Insta360 Ace Pro review: a flipping low light legend

Insta360 Ace Pro review: a flipping low light legend

insta360 ace pro front shelf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

Insta360 has been one of the most consistent specialist camera manufacturers of the past few years, serving up hit after hit when it comes to 360-degree cameras, tiny cameras and slightly bigger cameras you put on top of your monitor. The one missing piece in its line-up was a GoPro-style action cam – and that’s now been rectified by the arrival of the Insta360 Ace Pro.

The Ace Pro may share the familiar blocky rectangle shape of GoPro’s long-running Hero series (and costs a similar amount to the current Hero 12 Black model) but has some cards to play in an effort to forge its own unique appeal: Leica co-branding, the ability to capture 8K footage and a nifty-looking flip-up touchscreen. Is that enough to muscle in on GoPro’s market share?

Every camera reviewed on Stuff is tested in a range of lighting conditions, with a variety of subjects and scenes. We use our years of experience to compare with rivals and assess ergonomics, features and general usability. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

Find out more about how we test and rate products.

 

Design & screens: full tilt

If you’ve used a GoPro, the Ace Pro feels very similar, from its rugged boxy body (waterproof to 10m, just like the Hero 12 Black) to its offset wide-angle lens and large power and record buttons (located on the side and top respectively). I certainly had no issues getting to grips with it, inserting the microSD card and battery and fully charging the latter via the USB-C port.

Where it differs most dramatically is its touchscreen: Insta360 has fitted the Ace Pro with a large 2.4in rear display that’s mounted on a hinge, allowing it to tilt upwards up to 180º. That means it can face fully forward, of course, making it perfect for shooting vlogs and selfies, but also that it can be tilted slightly to aid with tricky angles – such as if it’s mounted on your bike’s handlebars. I found it an extremely useful feature, although I suspect it does increase the camera’s likelihood of getting damaged in the event of it being dropped or involved in some type of collision – a frequent occupational hazard for an action cam.

There’s a handy small secondary display on the front too, displaying current settings and shooting data so you can quickly check you’re using the right frame rate and resolution before you hit the record button.

In terms of mounting options, the Ace Pro is compatible with the same ‘mounting fingers’ universal system as used by GoPros, which allows it to be fixed to all manner of things. It doesn’t have the fingers built-in, however: instead a magnet-assisted adapter clips to the bottom. The idea, I suppose, is that it’s faster to mount and dismount than a GoPro, and that’s true – but however I did find the clip a little fussy, requiring some checking and pushing to make sure it had actually clicked securely into place. Users will need to take care when using this – an unsecure mount could see the camera falling off its perch and getting damaged or lost.

Interface & performance: swipy and stable

The Ace Pro uses a touch-based interface: you tap on-screen icons to bring up various menus and tooltips, and swipe from the ‘home’ screen left, right, up and down to access recorded content and settings. I found it simple and quite intuitive once I’d played around with it a bit, and for those who don’t want to prod and poke the screen, the camera includes a range of voice and gesture controls too.

You can also control the camera wirelessly through the Insta360 mobile app, which is a very solid effort all round, including good editing features, background downloading of clips and options for sharing content easily or uploading to social media.

There’s a fun feature in the form of the AI Highlights Assistant, which analyses whichever videos you select (although it doesn’t work with videos created using the PureVideo mode) and builds a highlight reel out of them. You can manually edit parts of the reel if you like too. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but I think it’s great for rapidly creating clips to share with friends and family.

Any action cam worth its salt needs decent image stabilisation, and I found the Ace Pro’s FlowState to be more than sufficient. Available in three ‘strengths’ plus a Horizon Lock mode (which works to 45º during regular video capture and 360º in the FreeFrame video mode), it offers a welcome range of options that allow the user to achieve the best balance between stabilisation and image cropping.

