GoPro Hero 3+ Silver vs GoPro Hero 3+ Black – detailed breakdown

NOVEMBER 2016 UPDATE – this article deals with the GoPro Hero 3 and 3+ range of cameras released in 2013 (but still available for sale) – to check our our advice on the very latest GoPro models please see this updated article!

As with our previous article on the GoPro Hero 3+ White vs Silver cameras, this article is intended to take a detailed look at the similarities and differences between the GoPro Hero 3+ Silverand the GoPro Hero 3+ Black models, in order to help you work out which model is best suited to your needs.

Before getting stuck into the detailed comparison, it should be noted that both the Silver and Black models were updated from ‘Hero 3’ to ‘Hero 3+’ in October 2013. The visual clues to this upgrade are the revised case design – the 3+ has no screws around the lens housing, and slightly larger buttons. However, there were also several important changes to the innards of the cameras – the 3+ models being around 20% smaller and lighter, with a better ability to close focus (down to around 3 feet), improved audio quality and longer battery life. While a detailed consideration of the previous Hero 3 models is beyond the scope of this article, it is as well to be aware that these earlier models can still be found for sale. This article, however, compares only the most recent GoPro 3+ models.

GoPro Hero 3 plus Silver



Firstly, it is useful to look at what elements of the GoPro Hero 3+ Silver and Black cameras are identical between the cameras. Physically, the cameras look and feel identical – only the black colouring of the ‘Hero 3+’ logo on the front confirms the range topper from the Silver, on which the logo is, well, silver!

So, the physical similarities are as follows:

  • Case design – both waterproof to 131 feet / 40 metres
  • Size and weight – both weigh 4.8 oz (136g) in the waterproof housing
  • Storage – both can support up to a 64GB micro-SD card
  • Connectivity – both have built in wifi, for use with a smartphone app or the GoPro wifi remote (but as discussed below, only the Black edition comes packaged with the remote)
  • Ports – both feature a mini-USB port and a micro-HDMI port

An important distinguishing feature of the GoPro Hero 3+ Black is that it includes the wifi remote in the box. This remote can be strapped to your wrist or other convenient location (a bike handlebar, for example), and allows control of the basic functions of the camera without having to press the buttons on the camera itself. This can be very useful if the camera is mounted in an awkward or inaccessible location (on the rig of a kite surfing setup, for example) or if pushing the buttons on the camera risks upsetting a carefully positioned mount. The wifi remote can be bought separately for around $70 and so can be used with the Silver as well, but the cost of doing this clearly narrows the gap between the Silver and the Black to around $30, so might well be a factor in favour of buying the Black for those who need the remote.

As with between the White and Silver editions, the key differences between the Silver and Black lies in their video and photo specifications:

ResolutionGoPro Hero 3+ SilverGoPro Hero 3+ Black
4kN/A15fps at 16:9 aspect ratio
12fps at 17:9 aspect ratio
Ultra-wide FOV
2.7KN/A30fps at 16:9 aspect ratio
24fps at 17:9 aspect ratio
Ultra-wide FOV
ultra-wide (4:3 aspect ratio)
1080p60 fps
Ultra-wide, medium & narrow FOV
60 fps
Ultra-wide, medium &
narrow FOV,
Superview option
960p60 fps
Ultra-wide FOV (4:3 aspect ratio)
100 fps
Ultra-wide FOV (4:3 aspect ratio)
720p120 fps
Ultra-wide, medium &
narrow FOV
120 fps
Ultra-wide, medium &
narrow FOV, plus Superview option
WVGA60 fps
Ultra-wide FOV
240 fps
Ultra-wide FOV
Still photos10 megapixels
Ultra-wide angle
10 photos a second burst
for 1 second
2 photos a second time lapse
12 megapixels
Ultra-wide angle
30 photos a second burst
for up to 3 seconds
10 photos a second possible
for up to 30 seconds
2 photos a second time lapse

Video modes

The big headline feature of the GoPro Hero 3+ Black remains its maximum video resolution of 4k. This refers to the frame size of the video being 3840 by 2160 pixels – in comparison to full HD’s 1920 x 1080 – so a full 4 times the resolution of full HD. Indeed, the GoPro currently remains the only consumer level camera which offers this resolution. There is a pretty good reason for this – currently 4k displays and television sets, while available (and now from under $400!), remain pretty rare. There is also the issue of whether the human eye can even detect a significant increase in resolution above full 1080p HD when viewed on a screen a ‘normal’ size and distance away. But – ground breaking specs will always sell cameras, and we can well understand GoPro’s approach here.

