remotely control the camera. It is available on mobile or you can also get a desktop version for footage. The app on mobile also links to Quik, downloaded separately, to edit videos into short shareable clips.

There are some issues with the GoPro App, many of which have been pointed out by users. There are connectivity issues which I experienced, and having the Wi-Fi on on your GoPro can sap the battery life. It's by no means a terrible app (and it is one of the better action camera apps), but the user experience could still be cleaner.

Verdict

If you are after an action camera then your best option is almost certainly a GoPro. While it is, in my view, the best in its class, it does come with some compromises, such as poor battery life and hit-and-miss reliability and connectivity issues.

That said, you will also get hours of fantastic footage from the device. In terms of quality only the £250 Hero5 comes close to matching it, and it may yet be a better option if you are after something cheaper. In recent months the Hero6 has come as low as £295 on some stores, making it the better option for those willing to spend a little more.

Whichever you choose, if you want a great action camera GoPro is still the way to, well, go. 

Pros: Probably the best action camera out there, rugged package, waterproof, drop-proof (everything-proof)

Cons: Battery life is still terrible, stuggles in low light, pricey, frustrating connectivity issues

For a breakdown of the best action cameras read our in-depth review