- Bundled accessories
- Live streaming
- No Periscope support yet
4GEE Action Cam review: We test out EE’s GoPro rival, a rugged mountable camera that can live stream your adventures thanks to its built-in SIM support.
EE is breaking free of phones, tablets and TV boxes with an all-new mobile accessory, the 4GEE Action Cam. This dinky box-shaped camera may look like your average GoPro competitor but it boasts one break-out feature: the ability to stream direct from the device, thanks to its SIM card slot.
EE’s Action Cam is a hefty wee fella, definitely weighty enough so you won’t forget that it’s strapped to your helmet. At the same time, the camera won’t exactly snap your neck or impair you when you’re hurtling along a river/down a hillside.
The controls are nice and simple, which is handy when you just want to quickly select a mode and get going. Up top you’ll find a power button that also flicks through the various settings, plus a shutter/selection button.
Besides that, you have a micro USB port and micro SD memory card slot housed on the right edge (cards up to 64GB are supported), as well as a clip on the bottom to attach various mounts. The battery is removable via a flap on the back, which also hides the SIM card slot.
There’s no viewfinder on the EE Action Cam as it’s designed to be mounted on stuff and generally pointed in the direction you wish to film. However, you do get a little display up top which tells you how much power you have left, what shooting mode you’re in, how much signal you’ve got and so on. Cycling through the menus is pretty intuitive and we had the camera set up just the way we wanted, in a couple of minutes.
The lens itself doesn’t retract, but it feels solid enough to survive a pounding and you can strap the camera into one of two bundled cases to make it even more rugged.
Video quality and streaming
Recording is just a case of hitting the camera’s shutter button, tapping a button on the bundled watch or kicking it off via EE’s handy phone app. The camera connects to the watch or your phone via its own personal WiFi signal, which gives a decent enough range of control (around 30 to 40 metres, roughly).
If you’re simply recording straight to the camera’s memory card, you can jack up the quality to Full HD 1080p resolution. Full HD video looks nice and crisp and surprisingly steady, even when the camera’s mounted on your bonce and jerking all over the place.
If you want some serious smoothness, you’ll have to knock down the resolution to 720p for the 60 frames-per-second mode – or 480p if you want 120 frames-per-second. In 720p you still get a decent picture though, with all of the image stabilisation goodness you’d expect. There’s also a Timelapse mode, for those funky super-sped-up videos.
If you’re live streaming, you’ll have to make do with a maximum of 720p and 30 frames-per-second. Probably a good thing, if you don’t want the video stream to be choppy as hell and your data allowance to be wiped out in seconds.
Periscope fans beware, however: the Action Cam’s app only lets you stream via Skeegle, EE’s partnered video app, which connects to your Facebook account and then gives you the option of privately streaming to one or more friends. However, we found that the streaming service worked well in our tests, with a lag of around 10-15 seconds but an otherwise jitter-free stream – providing the camera has a good signal, of course.
The Action Cam is 4G compatible (of course, being an EE device) which is great news if your chosen slice of wilderness happens to be 4G-ified. The camera will smartly drop down to 3G if 4G isn’t available, but in the furthest outreaches of the UK you’re unlikely to get either, at least for now – which means you’re back to basic recording.
You’ll get around three hours of non-stop streaming per battery charge, so bear that in mind if you want to capture a whole marathon or some other lengthy session.
You can also snap 13-megapixel shots at any time, if fiddling with your phone isn’t really an option. Just point the camera at your subject and tap the shutter button.
The camera does a solid job of capturing landscapes, soaking up plenty of detail and reproducing colours realistically. However, it also struggles with glare and high contrast and you’re best off using the watch or your phone to check that your photos are coming out how you want, rather than blindly pointing and hoping for the best.
One of the best parts of the Action Cam is the accessories. In the box you get a chunky watch which can be used as a simple-yet-effective remote control and viewfinder, as well as two cases (one lightweight, one waterproof) and an adaptor that lets you connect the camera to GoPro mounts and accessories.
The waterproof casing is understandably boxy, which makes fiddling with the controls a little tougher and also muffles any sound. However, the case also kept our Action Cam perfectly safe and dry when we went white water rafting and we had no troubles with water droplets or condensation ruining the picture.
If you’re just skimming down a cliff on your bike, you can use the lightweight case to connect the Action Cam to a mount instead. The camera itself is hardy enough to take all kinds of knocks, so you won’t need to worry unless you headbutt a brick wall at about a hundred miles per hour. And then, the state of your Action Cam will probably be the last thing on your jellified mind anyway.
As for the watch, it’s a quick and handy way of lining up a shot, although the very low-res screen won’t give you much of an idea of the final picture quality. At first I struggled to pair the watch and the camera, until I realised that there was a separate option hidden away from the pairing menu on the camera. Thankfully once I finally got the two to talk with one another, I had no trouble with connections and there’s only a wee bit of lag.
The watch itself is also waterproof and very rugged, but it’s not exactly a fashion statement. You definitely won’t be rocking it on a night out.
If you want to stream your adventures live to adoring fans, the 4GEE Action Cam is a nifty solution that doesn’t need to be tethered to other devices. Footage is crisp and clear and operation is reassuringly simple (beyond initial pairing woes).
Of course, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for the streaming capabilities, but the bundled accessories make the Action Cam good value for money. Now all we need is support for a wide range of streaming services.