Notably, the framerate at 4k resolution is only 15 fps – half the 30 fps which are needed to get smooth motion playback. As such, it’s not really useable for capturing normal video, and less still if you want any ability to slow the footage down. Given that each frame of the video is around 8 megapixels, it is tempting to think of the 4k mode as being like a continuous burst still photo setting. However (as discussed further below) the Black edition is able to shoot up to 30 12MP jpeg frames a second for a burst of up to 3 seconds, or 10 12MP jpeg frames a second continuously for 30 seconds, and so these settings may be of more use for those who want continuous still photos rather than video. Ultimately, while the 4k mode is undoubtably very impressive (particularly given the price of the camera), it is arguably not something that most people are going to find particularly useful at this stage.

The 2.7k video mode of the Hero 3+ Black is a potentially more useable resolution. The framesize of 2704 x 1440 pixels is still double that of 1080p full HD, but the frame rate at this resolution is 30 fps, giving smooth playback at normal speeds (though without any ability to slow the footage down). If you are interested in capturing ‘real’ speed action at the best possible resolution, then this mode is ideal, and should provide a degree of ‘future proofing’ as the resolutions of displays and TVs inevitably increase over the coming years. There is also a 1440p video mode, which can capture footage at 1920 by 1440 pixels at 48fps, with a 4:3 aspect ratio. However, unless you have a specific desire for this resolution, you are probably better off shooting at 1080p (which remains the current standard) rather than having to downscale and “pillarbox” the footage from 1440 to 1080 for playback.

Dropping down to the current HD standards of 1080p and 720p, the real comparison against the GoPro Hero 3+ Silver can begin. Interestingly, at these resolutions, the  basic specs of the Black and the Silver are largely identical – both can shoot at a maximum of 60 fps at 1080p, or 120fps at 720p. Indeed, it is worth noting that the Black actually has fewer resolution settings than the Silver at 720p and WVGA – while the Silver can drop down to 30fps the Black stops at 60fps, and will only shoot at 240fps at the WVGA setting (vs 60fps on the Silver). However, the loss of these low-res settings is unlikely to be an issue for those who bought the GoPro Black for its high resolution prowess.

SuperView and Protune

Although the framerates at 1080p and 720p may be identical, the Hero 3+ Black still has another couple of aces up its sleeve at these resolutions. The first is the option of the “SuperView” mode. We’ve explained this feature in more detail on its own page here, but basically it involves utilising the whole of the GoPro’s 4:3 aspect ratio sensor and then cleverly stretching it to fit a 16:9 widesceen frame while minimising the distortion – the result is that you get a “taller” image than you would otherwise. This is a Black-only feature, and gives another reason to opt for the Black rather than the Silver even if you have no need for the higher-than-1080p resolutions.

The other feature only available on the Black edition is “Protune”. This encompasses a range of settings which are aimed at the professional end of the market – allowing footage to be captured at a lower compression ratio, with manual control over white balance, exposure, ISO, sharpness and colour saturation. It is also possible to select a 24 fps mode, in order for the footage to match with other cinema-quality footage. The aim of all of these options is to allow the output video to be professionally edited more easily and with better results. As such, it is likely to be a must-have for professional film makers; for everyone else, it probably counts as a nice-to-have, but not something which by itself would swing the decision on which camera to buy.

Still photos

As per the table above, the GoPro Hero 3+ Black can shoot still photos at 12 MP, while the Silver has a maximum resolution of 10 MP. While this difference in resolution is unlikely to be an issue for the user of a Silver (10 MP being more than sufficient for nearly all purposes) the Black has some further advantages above the Silver. Firstly, it has a burst mode capable of recording a maximum of 30 shots over either 1, 2 or 3 seconds. This is great for capturing full resolution images of a particular fast action scene (a ski jump or park trick for example). Of course, the GoPro Black edition is also capable of capturing 4K video at 15fps continuously, which as discussed above could be used to gain 8 MP still frames. However, the still photos taken using the burst mode will be less compressed than the video frames and therefore the quality will be better.

