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Thursday, April 6, 2017
Giroptic iO 360 camera review
Very easy to use
Direct Lightning connection
Facebook, YouTube, and Periscope live-streaming
iOS only (for now)
Limited to 1920 x 960 video
Battery not user-replaceable
As the still nascent 360-degree video segment continues to figure
itself out, 360 cameras tend to lean strongly toward one of two
extremes: The high-end models are often large, expensive, and
complicated, while those made to be more approachable all too often come
across as gimmicks. The new, $249 Giroptic iO
is perhaps the most approachable 360 cam currently available – at
least, for iOS users – yet it manages to avoid crossing over into
gimmick territory by focusing on its key strengths of portability, ease
of use, and effortless live-streaming.
Designed for speed and simplicity
The first thing you will notice about the Giroptic iO is how small it
is. It would easily fit in just about any pocket, although you’ll want
to be mindful of the bulbous dual-lens head that extends beyond the
width of the camera body (and your phone). Giroptic includes a hard
plastic case to keep the iO protected when it’s not attached to your
phone, and we recommend using it. A plastic sleeve with “legs” helps
secure the device to your phone and allows it to stand on edge with the
lens elevated when not connected.
This is the 360 cam we’ve been waiting for.
In absolute terms, the device weighs just 2.5 ounces, but it feels
surprisingly heavy – in a good way. The casing is made from aluminum and
it conveys the sense of a premium product, even if the legged plastic
sleeve makes it look like an abstraction of a panda wearing a blue
jacket. (Bearing resemblance to some sort of cute creature seems to be a
requisite of 360 cams, so as far as that goes, we’re certainly down
Beyond the adorable exterior, what impressed us most was the setup process: Essentially, there isn’t one. Taking a cue from the DXO One,
the iO has a Lightning connector built into it. It plugs directly into
an iPhone or iPad without any Wi-Fi or Bluetooth setup required. Users
will first need to download the free iO 360 app, but after that, it’s plug-and-play. When you connect the camera, it even launches the app automatically.
The first time we plugged in the iO, we were immediately prompted to
download the latest firmware update. We didn’t need to enter an email
address or register the device; with one tap on the screen, it just
worked. Within a minute or two, the iO had its new firmware and we were
ready to go.
On the iPhone 7 Plus that
served as our test machine, performance was very snappy. Dragging
across the screen to pan and tilt within the spherical video field is
smooth and responsive. There is a brief delay (around a quarter of a
second) between reality and what’s shown on the screen, but considering
this is 360-degree video being stitched in real time, we can’t complain.
Giroptic says the iO is compatible with iOS devices as far back as the iPhone 5S and iPad Mini 2, but we would expect performance to take a hit on those older devices.
If there’s one downside of the iO’s hardwired connection it’s that
you won’t be able to plug anything else into your phone while you’re
using it. That means no charging and, for iPhone 7 series owners, no
headphone monitoring. In practice, we don’t expect this to be a huge
issue given the iO’s intended use cases, but it’s something to be aware
One of the best consumer applications of immersive video tech that we’ve yet seen.
Users who put their iPhones inside a case may encounter an issue with
fit. Some cases may be too thick, making it impossible to connect the
accessory to the Lightning port – something we had to deal with when
using the DXO One. However, using Apple’s low-profile leather case with
our iPhone 7 Plus, we didn’t have this problem; we can’t say this will
be – excuse the pun –the case with every user.
The iO forms a symbiotic relationship with your iPhone, but
fortunately it won’t leech your phone’s power. Instead, a 915mAh
internal battery powers the camera for around an hour and twenty
minutes, based on our tests (the camera stopped responding after it hit
21-percent battery remaining). That’s not a ton of time, but it is
respectable given the ultra compact size of the device. Thanks to a
Micro USB port nestled beside the Lightning connector, you can also
recharge it on the go with a USB battery brick.
In what may be a cause of concern for some, we found the iO to get
very hot after extended periods of use. After 30 minutes, it was hot
enough that we didn’t want to touch it for too long – it wasn’t hot
enough to burn, but it certainly wasn’t comfortable. And while it’s not
powered by your phone, keep in mind that your phone’s battery will still
drain considerably faster when using the iO for long stretches of time,
just as it would if you were using the native camera app.
Share it as you see it
The iO is all about sharing experiences as they happen, with a level
of immersion that’s only possible with 360-degree video. While it will
shoot 360 video and stills straight to your phone’s camera roll
(complete with “little planet” and virtual reality modes), its real
strength lies in being able to live-stream to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter/Periscope. (Power users can even set it up for a custom streaming server).
Starting a live stream is about as basic as it gets. At the bottom of
the preview window, just above the record start/stop button, are three
options: Photo, Video, and Live. Swipe left for Photo mode or right for
Live mode. You can even go live over 4G, although you’ll want to make
sure you have a good connection. Working in an area of poor service, our
test stream to Facebook was cut short, and the few seconds that did
make it through were pixelated almost beyond recognition.
With a strong connection, however, the iO is an excellent camera for
live-streaming, perfectly suited to cover anything from a garage band
practice to a newsworthy event like a protest or parade. The camera’s
unobtrusive size also means you won’t draw as much attention to yourself
in public, unlike that guy running around with a Nokia Ozo.
The iO forms a symbiotic relationship with your iPhone.
However, the iO definitely won’t match the resolution of a high-end
camera, like the Ozo. In fact, with video captured at just 1,920 x 960
pixels, it also falls short of many consumer-oriented 360 cams.
Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear 360
shoots at a considerably higher resolution of 4,096 x 2,048 pixels,
although it is larger and likely to be more expensive than the iO. When
it comes to immersive video, having more resolution really makes a big
difference, since those pixels need to be spread out across 360 x 360
degrees. As such, the iO won’t produce the sharpest results. (Note:
Still photos are a bit better, at 3,840 x 1,920 pixels.)
That said, this shouldn’t be a huge issue. The iO’s bread and butter
is live-streaming, where video quality is limited by numerous factors
(such as the aforementioned signal strength). Even the new Gear 360
reverts to Full HD when live-streaming, not the full 4K that it’s
capable of. Furthermore, when viewing on a phone, we found the sharpness
to be just fine. It does get a bit soft around the stitching line, but
for a panda-shaped camera that fits in the palm of your hand, it really
does quite well.