In this article, I will compare two quite popular action cameras – YI and YI 2 4K manufactured as a part of a cooperation between two Chinese electronics companies – Xiaomi and YI Technology.
Now I know that comparing two totally differently purposed and priced cameras is not always fair, but there have been a lot of questions from readers.
We all now that YI2 is a better camera. It’s a fact.
The main question here, is YI 4K (YI2) good enough to be nearly three times more expensive than its predecessor Xiaomi YI? My mission here is to show all the features, similarities, and differences in photo, video and audio quality so that you can decide which one suits your needs and budget better.
Before we proceed, you should also read:
YI vs YI 4K specification
In the table below, you’ll see a head to head comparison of the technical specs of each action camera. Take a close look, and I’ll go through each difference in a moment.
Chipset difference A9SE vs A7LSUpdate 7/14/2017 – Specs table now includes comparison with newly released YI Lite and YI4K+.
The first hardware difference is in processor. A processor or a chipset is the brain of the camera. Its purpose is to process digital signals among plenty other things. Image captured through the sensor goes into a chip to be processed before you see it on your screen. This is an extremely simplified example, but that’s what basically happens.
While both cameras are based on Ambarella chips, YI2 comes with more advanced Ambarella A9SE opposed to A7LS found in YI1. The main advantage of YI4K processor is the capability to process higher-definition videos (maximum 4K) and support of an electronic image stabilization (EIS).
Image sensor IMX377 (12mp) vs IMX206 (16mp)
Staying loyal to hardware brands that work well became Xiaomi’s trademark. Like choosing Ambarella as a processor, both YI 4K and YI have Sony’s image sensors.
What might surprise you is that cheaper camera has more megapixels. That’s absolutely correct. YI is capable of capturing 16 megapixels images, whereas YI2 can go up to 12mp. I’ll talk about image quality difference in a moment, but for now, let’s focus on hardware.
It is a well-known fact that megapixels do not matter as much as most people think. So what’s the main difference between these two sensors? Long story short, unlike IMX206, IMX377 in combination with a chip is again able to record higher resolution videos, including 4K. Even though IMX206 has more megapixels than IMX377, this image sensor just does not have enough “power” to support anything more than 2K videos.
There is little information about the exact type of optics YI and YI2 use. According to YI Technology’s website, YI2 has 7 glass layered, whereas YI has 6 layered glass lens. Besides that, they have the same field of view thanks to wide 155° angle optics. Additionally, both have same fixed aperture F2.8 and a focal length of f=2.68mm.
Memory, battery and WiFi, and ports
First edition of YI is smaller and lighter compared to its successor YI 2 4K. The size of the YI is 60.4mm x 21.2mm x 42mm compared to 65 x 30 x 42 mm size of YI2. That means that YI2 is slightly lengthier and higher whereas they have the same width.
Weight might be a more important difference, especially for people who’ll use either of the two on their quad-copters and similar RC aircraft. YI is approximately 20 grams lighter compared to YI4K.
Memory, battery and WiFi, and ports
YI2 supports memory cards with up to 128GB of storage, whereas YI supports the maximum of 64GB micro sd cards. In order to record in 4K with YI2, you’ll have to buy at least 64GB card with 90mb/s speed, which is more costly compared to any class 10 card which will work with Xiaomi YI.
Battery performance if YI2 is better compared to YI. Both YI’s contain removable lithium-ion batteries. The difference is that YI 4K battery has a bigger capacity (1240 mAh compared to 1010mAh)
Both cameras have built in
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are two of the essential features of action cameras today. Fortunately, both cameras have built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. The difference is that YI4K now has a 5G besides 2.4G channel, so if your phone supports 5G, you can download files from YI App to YI 4K faster than with YI1. Also, the latency should be lower. Since my phone does not support 5G, I was unable to test that.
One advantage of YI over YI2 is that it has an HDMI port that allows you to directly preview footage from the camera to your TV via HDMI cable. Both cameras have the same micro USB port. This micro USB port is used for charging and connecting the camera to a PC.