The second distinguishing feature of the Black over the Silver in relation to still photos is its ability to shoot still photos at the same time as recording video. There are various modes for this, and the resolution of the still image to be captured is dependant on the resolution of the continuous video recording. At 1440p video at 24 fps (the maximum resolution at which simultaneous photos is possible) the Black can shoot a 12 MP still photo every 5 seconds – this still photo resolution drops to 7 MP at 1080p 30 fps, and 5 MP at 720p 60 fps. Whether this mode is likely to be truly useful is debatable – while the ability to combine high resolution stills with continuous video sounds appealing, the result will be filling up a memory card sooner with still shots which are, in effect, only higher resolution duplicates of stills taken from the video footage.


The audio specifications for both the Black and the Silver are identical – mono, 48kHz, using AAC compression, and featuring automatic gain control to adjust the levels to the sound volume – so nothing to chose between them here!

Battery life

A key difference between the GoPro Hero 3+ Black and Silver which goes against the Black is battery life. While both use the same battery pack with a 4366mWh capacity, the results are quite different:

ResolutionGoPro Hero 3+ SilverGoPro Hero 3+ Black
4K 15fps-2 hr 0 min
2.7K 30fps-1 hr 40 min
1440 48 fps-1 hr 50 min
1080p 60fps2 hr 15 min1 hr 30 min
1080p 30fps3 hr 0 min2 hr 0 min
720p 120fps2 hr 20 min1 hr 55 min

Obviously, it’s only fair to make comparisons between the cameras where they are shooting at the same resolution and framerate, but as the table above shows, at 1080p and 60fps the Silver is said to have enough juice to record for 2 hours 15 minutes, while the Black gives up after just 1 hour 30 minutes. That means the Silver packs an extra 50% battery life over and above the Black. It’s the same story at 1080p and 30 fps (Silver again 50% extra battery life) while at 720p and 120 fps the Silver is still ahead but by less (22% extra).

GoPro don’t elaborate on the reason for this difference, but it is likely to be due to the fact that the Black requires a faster, more powerful processor to deal with its 4K resolution footage, and this draws more power than the processor in the Silver even when running at the lower resolutions. It’s interesting to note that the battery life is actually better at 4K than it is at 1080p – this must be due to the lower framerate at the top resolution more than compensating for the increased frame size when it comes to battery life.

It’s also worth remembering that the battery life figures above are measured under optimum conditions, with a brand new battery. In the real world, and particularly in cold conditions, the battery life can be considerably lower. In addition, like all lithium ion batteries, the capacity of the battery will decrease over repeated charge and discharge cycles. With that in mind, it may be worth considering carrying a spare battery with you. For example, the Wasabi Power battery and dual charger kit comes with two spare batteries and allows charging of them simultaneously from either a wall outlet or car socket.


So, how best should you spend your hard earned dollars then? Well, as ever, it depends on what is most important to you. If you want or need to shoot at higher-than-HD resolutions then clearly the GoPro Hero 3+ Black is your only choice (unless you want to step up to a GoPro Hero 4 model – in which case click here to check out our full guide!)  But if you don’t need higher-than-HD, then the choice becomes more nuanced. As described above, the key selling points for the Black are the bundled wifi remote, the SuperView mode, and the much more accomplished burst photo mode. The wifi remote alone is worth $70 of the $100 price difference, but obviously only if you actually want to use it. SuperView is a clever addition, particularly if you plan on using the camera for lots of POV footage, and the burst photo mode is great, though only if you plan on using the camera for still photos as well as video. Set against this, the Silver has a much better battery life, so if you don’t have a particular need for the additional features of the Black, there is a compelling reason to pick the Silver in addition to just saving $100.

With all that in mind, here is a summary of our conclusions on The GoPro Hero 3+ Silver vs Black:

Buy the GoPro Hero 3+ Black if…

  • You plan to buy a wifi remote anyway – the bundle is much better value
  • You will actually make use of the better than HD resolutions – that means you should have, or plan to buy,  a 4K capable monitor or television
  • You want to use the camera for bursts of still photograph to freeze frame the action
  • You think the SuperView mode is something that you would benefit from given the type of footage you plan to capture (particularly POV footage of skiing, mountain biking, surfing)

Buy the GoPro Hero 3+ Silver if…

  •  You don’t have any need to shoot at resolutions greater than 1080p, and don’t think the SuperView setting will be of particular use to you
  • Battery life is a concern – the Silver lasts up to 50% longer.
  • You have a need to shoot at the low resolution low framerate settings that are absent on the Black

We hope you’ve found this article useful! If you’re ready to buy a GoPro (or anything else for that matter) and click on one of the Amazon links above (or here) then this website earns a small commission on any purchase you make – though it doesn’t cost you any more! And do let us know if you have any questions or comments below. Thanks!