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GoPro Hero3 Silver vs. Hero3+ Silver
on November 1, 2013
While looking at this new camera, I'm also going to focus on my comparison between the GoPro Hero3 Silver and the new Hero3+ Silver. What's different, how does it work on its own, is it worth an upgrade? Let's find out.
OUT OF THE BOX
First out is the camera, as it's nicely mounted in the glass container at the top of the box. It's already obvious the new housing for the Hero3+ is noticeably smaller and more compact than the older one. The housing buttons are larger and easier to press, but everything else was downsized. The latch no longer requires an extra tab to slide over, yet still feels very secure and tight when closed. The front covering over the lens has become simplified as there are no longer rivets or a large bezel adding to bulk.
There is some concern this could reduce durability, but short of throwing it into a wall, I'm going to just base this on look and feel. Which is to say it appear to be just a solid and durable as the old one. Otherwise the camera itself is identical in size to the old one, so everything is interchangeable. Extra batteries and cables will work just fine with both. You can check the product description to see what exactly is included, but it's just the basics. A few basic mounting brackets, stickers, mini-USB cable, etc. No charger is included.
After charging, the first step will be to supply a micro-sd card. I did run into an issue where my 32GB Sandisk Class 10 card wouldn't work. I just got an Error on the display. Despite manually cleaning and formatting the card to the specific exFat file system the camera required, it was never happy. At least not until I found the menu option within the camera itself to format the card for me (trash can icon). After that, it's been working great.
Speaking of the menu, going through the initial setup via the on-board controls is still as annoying as it was in the previous version. In other words, we have the same basic menu layout and 2 buttons to change menus and make your selections. If you've used them before, you're all set. If not, I do suggest going over the user's guide which has a menu layout that'll help you find what you want and avoid getting lost. As this camera has wireless functionality, it's usually best to get this part setup and use your smartphone to connect and make changes.
The GoPro Android app, which I'm using on 2 separate phones, worked great. I used my LG G2 and Note 2 so we could test them out separately. There was virtually no difference between the two, other than the additional video modes the Hero3+ added in the drop-down menus. The preview still has a 1-2 second delay, but more than enough as a basic view-finder. Once again, really no change on the software side of things. At least nothing cosmetic.
This is of course the important part. So for this test I've basically got them mounted side-by-side on the windshield of the car. Both phones were wirelessly connected to the android phones as well we could easily make identical changes on the fly. Testing was done in daylight and in multiple different video modes. You can check Amazon or GoPro's website to see an exact list of video mode changes going to the plus model, but the important ones are some things that have trickled down from the older Black Series.
This includes 1080p @ 60hz, 960p @ 60hz, and 720p @ 120hz which is basically double the frame-rate of older GoPro Silver. Whether I was taking advantage of the higher frame rate of the new model, the video quality was noticeable improved. The image was brighter, more vibrant, and seemed to have more detail than the older non-plus model. And once you take advantage of the higher FPS, action shots look considerably smoother.
The camera's megapixels have dropped from 11MP to 10MP, although I didn't notice any change in still photo quality. It's also not something I use all that much with the GoPro. Even though it of course has plenty of features such as burst shot mode.
While playing both videos back to back, it's very obvious there is an improvement in audio quality. We're using the same backing (with 2 openings) while it was in the car. With the older model, our voices and other audio were quiet and muffled. But with the plus, our voice was very clear and easy to understand. The audio was simply more crisp and detailed. Really a night and day difference.
+ More compact housing
+ Increased battery capacity
+ Improved High resolution video quality
+ Noticable audio quality improvement
+ Higher FPS video recording at all HD resolutions
+ Durable and Waterproof (in housing)
+ Wireless smartphone connectivity
+ Has most important features of older Black series
- Battery life could always be better
- Menu controls can still be confusing
- Slightly expensive
- Camera gets very warm
- Picky with SD card formatting
Overall there wasn't much to dislike about the new camera. Considering its intended purpose, I don't think you can really find anything better for the money. The GoPro Hero3+ Silver basically offers many of the improved video quality/FPS of the older Black series, for less money. And other than 4K recording of the new Black series, the Silver series fits into a nice "mid-range" providing everything most folks are looking for. All while making several minor but very welcome design improvements.
Bottom line, spend a little more for the new plus model and you won't be disappointed.
I've been meaning to update this review regarding the horizontal flip issue. Basically, when used up-side-down, the image would be flipped horizontally as well as vertically. Just a software glitch that took some time to get fixed. A software update from GoPro has resolved that issue and it works perfectly now. I've updated the review above and removed that particular section.
Otherwise the camera is still working great and no other significant changes since I wrote this review. Enjoy!