GoPro’s Hero10 Black Is a Smooth Beast With a Mean Streak

GoPro’s Hero10 Black Is a Smooth Beast With a Mean Streak
Photo: Andrew Couts/Gizmodo

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it — make it faster and better in every way you can.

That’s the tried-and-true philosophy GoPro took with its new Hero10 Black, which CEO Nick Woodman described to reporters on a recent call as a “beast” of an action camera packed into the same hefty black block.

At the core of the Hero10 Black is the company’s new GP2 SoC, which GoPro claims makes “everything faster and easier” compared to earlier Hero models. On top of that, the Hero10 Black boasts 5.3K video at 60 frames per second, 4K video at 120 FPS, 2.7K video at 240 FPS, video stills up to 19.6MP, and 23MP photos — all of which are a step up from what the Hero9 Black delivers while still using a 23.6MP sensor (but backed by better algorithms). Plus, the newest model offers improved image stabilisation with HyperSmooth 4.0, faster boot-up and shoot times, quicker video uploads to GoPro’s cloud backup service, and an all-new option to offload video directly to your phone or tablet using a USB-C or Lightning-to-USB-C cable.

While GoPro added a slew of tweaks to the Hero10 Black, it retained much of what made the Hero9 Black the best GoPro yet: specifically, a full-colour front-facing screen (now with smoother footage preview), a bigger 1720mAh battery (that also made the entire camera bigger), a 2.7-inch rear-facing touchscreen (with some added responsiveness this time around), TimeWarp 3.0 time-lapse shooting (same as last year), built-in mounts (GoPro, upsettingly, still calls them “fingers”), water-proofing to 33 feet, and hidden features to spare.

As someone who primarily uses GoPros by strapping them to motorcycles and dogs, the improved HyperSmooth image stabilisation is a key feature. And from what I can tell based on my limited tests, it’s clearly better than earlier iterations. On top of doing a better job cutting out the shakes and bumps with minimal cropping — GoPro’s presentation to reporters included a buttery clip shot from the back of what looked like a galloping golden retriever — it also has improved horizontal-levelling capabilities. Now, the company says, you can fix footage that’s off-kilter by up to 45 degrees — up from 27 degrees in HyperSmooth 3.0.

OK, now that we’ve run through the main highlights, I’m going to level with you: The Hero10 Black is just a GoPro — but it’s obviously better than your last GoPro. That’s it.

In addition to its top-level upgrades, the Hero10 Black promises a slew of other polishes that aim to satiate non-action users who rely on the original action cam: 1080p livestreaming with a 132-degree field-of-view and image stabilisation, 1080p webcam capabilities, better low-light image quality, and improved noise reduction. A ton of little nips and tucks that add up to a better camera overall.

While GoPro is doubling down on better image stabilisation and quality, it’s also going full-bore into the services category by making it as attractive as possible to tie yourself to the company’s ecosystem. This is done through a GoPro subscription, which gives you access to automatic cloud backups, “no-questions-asked” camera replacement, discounts on accessories, and editing tools through the company’s Quik app.

The Hero10 Black comes in a protective case that the company says is plastic-free, and it's definitely an upgrade from past generations of packaging that you simply threw in the trash. (Photo: Andrew Couts/Gizmodo) The Hero10 Black comes in a protective case that the company says is plastic-free, and it’s definitely an upgrade from past generations of packaging that you simply threw in the trash. (Photo: Andrew Couts/Gizmodo)

As with previous years, GoPro is making a hard sell for its subscription service, offering the Hero10 Black for $220 less than MSRP if you sign up for a year. (A standalone GoPro subscription is $69.99 a year without the purchase of a device.) As Woodman said on the call, “Unless you hate money and like burning it … the subscription pays for itself.”

That very well may be true — if you want to keep things simple and have cloud backups and editing tools at your disposal, it’s hard to argue with Woodman’s logic. But I’ll admit, anytime a company wants to wind its tentacles further around a product you ostensibly own, my hackles stand straight up: The other way to read Woodman’s pitch is, if you want to stay outside my company’s grip, it’s gonna cost ya.

Based on my limited time with the Hero10 Black so far, it’s worked as promised — and it’s noticeably faster and easier to use than either the Hero8 Black or the GoPro Max 360-degree camera, which were the last GoPros I spent any significant time with. You can go from camera-off to record in under a second. The front-facing screen is indispensable. Uploading footage is a no-brainer. And like any camera, it has benefits outside the technical bells and whistles: There’s just something about having a GoPro that makes you want to do fun shit.

Photo: Andrew Couts/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Photo: Andrew Couts/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Large, rear touchscreen remains a GoPro staple, but with some extra responsiveness this time around.

Photo: Andrew Couts/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Photo: Andrew Couts/Gizmodo, In-House Art

The in-body mounts, which GoPro introduced in the Hero8 Black, mean no more need for an external case.

I’ve primarily been testing out the Hero10 with it glued to my rickety go-kart (my latest backyard toy), and it’s made that frightening little fun machine even more exciting while offering better-looking footage than ever before. But with the many layers of refinements, I’ve still yet to put this formidable little camera through the full ringer. The smaller, tucked-in features are, I believe, sneakily important in the era of Always Online; while action cameras have long appealed to the “if something doesn’t have the chance of killing me, it’s not worth doing” crowd, the Hero10 Black, like its predecessors, positions itself as the do-anything camera, whether you’re jumping off a cliff, livestreaming an esports tournament, or simply slogging through another video meeting.

You can buy GoPro’s Hero10 Black starting today. It’ll cost you $599.95 if you sign up for a 1-year GoPro subscription or $819.94 without it. Choose wisely.