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In these heady days of 4K drones, superhero VR games and watch-phones, action cams can seem a bit old hat.

That’s why GoPro has spread its wings with the Karma and the two-faced Fusion (available to pre-order now for a cool £700).

But as fun as these new toys are, you’re more likely to actually need (and be able to afford) a standard, non-flying Hero.

These little chaps have been improving steadily since 2004, so do we really need another Hero?

Contrary to Tina Turner’s pleas, the answer is yes. The flagship Hero6 Black is externally identical to its predecessor, but internally an entirely new beast.

Thanks to a fancy new GoPro-made chip, it’s promising better video quality, improved frame-rates for 4K and slo-mo, and gimbal-like digital image stabilisation.

At £500, it’s not something you’ll grab at the bike shop with your chain oil – but it might just be the best action cam to ever grace your handlebars…

Design: same face, new guts

It might cost £100 more than the Hero5 Black, but GoPro’s new leader doesn’t have a bold new design.

It’s physically identical to its deputy, but that’s no bad thing. The rubberised finish means it’s unlikely to squirm out of your hands and down a cliffside when you pick it up to watch your extreme antics.

Another bonus is that it’s compatible with your all old GoPro accessories, and is still fully waterproof down to 10m.

The controls are nice and familiar too. There’s one-touch recording from the top button, and round the back is the same 2in touchscreen that arrived on the Hero5 Black.

Worried that you’ll need a toothpick to operate a 2in touchscreen? Fear not – the interface is clean and fast, even when you’re prodding at it with cold, numb fingers.

A single swipe from each side of the screen takes you to main functions: swipe right for video playback, left for video settings and down for general settings. Pressing the frame-rate also shows you the available options for your chosen resolution.

While I occasionally needed to repeat a prod or swipe on the Hero6, the screen was generally as responsive a finely tuned road bike.

One new addition is zoom, which you can use by moving your finger up and down a slider on the side of the screen. You can’t change it in the middle of recording, but this sliding scale is more flexible than GoPros’ ‘narrow’ and ‘medium’ fields of view.

Features: going more pro

Of course, there’s only one thing more exciting than extreme sports and that’s processors.

Okay, maybe not, but it’s worth mentioning GoPro’s new GP1 chip because it’s at the heart of nearly all of the Hero6 Black’s best new tricks.

In order of coolness, these four big improvements are: electronic image stabilisation, boosted framerates for smoother 4K and crisper slow-mo, improved dynamic range and low light performance, and speedier automatic editing for QuikStories.

Taken together, they certainly justify that £100 price hike over the Hero5, as long as video quality is a big deal to you. If you're mainly shooting for social media though, then the Hero5 Black and Session still very much have their place.

The image stabilisation isn’t optical (like on Sony’s X300R), but GoPro’s digital equivalent works so well that it doesn’t really need to be.

You can now record 4K at 60fps (rather than 30fps on the Hero5 Black) and 1080p at 240fps, which helps create some really dramatic slow-mo cuts that make you look about 200% cooler than you really are.

The boosted image quality is certainly noticeable (see below) and the faster QuikStories is particularly handy for anyone who shoots a load of amazing footage then just leaves it on a microSD card (so, basically everyone).

QuikStories are auto-generated edits of all of the footage you’ve shot at a certain event, with the Hero6 Black taking a look at all the info from its various sensors and picking out the best bits.

You might get a slightly cheesy soundtrack and some inspirational ‘living the dream’ captions, but it does an impressive job.

Another handy (or rather, hands-free) bonus from its predecessor is voice control. You can shout at your Hero6 to do everything from “start recording” to “take a photo”, and there’s now also a new ‘wake on voice’ function.

How well all of this works depends on the noise around you. The Hero6’s has three mics (which also help with reducing wind noise on your videos), and they do a good job of picking up your voice if you’re stationary – but I still had some trouble getting it to stop when tearing through a forest on a mountain bike. That top button is still your most reliable friend.

The apps: hands-free editing

It’s not just GoPro’s cameras that have been training hard in the gym this year – the Quik app has been boosted by QuikStories, which auto-edits your footage into a soundtracked highlights reel.

This works particularly well with the Hero6 Black, thanks to the power of its new processor. GoPro’s adding new templates and soundtracks all the time, so even if they are mostly a bit hyper with the transitions and wistful with the music, you can edit the captions or just choose to have no accompanying tunes.

One slight annoyance with the Quik app, though, is that even if your phone supports HEVC files (see above), you can’t play back footage shot in its on your SD card via the app – instead, you have to embark on the sometimes lengthy process of copying to your phone.

GoPro has boosted the Hero6’s Wi-Fi to the faster 5Ghz variety, but for a three minute 4K video shot at 30fps you’re still looking at about six or seven minutes to transfer it to your phone. Best save doing that for when you’re munching on an energy bar.

Such are the perils with working with such demanding resolutions and file sizes though – if you’re unlikely to need those or lack the hardware to handle them, you might be better off with the £400 Hero5 Black.

Stuff says... 

GoPro Hero6 Black review

It’s not cheap, but the Hero6 is the best GoPro ever and king of the action cam mountain
Good Stuff 
Superb video quality
Image stabilisation works really well
Loads of mounts and accessories
Auto-editing software is useful
Bad Stuff 
Some potential codec frustration
Battery life quite short when shooting 4K
Doesn't support Bluetooth mics