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Review: Teradek Wave

Anthony Burokas reviews the new Teradek Wave, which combines bonding, encoding, streaming, recording, and monitoring in a single compact devices that users control using Teradek's handy streaming app on its 7" touchscreen.

Streaming producers need to make sure that their signal gets out to the internet, whether it be through Ethernet line, cellular, or Wi-Fi. Often, when we’re limited to cellular, we need to bond our signal across multiple sources to push our stream through the critical first mile. We already have some very reliable industry-standard solutions that serve this purpose.

One of them is the Teradek VidiU Go. The VidiU Go (Figure 1, below) has modems on both sides, with nice, big antennas to make sure the cell signal gets out. It also connects to WiFi, and it has an Ethernet port on the back. The VidiU connects to Teradek’s Core and Sharelink cloud-based streaming management platforms. Of course, it can also stream directly to your destination of choice via RTMP.

Figure 1. The Teradek VidiU Go

But one thing the VidiU Go doesn’t do is let you see is your signal, either through a built-in monitor or an external one. It has either an SDI or HDMI input to get your signal in, but it doesn’t offer a loop-through to confirm that the input is working, or let you see the quality of your signal. Wouldn’t it be nice if Teradek (or someone) offered a compact unit with the full feature set of the VidiU Go that also let you see what was going in and out?

Enter the Teradek Wave (Figure 2, below), a new addition to Teradek’s line of bonding-capable compact streaming encoders that features a 7" integrated SmallHD monitor. But the package also includes much more. Teradek calls the Wave a “5-in-1” streaming monitor because it adds encoding, “smart event creation,” bonding, streaming to multiple destinations, and recording.

Figure 2. The Teradek Wave 5-in-1 Smart Streaming Monitor, front and back

Touring the Wave

In testing, I ran the Wave using two NP-F type batteries on the back, in the provided slots shown in Figure 2. You can also power it with a single NP-F battery, so if one battery goes dead, you can just keep changing them. If you have the USB-C adapter plugged in, it will run off the USB-C.

On top of the Wave, you’ll find a full-sized SD card slot and a USB port where you can plug in a USB modem (Figure 3, below). It also has two Wi-Fi antennas. When you first set this up, you can administer it with the Wave app, available for iOS and Android. The Wave starts in access point mode. You can connect to the Wave and through the app. You can just start doing everything you need to set up the Wave.

Figure 3. Top of the wave: SD slot, Wi-Fi antennae, and USB port

The Teradek Wave has its own touchscreen, so you don’t necessarily need the app running on a second device as much as you needed the app when you were dealing with the VidiU Go. The VidiU has a tiny front panel display, which you can navigate with two little buttons, but the app offers a lot more options and makes them much more accessible. Tap, tap, tap, and you get all your settings at a glance (Figure 4, below). You can see all your different connections, make sure all of them are actually working, and you're sending data across each of them. The app is very useful for accessing this information and managing your settings, where four lines of LED text is not enough to do everything as easily on the VidiU. Most producers will run the VidiU Go with, say, a small iPad alongside it so they can run the app with it. The Wave eliminates the need for that additional device. You can see how easy is is to get set up and ready to stream in the video that accompanies this review.

Figure 4. Wireless settings in the Wave app

Along the bottom of the Wave (Figure 5, below), you’ll find USB-C for power, the Ethernet connection, a 1/4-20 thread with twist-lock holes, HDMI in, audio in, and headphone out, so you can plug your headphones in and monitor the audio coming in to the Wave.

Figure 5. Bottom of the Wave

The right side has a 1/4-20 thread with twist-lock holes; the left side has a 1/4-20 thread with twist-lock holes and your power button. If you're going to use USB modems, you can connect one on top and one on the bottom. There’s no internal cellular and no SIM card slot on the Wave, so you plug in whatever modem you want.

The fact that the Wave has just has two USB jacks is not actually a downside. It means you could use a USB-to-Ethernet dongle and plug in two different Ethernet connections. Or, you could use any USB modem that’s out there. You could also use a big hotspot as well, and connect it to the Wave via USB or Ethernet.

So, if you wanted to have your hotspot set up outside the building, and then come in via Ethernet to the wave as a second connection, you could. I’ve done this very thing, placing my modem far away from my streaming device, outside a production truck. Because the production truck is made of metal, I know I’m going to get better reception outside the truck than I will inside the truck. Using ethernet to the USB dongle lets me put the hotspot where the best reception is, and bring the signal back to where I am.

Data Sharing

The Teradek device also has really cool data-sharing functionality that works with the app on your cellphone. When the Wave is set up as an access point, it’s not sharing data, and your phone will tell you there’s no internet connection. Your phone knows the internet connection is via your cellular signal. With the Teradek app, the cellphone will share the data to the Wave over WiFi. Even better, you can have more than one phone connected and sharing data with the Wave.

The key connecting two or more phones is that the phones share the data through the app on the phone. Thus you’re able to do share data without using the phone’s hotspot mode, or tethering, which some carriers or plans may not allow you to do. They might also allow only a limited amount of data or a limited speed through tethering/hotspot, but the Wave’s data-sharing feature enables you to sidestep that issue, because those same carriers will have no issue with your using data in an app on the device. With this approach, you can use all the data you want.

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