In terms of battery life, I think the Ace Pro just pips the GoPro Hero 12 Black. I left it recording at 4K/30fps to see how long the 1650mAh battery would last, but the 64GB microSD card actually filled up first. That was after 75 minutes, and there was still a good chunk of power left. The battery is fast charging too, going from 0 to 80% in 22 minutes and 0 to 100% in 46 minutes.

Photo and video quality: Dancing in the dark

I’ll start with the bad news: the Ace Pro’s 8K/24fps capture mode hasn’t been available in the camera’s pre-release firmware, so I’ve not been able to test out a feature that could give it the edge over the GoPro in terms of detail. Insta360’s PR team promise it’ll be in the launch firmware, however.

That’s a shame, but even so I’ve been impressed with the camera’s video performance – particularly in low light. I took the Ace Pro out walking on a couple of very dark November nights to test its PureShot video mode, which restricts the frame rate to 30fps but allows 4K capture with image stabilisation, then sprinkles on some AI fairy dust to bring more detail out of the shadows. Action cams have always struggled at night due to their small image sensors, but the DJI Osmo Action 4 did a decent job and the Ace Pro, I think, goes slightly further. Both these cameras use a 1/1.3in sensor, but the Ace Pro’s footage has a bit more crispness to it. It’s still not the sort of pristine footage that’ll get pixel peepers rejoicing the streets, mind you: I noticed some strange artefacts caused by movement and it’s much softer than daytime footage. But it’s a good effort, and I think the best I’ve seen from a standard action camera to date.

Regular video capture offers quality up to 4K/120fps, with automatic HDR if the frame rate is kept at 30fps or below. The footage is sharp with a good balance of colours, but I couldn’t call it better than anything I’ve seen from the Hero 12 Black or DJI Osmo Action 4. The Ace Pro doesn’t offer a 10-bit option for those seeking better colour detail and dynamic range through post-production grading (a missed opportunity, given the Osmo Action 4 and Hero 12 Black do) but there is at least a ‘flat’ colour profile for anyone who prefers to do so.

Sound, meanwhile, is pretty standard. The built-in mics capture stereo AAC audio that suffers quite badly in the wind but serves its purpose well enough; users looking for something special should invest in an external mic setup of some kind.

I don’t think anybody is going to be let down by the footage they get out of the Ace Pro – unless they were expecting it do blow its competitors out of the water, of course. In practice, its video quality is exactly what you’d expect from a flagship action cam. We’ll have to wait and see if the 8K mode turns it into something special.

Photos, meanwhile, are also par for the course. The Quad Bayer sensor offers a choice between 48MP and 12MP (although HDR shots only get the latter) and with the dewarp setting turned the resulting wide-angle images can look quite nice – even dramatic and striking with some clever composition. If you’ve got a decent smartphone in your pocket, though, it’ll probably do a better job for still images than any action cam.

Insta360 Ace Pro verdict

insta360 ace pro lead image

While the Insta360 Ace Pro may not give its closest rivals the image quality pasting its makers might claim, I’m left in little doubt as to its all-round quality. GoPro won’t be losing much sleep over its arrival on the scene, with the Hero 12 Black still offering the best daytime image quality of any action cam, but the Ace Pro’s strong points such as its flip screen and low light video performance do help differentiate it from the competition – and I can’t say it really lets itself down in any other important areas either.

Overall, the Ace Pro represents another thoroughly dependable addition to the range of action cameras on the market, and provides a solid platform for Insta360 to build on with future iterations.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: scaling new heights

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: scaling new heights

Bowers Wilkins PX8 headphones lead

Stuff Verdict

Hands down the best Bowers and Wilkins wireless headphones – but the PX8 carries a considerable premium over the already excellent PX7 S2, for fairly minor gains.

Pros

  • Sublime build quality and materials
  • Nuanced sound with exceptional detail
  • Long-lasting battery and quick charging

Cons

  • Not a huge step up from the PX7 S2
  • Can’t listen with a flat battery
  • Carries a hefty price premium

Introduction

B&W knows a thing or two about top-tier headphones. So when I heard it was working on a “no holds barred, reference level” pair, you can bet my ears started to twitch. The Bowers & Wilkins PX8 are exactly that: properly luxurious active noise cancelling cans, built using premium materials and promising stellar sound quality.