What MicroSD card is compatible with the Xiaomi YI?
The manufacturer recommends using a memory card with a FAT32 format, class 10 or higher. If you visit their website, some of the highly recommended brands include Transcend, SanDisk, and Samsung among others.
Video quality YI VS YI2 4K
In terms of video recording, here are some samples from both cameras showing the difference in their quality.
Photo quality test Xiaomi YI vs YI2 4K
I already talked about image sensors difference in hardware part of the article. YI has a 16mp sensor whereas YI2 has 12mp one. Which means that natively YI creates higher resolution images. Besides that it means nothing.
In the next few examples, you can see the differences between photo quality among these two cameras. In my personal opinion, there is very little difference.
Let’s start with an outdoor test. In the two images below, you can compare the difference in sharpness and colors. While YI2 is sharper in long distance, YI has slightly more vibrant colors. The reason YI has slightly less sharp look in long distance is due to the adjusted focus by a manufacturer, which made this camera a little bit more close-up focused.
You can adjust focus manually by opening up the camera and turning the lens around, but I did not do that since I test the cameras the way I get them.
In the image above, you notice that in close up situations, there is no difference in sharpness. However in a bit more controlled lighting and setup, in my opinion, YI colors look a bit better.
As mentioned, in close up, there is no difference in image sharpness, as opposed to long-distance shoots where YI2 appears to be sharper due to better-adjusted lens focus.
While neither of the cameras can’t be proud of the audio quality (both aren’t able to be used in high-volume situations such as electronic music concerts since their microphones are too sensitive), in my tests YI 4K performed slightly better in terms of sound clearness and levels. This doesn’t mean any of the cameras have a bad microphone, it’s just that they can’t be used in loud conditions as they pick quite a lot of noise in such situations.
Design and built quality
It is said that the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, I do not think that works for greenish YI which looks like a toy compared to the YI4K. Both cameras have a simple design, but YI4K has fewer buttons and simply looks better.
While both cameras are quite well-built, I would have to give the advantage to first edition YI. There are a few reasons I believe YI is more durable, even though I haven’t done any crash tests.
First of all, YI2 has an LCD screen which makes it an easier target for breaking. Second, the plastic patterned edges on YI are better made compared to its successor. Third, YI2 is 90$, so if you break it, you can get another one, that has to be counted as an advantage as well, right?
User interface and navigation
If there was one feature that I knew YI 4K will blow YI away, even before I began comparing them, that feature had to UI and UX. User interface and experience are so much better on YI2 that it’s not even possible to compare two cameras.
YI2 has a beautiful 2.19″ touch-screen which allows you to quickly have access to settings, modes, preview videos with a few swipes of your finger. There is no screen for Xiaomi YI, that’s why in order to change settings, you have to turn on the WiFi, connect to the YI App and then change anything. Such a painful process compared to a few seconds to do the same thing on YI2.
So when it comes to simplicity of use and navigation, YI 2 4K is an absolute winner. Not only compared to this camera but compared to all of the cameras we tested till this date on Pevly.
Xiaomi YI Specs vs. Xiaomi YI 2 Specs: Summary
These cameras share only a few features like their wide-angle lens, built-in wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, time-lapse features, and a dash cam capability among others. The improvements made on the YI 2 action cam like the battery life, the dual-band wi-fi, memory card capacity and video modes among others are also worth noting.
The question is, are you willing to shell out a few dollars more for these tweaks? Well, if the YI 2 better suit your needs, then it could be a good investment.
Xiaomi YI Accessories
Note that YI cameras don’t fit in any of GoPro’s accessories. So, you really have to purchase a separate set for your camera. That said, check out some of these essential add-ons for your YI camera.
Xiaomi YI Waterproof Case
There’s a separate waterproof case for YI and YI 4K. Both are capable of protecting your camera up to a depth of 40 meters.
