GoPro make the most well known action cameras, but there are plenty of imitators that promise many of the same features at a dramatically lower cost. For instance, the GoPro Hero5 boasts 4K video recording at 30 fps for £360, while the Tec.Bean 4K Sports Action Camera does the same thing at £50. It’s easy to see why these lesser-known brands have captured a decent share of the market, but do they offer the same experience as the real deal? Let’s answer that in our quick review.
Features & specifications
- 4K / 30fps, 1080p / 60fps, 720p / 90fps
- 16-megapixel photos
- 170-degree wide angle lens
- Video, photo, burst photo, time lapse, car mode
- WiFi and free app to control or review from Android or iOS
- Comes with 2 rechargeable 950mAh batteries
- Supports Class 10 Micro SD up to 64GB
- Water resistant up to 30 metres with included case
- 59 x 41 x 29 mm (approximately 2.3 x 1.6 x 1.1 inches)
- 58 grams (with battery installed)
Like its peers, the Tec.Bean is almost perfectly flat rectangular cuboid, about six centimetres wide, 4 centimetres tall and 3 centimetres deep. Space is at a premium here, so each side has at least one feature worth mentioning; let’s take a look.
The front of the camera has a power / mode button and the lens, which juts out less than a centimetre from the body, while the opposite side houses the 2-inch non-touch screen. The screen can be used as a viewfinder, indicates the current mode and battery percentage, and of course can be used to review footage as well.
The top face has an ‘OK’ / shutter button and an indicator light…
…while the right side has two directional buttons and a small speaker.
The left side has a Micro SD card slot, mini HDMI port and Micro USB charging port…
…and the bottom allows access to the battery compartment — you’ll need your fingernails for this.
Including all cases, mounts, clips and accessories, you get a decent pile of kit:
Phew. That about comes to the end of the design, so let’s begin our testing!
We used the Tec.Bean for one week, recording various activities indoors and outdoors. Here’s what we liked and didn’t like.
We love the fact that the Tec.Bean comes with basically every accessory that you’re likely to need, saving money and hassle down the road. When you consider that GoPros come with just a few basic cases and mounts, the cost savings really become apparent.
The video quality produced by the Tec.Bean is decent, with reasonable detail, although video stabilisation and audio quality could certainly be improved – you might consider investing in a separate microphone (which will need to be synced manually) if you wish to capture the full power of your motorcycle’s engine and exhaust, for instance.
Side by side you can certainly see the difference between GoPro-produced footage and that of the Tec.Bean, but unless you are producing professional recordings we doubt you will find it particularly lacking. It’s a similar story with the still image quality, which is fine for a cheap action camera, if a little lacking in detail and occasionally off in exposure.
Controlling the Tec.Bean from your phone makes it much more usable. You can see your footage more easily, both as it is recorded and after the fact, and it’s easier to control. Often you will need to mount the camera somewhere that you won’t be able to easily access the screen, so having the option to view the footage remotely really underscores the advantages of a modern digital camera. It’s also nice that there’s a shortcut to access the Wi-Fi mode: hold the up button for three seconds.
The waterproof exterior seemed to work well in our admittedly brief testing, surviving fifteen minutes completely submersed without issues.
The user interface of the Tec.Bean is usable, but not particularly intuitive. Having buttons on three different faces isn’t ideal; hopefully we will see a premium version of the Tec.Bean 4K with a touchscreen in the future.
Finding the app to use with the Tec.Bean is harder than it needs to be; it’s not found on the company’s official site or its Amazon description. It is in the manual however, so we’ll link it here: XDV on the Google Play Store and XDV on the iOS App Store.
The 4K shooting mode of the Tec.Bean is largely nominal; it does exist and it does produce 4K footage, but there’s no apparent extra level of detail compared to 1080p. We’d recommend sticking to 1080p / 60fps recording for most purposes.
Battery life was only average, reaching about one to two hours of shooting during our testing. The inclusion of a second battery removes the sting somewhat, but we still expected slightly better performance here.
There are plenty of cheap alternatives to the GoPro, and most of them are pretty similar in terms of design, software and bundled accessories. The Tec.Bean doesn’t do much to separate itself from the crowd, either positively or negatively. For that reason, I suggest you choose from the different brands based primarily on price, as long as your other alternatives can still shoot 4K video and come with the accessories that you want. Tec.Bean is a perfectly fine example, but not a must-have that escapes the genre.