Taking tech inspiration from the firm’s uncompromising 700 Series loudspeakers, they originally took pride of place above the PX7 S2 – hardly a middle-of-the-road pair of ‘phones, given the full five-star score – and now sit above the new PX7 S2e in the line-up.

Carbon dome drivers and cast aluminium are unquestionably high-end, but the design might look a little familiar. Is there more to the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 than a luxury finish and an equally luxurious price?

Originally published October 2022, last update November 2023: Royal Burgundy model brings DSP improvements

How we test headphones

Every pair of earphones and headphones reviewed on Stuff is used for a minimum of a week’s worth of daily listening. We use a playlist of test tracks made up of multiple genres to assess sound, and use our years of experience to compare to other models. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

Find out more about how we test and rate products.

Design & build: no compromise

The PX7 S2 was already something of a stunner in the looks department, so it’s no surprise B&W has kept things familiar for the PX8. It has the same general shape, only the materials have been upgraded across the board. Fabric has been replaced with Nappa leather pretty much everywhere (even on the carry case’s zip puller), the logo plates on each ear cup are now diamond-cut, and the arms holding them in place are cast aluminium.

The ear cushions and headband are stuffed with memory foam, which makes for a comfortable fit. That’s a necessity, given the PX8 isn’t especially light at 320g – a full 70g more than Sony’s WH-1000XM5. While the ear cups have plenty of swivel, they apply quite a bit of pressure on your head. This creates a good seal for passive noise isolation but can lead to slight listening fatigue after a few hours.

These headphones simply ooze luxury as soon as you get them in your hands, whether you go for tan leather, the black version I tested, or the newly added Royal Burgundy hue. Also they may be barely a year old at this point, but B&W has already introduced a handful of PX8 special editions: the James Bond 007 edition commemorates the spy’s 60th anniversary in film, while the orange hued McLaren special edition gives a nod to the F1 racing team. 

Bowers & Wilkins Cuffie Wireless Px 8, Nere

The machined metal buttons on each ear cup felt satisfyingly crisp every time I pressed one, and the textured finish on the multi-fuction playback control made it easy to find by touch alone.

Inside, the carbon dome drivers are angled for a consistent distance to your ears, which B&W says guarantees an accurate soundstage. It worked a charm on the PX7 S2, so I was happy to see the design return here.

Features & battery life: built to last

Pretty much all the physical controls are contained on the right ear cup, with just a single button on the left one for swapping between noise cancelling modes. The power switch doubles up for Bluetooth pairing, there are individual volume keys and the play/pause button’s double-tap functions can be customised through B&W’s extensive smartphone companion app.

Music by Bowers & Wilkins also runs you through the pairing process, although Google Fast Pair takes a lot of the hassle out for Android phone owners. It lets you adjust the treble and bass (no custom EQ, though) and set how sensitive the wear sensor is. Glasses wearers will quickly find that even the low setting can result in accidental pauses while walking around, yet I had no problems at all once I swapped to contact lenses. Perhaps skinnier glasses frames won’t be quite as prone to this: YMMV.

The biggest new addition is being able to play music from certain streaming services directly through the app, and quickly swap between the headphones and any other B&W kit you might own. Deezer, Qobuz and Tidal make the cut right now, with the latter two offering Hi-Res playback.

As with the PX7 S2, Qualcomm’s aptX Lossless codec wasn’t ready for prime time while the PX8 was in development – but it still supports aptX Adaptive for 24-bit playback from supported devices. Bluetooth 5.2 also does the standard SBC and AAC codecs. I had no stutters or dropouts from a week of listening, even while walking through places with heavy foot traffic like train stations and airport terminals.