Xiaomi YI Action Camera Mounts
GoPro mounts don’t work on the YI camera too. However, there are several types of mounts available for your YI camera which includes a head mount, bike mount, pet mount, and helmet mount among others. These mounts are also compatible with the YI 4K.
Final Review on the Xiaomi YI Camera and Xiaomi YI2 4K Camera
To sum up, both YI and YI 4K are great cameras in their own way. I loved them both. Xiaomi YI was one of the first action cameras that shook the GoPro market by providing excellent value for the money. YI 4K did the same by outranking GoPro Hero 4 in the opinion of many.
So which one is better? While they are impossible to compare due to the huge price difference, I am aware many of you will ask me which one to buy.
So here goes. I’d recommend basic YI to newbies who are on a budget who want to have excellent video and photo quality and do not mind lack of LCD and quite frustrating user experience.
For advanced users or users who can’t afford to spend 250$, my recommendation is YI 4K. Not only does it record true 4K videos and has excellent video and photo quality, but it’s also the easiest action camera to use.
Where can you buy these cameras?
Here are some of the stores which I recommend :
I hope you found this brief comparison helpful and if you have any questions feel free to ask. Additionally, if you own any of the two cameras, let me know which one you prefer and why I’d like to hear back from you.
Xiaomi YI Reviews and Related Topics
Do not forget to read some of the related articles below to you with your Xiaomi products better:
Great comparison, however the prices of cameras are switched ; )
Keep the great work!
Hi, thanks so much for pointing that out, I switched the places, should be okay now 🙂 Thanks once again.
wow the difference in 1080p is huge (in the grass details for example) is it coming from a lower bitrate or from cheaper optics on the yi ?
yi(1) image is not that good, do you a recommendation for another camera in the same price range as yi(1) but wit better image quality ? thank you.
very disapointed by yi1 in 1080p, the Foxeer Legend 2 at the same price point seems to have way more detailed image in 1080p.
First, I Thank you for a Great Article…
An Excellent Comparison. It helps a lot who wish to buy any of these two Yi’s.
Everyone who intended to use these cameras obviously uses a Smartphone and switching settings usually can be made through smartphone.
Comparing the Versatility and Durability I found Yi is the best for my use since it does everything except 4K Video. Less Headache and Great Handling of Yi impressed me.
Will be buying one now…
Hi! Thanx for the comparison.
It’s hard to find reviews regarding still image quality of action cameras. The Yi 4K landscape photos look really nice. Would you say that camera delivers the best photo quality of all action cameras available at the time? How would you rank the cams you tested for still image quality?
Hi, Remo! I’d say the XiaoMi 4K delivers good still photos, considering the simplicity of its optical system and a small sensor. Surely delivers acceptable images, but it will also depend upon your themes and lighting. Generally it’s not quite possible to rank the cams in that respect, because it also heavily depends on the processing part, and each manufacturer devises their own processing algorithms so as to tweak the best result from what the hardware is capable of delivering.
Also, the FOV is not the same. That will dictate the DOF, which, in turn, determines sharpness of the near objects. So it’s safe to say that all cams are good for what these were made for, but less so for closer work, high speed (rolling shutter!) and/or low light situations. In all, the XiaoMi MiJia 4K is one good li’l cam, and so are the SJCAM Legend Air, also the ThiEYE T5e. If there’s one thing I’d like ALL the manufacturers to add to their next Firmware, it would be the option to dial one’s own noise-processing level. That’s because some de-noising routines are way too aggressive, affecting detail which I might want to retain.
Until that happens… use DNG to process to your taste, and enjoy the camera you have!
Hi Fil. Thanx for your inputs! My main goal are photos during action sports. So interval/timelapse and burst shots have to be possible. And it has to be a lightweight sturdy camera.
Maybe the Hero 5 black will be the right one. However, I don’t want to spend much more than $300. Hm…
Hi, Remo! Look up the SJCAM Legend Air before you invest serious money. Maybe you’ll find it satisfactory for what you have in mind. And it also has a protective casing with an extra USB port – good for adding an outer, more capacitive battery for longer footage.