GoPro’s Hero4 Session was just released a few days ago, and already iFixit has torn it apart to see what makes it tick. Let’s just say don’t break the camera because if you do, you might as well just scrap it because it’s nearly impossible to fix. The Hero4 Session scored a one out of ten—the worst possible score.
GoPro a tiny camera
It shouldn’t come as a shock that the GoPro Hero4 Session scored so poorly because it is the company’s smallest camera. It’s also quite pricey at $400, although it isn’t the most expensive camera in GoPro’s lineup. One thing it does have going for it is that it’s waterproof, which is good because it means users can strap it on even when in the water.
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The Hero4 Session is apparently much more difficult to repair to than the Hero3, according to iFixit, which rated the Hero3 at seven. The iFixit team compared the two models and learned that the ports on them are almost identical, although the Hero3 hides the ports under a pop-out door, which they said they lost, while the Session uses a hinged water-sealed door.
The volume of both cameras is about the same at a little over 50 cubic centimeters. Of course that finding is interesting since the Hero4 Session is billed as being smaller, but the iFixit team gives this one to GoPro by saying that the waterproofing enables users to “ditch the bulky case, which more than triples the volume of traditional GoPros.”
What iFixit found in GoPro’s Hero4 Session
Upon taking apart the Hero4 Session, they discovered that the manufacturers did not take the traditional route of gluing everything in, which is common with their first attempts at making a waterproof device. Often this results in a lack of a “non-destructive means of entry,” but apparently not in the Session’s case.
The iFixit team thinks the piece that’s the most likely to break is the glass lens cover, but it’s also the easiest piece to replace. Also GoPro sells a kit to replace the lens cover, which is definitely a plus.
Interestingly, when they took the first set of screws out, they were not inside the camera. After attempting to pry their way in, they had to use a “hot iOPener” to soften the adhesive on the rubber cover and then cut and peel off the adhesive. The shutter is integrated into the cover, and then there’s a clear plastic cube inside with “exciting innards” that’s completely sealed with no clips or screws. So they break out the flush cutters to get inside.
Finally they got one part of the case out, but iFixit described the inside components as a “tetris’ d tangle of parts with no obvious way to extract the battery.” Upon finally reaching the components using a rotary tool, they see a Qualcomm QCA Wi-Fi Bluetooth SiP. The battery is soldered to the motherboard and also glued into a bracket. The battery is a 3.8 volt, 1,000 mAh, 3.8 Wh battery which is supposed to last two hours or so.
Also inside is a chip made by Ambarella for image and video processing and a Micron NAND Flash memory plus an AMS AG power management unit. They learned that it’s nearly impossible to replace the lens in the Hero4 Session without pretty much destroying the camera. Also GoPro used glue to attach the image sensor board to the lens assembly.
Why GoPro’s Hero4 Session scored poorly
Here are some of the reasons the iFixit team gave the Session a one out of ten. Perhaps the biggest problem is that to get inside and fix the internal components, the casing and a rubber band and “copious amounts of glue” must be torn apart, making it impossible to reassemble the thing.
Also the way the inner components are put together with adhesive makes it nearly impossible to put back together. Further, replacing the battery is almost impossible because it’s glued and soldered to the rest of the device.
How GoPro stacks up to others
Apple in particular has been criticized in the past for making its products rather difficult to repair. That has largely changed, with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus each getting a score of seven. However, this year’s Macbook also earned a 1, putting it in the same camp as the GoPro Hero4 Session.
Also Samsung’s Galaxy S6 earned a score of four out of ten.