There’s no 3.5mm port (something that was also absent on the PX7 S2), but a USB-C to 3.5mm cable is stashed neatly in the hard shell carry case, along with a charging cable. Just keep in mind wired listening is a no-go if the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 runs out of battery. The headphones themselves don’t fold to fit inside: only the ear cups twist flat for stowing, so it’ll still take up a fair bit of space in your travel bag.

Battery life is on par with Sony’s best and ahead of the Apple AirPods Max at up to 30 hours between charges with ANC enabled, but a step behind the Sennheiser Momentum 4. Charging is satisfyingly speedy, though, with a 15 minute top-up good for around seven hours of listening time. You’ve got to check the app to see exactly how much juice you have remaining: there’s no audible report when you power the headphones on, just a chime that kicks in when you’re dipping into the red.

Sound quality & noise cancelling: carbon viber

Under the skin, the PX8 goes above and beyond the PX7 S2 in a few key areas. It uses carbon dome drivers, rather than biocellulose ones, and has a 20mm voice coil instead of a 15mm one. Carbon fibre adds stiffness and reduces harmonic distortion at the top end of the frequency range, which should result in better overall resolution and exceptional sound detail.

Guess what? It absolutely does. The PX8 are a delight to listen to, with superb clarity and a balanced tone that rewards critical listening. There’s no musical genre that isn’t done justice: even my back catalogue of early naughties bassline house was suitably energetic, with a deep low end that doesn’t sacrifice definition in pursuit of impact.

All parts of the frequency range flow blend neatly together, with none of the noticeable dips, peaks or gaps in the upper-mids found on lesser headphones. Complicated arrangements and multi-layered tracks are given room to breathe, with an expansive soundstage and impeccable detail.

Interestingly, the Royal Burgundy version introduced in late 2023 brought an entirely new acoustic tune, on top of a bespoke leather treatment inspired by fine wine and some rather spangly gold detailing. According to B&W, it was meant to squeeze every last speck of detail from those bespoke carbon cone drivers.

Tested side-by-side to an older pair that had yet to be updated with the new DSP settings (something existing PX8 owners will be happy to hear is just a firmware update away), the difference was noticeable. Music suddenly had even cleaner, more precise vocal frequencies, while hi-hats and percussion were given just a little more bite. Bowers’ engineers haven’t messed around with bass response, which was already brilliantly well-judged.

There wasn’t a night and day difference between the original PX8 and the PX7 S2, even if the extra level of precision did explain at least some of the PX8’s higher asking price. The improved DSP gives the more premium model some breathing room – although the PS7 S2e also benefit from some tuning magic, so the gap might not be as wide as B&W first thought.

ANC is unchanged from the PX7 S2, with six microphones (three in each ear cup) delivering subtle cancellation designed to reduce background distractions, instead of muting the entire outside world. Think the low-frequency rumble of an air conditioner or a plane’s engines during a flight, rather than passing traffic or chattering colleagues.

Sony and Bose remain my top choice for commuters, as they cope better with higher frequency distractions. The focus here is very much on the music, with ANC adding very little colouration to the sound and letting you concentrate on the details without needing to crank up the volume.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 verdict

Bowers Wilkins PX8 headphones playing

Was there ever any doubt the PX8 would deliver on B&W’s top-tier promise? These headphones are absolutely a step up from the PX7 S2 on the materials front, and also have the edge sonically. Originally we were talking very small gains, but a DSP re-tune has hammered home just how much clarity is available on tap here. Judged solely on sound quality, I could now happily add an extra star to its rating.

The PX7 S2 set a stonkingly good baseline, though, and the PS7 S2e go even further. For many, spending almost twice as much again will be a case of diminishing returns.

We can’t blame B&W for getting in on the trend for beautifully constructed wireless headphones that cost a small fortune. Point the finger at Apple and the AirPods Max instead, for starting it in the first place. The Bowers & Wilkins PX8 is a wonderfully crafted alternative that well-heeled listeners are sure to love – but PX7 S2 owners shouldn’t feel like they’re massively missing out.

20misham.ir