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CTW Review: Matrox MicroQuad Multiviewer

 

We took a quick look at this product at NAB earlier this year, and my friends sent me a sample this summer to play with. If you’ve been following this blog, you know my summer was a bit, well, busy. I finally got a chance to download the control software, configure my system and give the MicroQuad a run through it’s paces.

What is it?

The MicroQuad is a pretty simple product. It’s a small 4 SDI input, 1 HDMI output multiviewer. When I say small, I mean small. It’s roughy 5”x4.5”x1”. It has a grand total of seven connectors on it; four SD or HD-SDI inputs, a power connector, a micro-USB port and an HDMI output. Three buttons control all the functions. You can use it perfectly well in stand-alone mode, or connect it to a computer (Windows only at the time of this writing) to access a few more functions. 

To test it out, I plugged in a variety of sources, all spitting out 1080i video. The image quality on our Panasonic broadcast monitor was quite good and there was no discernible latency. The MicroQuad will sync all inputs, so you don’t have to have them all gen-locked together. 

When you plug the first input into the MicroQuad, it automatically detects and switches to the appropriate resolution. It doesn’t do any scaling on the input or output side, so all your input sources need to match, and the output will be the same as the input. 

The MicroQuad supports up to 16 embedded audio channels on each SDI input, and 8 embedded channels on the HDMI output. You can quickly select which audio you are monitoring using two buttons on the box, or in software. Press the third button and the selected input zooms to full screen. That functionality is replicated in software. When using the software, you can also assign custom labels to each source, and toggle the VU meters on and off. 

If you are so inclined and have a need, you can even monitor 4K sources through the MicroQuad using a standard HDMI monitor. So now those walk-in graphic loops can look really sharp. 

How does it work?

Quite well. Once I had four 1080i sources in one place, I plugged them in, and it worked. After installing the software, I connected via USB and it showed right up. The software requires no explanation; it’s immediately intuitive. In no time, I had custom labels assigned and was switching inputs for audio monitoring and zooming sources to full screen. 

Dual color (red & green) lights on each input indicate either the presence or lack of signal. And that’s about it. This is one of those products that just pretty useful and easy to use. It’s not fancy, nor does it claim to be. It solves a simple problem quickly and elegantly. Those are all wins.

What’s not to like?

I have only two nits to pick about this product. First, the way the connectors are laid out will make clean installations tricky. With two BNCs on one side and two more plus the HDMI connector on the other, you have cables running in two different directions. If it were up to me, I would re-design it to be longer and have all the connectors on the same side. 

Second, it got really hot during my short trial run. The manual even mentions a built-in warning system that will flash all the lights red if it gets too hot. At that point, you need to power it down to let it cool off. If I were installing one of these, I would be sure to allow for plenty of air movement around it (don’t sandwich it between a few other components). 

The cost might seem high at first glance ($995 list), but most other multi viewers are in the $2,000+ range, so it’s not really that bad.

The Bottom Line

If you have a few different feeds you want to keep an eye on using a single monitor, this could be the perfect solution for you. If you don’t, you probably don’t need it. This is one of those things you either need or don’t; it’s not a matter of comparing it to other similar products, because there aren’t really any quite like it. For what it is, I think it’s a good value. If it fills a need for you, place the order. If not, be sure to check out the rest of the Matrox line; they make some pretty cool stuff. 

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