Yi 360 VR Camera review

Yi’s 360 VR Camera shoots immersive 5K video at half the cost of GoPro’s Fusion

Slowly but surely, China-based Yi Technology has made its name known in the world of imaging technology. From action cameras that compete toe-to-toe with GoPros to in-home security cameras that give Nest and Canary a run for their money, the Xiaomi-backed company continually impresses with solid gear at an affordable price.

It should be no surprise then that its latest offering, the Yi 360 VR Camera, is a capable device that comes in at a much lower price than its competition. To see how well Yi’s GoPro Fusion competitor stacks up against its more talked-about counterpart, Yi sent us a pre-production unit to put it through its paces. Note: being this was a pre-production unit, not all features, capabilities, and bugs may be present in the final version, which officially launched November 13th, 2017.


Unlike GoPro, which opted for a more square design with its Fusion camera, Yi settled on a more rectangular shape. In fact, it’s overall shape and size reminds us quite a bit of the long-defunct Flip cameras that ruled the video world before smartphone cameras caught up. The build quality is about what we expected for the device. It feels substantial and despite being made of a rubberized plastic material, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart after a drop or two. In fact, during one of our test shots, the camera fell off the top of the car onto concrete and managed to escape with little more than a scratch.

The interface of the camera is surprisingly easy to use

Looking at the two faces of the camera, there’s no discernible difference. Both the front and the back — which is relative depending on how you’re holding the camera — features a 220-degree, f/2.0 lens, a microphone, and an LED light for status information.

The two sides of the camera do differ. One side features a single power button, while the other side has a cover that hides the battery, MicroSD slot, Micro HDMI port, and USB Type-C port. During our time with the camera, these ports seemed like the perfect combination. The only other port it could possibly have is an audio input, but considering this is oriented more towards consumers than professionals, the lack of a 3.5mm jack isn’t a dealbreaker.

The top of the camera surprises a bit with a pair of up/down buttons and an OLED screen used to navigate the shooting modes and settings. The interface of the camera is surprisingly easy to use, despite being so small and considerably simplified. While the buttons on the top are used to switch between the menu settings, pressing the power button on the side selects the options presented. On the bottom of the camera is a sole ¼”-20 tripod mount for almost unlimited mounting options.

Summed up, the design of the camera manages to find a solid balance between form and function. The screen all but disappears when the camera is off and the buttons —all three of them — are easy to access, yet manage to be all but invisible on the blacked-out device. Even when used without a smartphone, the camera still functions without a hitch.

Specs and Features

Inside the camera is where things get more interesting. Behind the two eight-element lenses are a pair of Sony Exmor IMX377 sensors — the same found inside Yi’s 4K+ action cam and Google’s Nexus 6P.

Processing the data coming from the pair of sensors is an Ambarella H2V95, an image processing chip designed specifically for 4K footage. Together, these components output full 360-degree video in 5.7K resolution at 30 frames per second. If you want to live-stream or share 360 video on the fly, the Yi 360 VR Camera includes in-camera stitching for 4K video at 30 frames per second.

A tough little 360 camera that punches well above its weight.

Keep in mind that while 5.7K resolution sounds impressive, this video is wrapped to create the immersive experience, so the overall pixel density isn’t nearly as high as standard flat video is. Regardless, it looks great when previewing it on mobile devices and when uploaded to Facebook or YouTube.

As with all cameras that don’t include a screen, connectivity is an important element. Yi tackles this by including 2.4GHz and 5Ghz WiFi connectivity, which made for incredibly fast transfers, even with full—resolution video. Bluetooth 4.2 is also included, but is reserved only for its optional Bluetooth remote that can be purchased separately.

Although the camera can be used as a standalone device, without the help of a smartphone, the experience truly comes to life when paired with a smartphone and Yi’s VR 360 application, available on both iOS and Android. Through the app, you’re given complete control over every function and setting the camera has to offer. Even with our preproduction review unit, we didn’t have any struggles connecting to either of the WiFi bands across a collection of iOS and Android devices and the video stream was always clear.

yi 360 vr camera review app
Gannon Burgett/Digital Trends

The app itself features a solid interface and overall smooth experience. When using live view, there are five viewing modes to choose from: Stretched View, Little Planet View, Round View, Panoramic View, and Dual VR View. Each of these modes warps the footage to give a different perspective of what’s being captured.

For the most part, we didn’t have any issues with the live view dropping out on us. The only exception is when we attempted to capture footage in a different from from where the camera was. But even then, it didn’t completely disconnect; it only stuttered here and there.

Compared to the GoPro Fusion, the Yi 360 VR Camera holds its own. It might not be waterproof or feature unique editing tools like Angel View, but it captures consistently quality footage at a far lower price point. GoPro prices its Fusion camera at $699, while Yi opts for a smaller $399 price tag.

Wrapping it up

Overall, the Yi 360 VR Camera is a tough little 360 camera that punches well above its weight in features and capabilities. Don’t expect professional-level VR content to work with, but so long as you have the computer power to edit the full-resolution footage, it’ll look more than good enough to produce impressive content.

Once again, Yi has proven GoPro isn’t alone in the world of action and VR cameras. And any competition is good competition for us consumers. Whether you’re looking to boost your home movie production with 360 content or are working with VR content production, the Yi 360 VR Camera is just what you need at a price point that won’t break the bank.


From the road to your wrist, see how Android has evolved over the past 10 years

Android started out as just a mobile operating system, but 10 years in it's pretty much everywhere. Check out our round-up of all the different Android variations that have cropped up so far, and what might be coming in the future.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.

These are the best action cameras money can buy

Action cameras are great tools for capturing videos of your everyday activities, whether it's a birthday party or the steepest slope you've ever descended on your snowboard. These are the best money can buy.

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…

Need gift ideas? Here’s what to get the skiers and snowboarders in your life

You can't purchase snow, but you can grab your favorite skier or snowboarder some sweet gear this holiday season. We've hand-picked some of the best available that'll wow even the most well-equipped terrain park junkie we know.

Oculus VR could upgrade the Rift with a new display in 2019

Oculus could be set to release a new version of its Rift headset in 2019, but it will be more of a modest upgrade than a true sequel. The Rift S, as its purportedly called, will have a new display, and inside-out tracking.

Google awarded patent for using eye tracking to detect expressions in VR

Google was awarded a patent that involves using eye tracking to infer facial expressions using machine learning in virtual reality. The tech could help make virtual reality a whole lot more immersive than it already is.

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR has surpassed expectations and along with it comes an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.
Virtual Reality

Prototype Valve VR headset leaked: HTC Vive challenger confirmed?

Leaked images revealed that a Valve VR headset is in development, even amid Valve's partnership with HTC for the HTC Vive. Sources confirmed the device, which may be bundled with a Half-Life VR game.
Virtual Reality

Is the Vive Pro better than the original Vive? Our answer might surprise you

HTC Vive vs. Vive Pro, which comes out on top? That's the subject of our latest comparison, which looks at everything from tracking solutions, to controllers, and the brand new headset that could set a new standard for VR.

The best HTC Vive games available today

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.

A Google patent shows a way to make VR even more immersive

Virtual reality can be a really immersive experience, but it does sometimes it does have boundaries. Google has addressed this problem by patenting shoes with a flexible region on the bottom.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.

Dive head first into the best experiences available now on the Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift brought back virtual reality and put a modern twist to it. Grab your Touch Controllers, put on your VR headset, and jump into the fun with some of the best Oculus Rift games available now.