When Covid hit, we all started streaming from home. In fact, I recall when webcams were in such high demand that you couldn’t even get them for their weight in gold.
Now, a webcast is just the base, and if you want to play in the big league, you are probably in the market for a switcher/streamer kind of device.
I would say that there are three types of switchers out there: The BlackMagic ATEM mini type, with a lot of buttons and things to press; the Feelworld L2 type, with a small monitor and a traditional T bar; and the Yololiv YoloBox Pro type that kinda look like an oversized tablet. But which one should you choose? Let’s break it down.
Those may seem like three completely different devices. But in the end, they are all used for the same purpose, switching, streaming, and recordings. And so let the fighting begin
The L2 has a USB output that makes it look like a webcam to any laptop, so you can use it to stream using software like OBS, vMix, or actually any software that lets you stream a webcam. Even youtube live.
The Atem is similar because it has a webcam output, but if you have an ethernet connection and preconfigure the unit, you can stream directly from it. You’d need a cable and a wall jack for this, but if you have them, not needing a laptop is a big advantage, and it would be perfect for a small studio.
Lastly, the Yolo can mimic a webcam, but it streams directly from the unit over ethernet, Wifi, or 4G using a sim card. This means that it can stream in the same manner as the other two boxes, but it does not need pre-configuration and does not need a cable. In fact, it is a 100% autonomous unit.
Both the Atem and the L2 have four HDMI ports for four devices like cameras or laptops. The Yolo only has 3 HDMI ports, but it also features two USB ports for webcams. All three devices can handle multiple 1080 streams.
The Yolo has two 3.5 mm jacks for audio, and so does the ATEM. Both also allow mixing and delay control of the sources. The L2 only has one jack, so you need to pre-mix your inputs. The Yolo and the Atem are definitely better on this front
The L2 has a headphone jack and an HDMI port. Actually, they all have an HDMI port. The L2 also has a USB-A to USB-A webcam port. Not a fan of this weird cable. It’s bound to get lost, and it’s kind of hard to come by. On the good side, you can select if the HDMI port sends Program or Preview, and you can make the same selection for the USB.
The Yolo has two video ports: a USB-c and an HDMI. For audio, it has the same headphone port.
Weirdly, Black Magic did not put a headphones jack on the ATEM, so you’ll have to monitor your audio via one of the video outputs. That is a win for the YOLO.
All three devices can stream up to 1080p at 60 FPS. We didn’t really see any significant difference that would impact day to day use.
All devices support streaming anywhere if you are willing to go through the trouble of bringing a laptop. Youtube, Facebook, you name it. But the YOLO actually has another destination, the YOLO cast. This feature allows you to send your stream to multiple destinations with a single upstream. Sadly, a monthly cost is associated, but this is a great solution if you need to stream to multiple platforms.
Recording and Post
There is a clear winner in this category, and this is the YOLO. Not only it records the final stream, but it also does this to an SD card. With the latest update, you can also record to an SSD, but having the option to go low profile is great
The ATEM records the final stream to an external drive, but this takes away the USB port so you cant use the unit as a webcam. It’s nice, but not AS nice. If you really care about recording, you can opt for the ATEM mini pro ISO model, and it will record all inputs + the stream for easy editing. The cost is higher, though – $795.00.
And the last of the bunch here, the L2, well, it doesn’t record at all.
In the end, a switcher needs to… switch. It is up to you, though, to tell it what to switch to. And there is a lot of personal preference here.
If you like “old school” switchers with lots of buttons to master, and a dedicated button for each action, then go with the ATEM. There is a bit of a learning curve here, but having dedicated controls and haptic feedback really goes a long way. If I was not avoiding being pretentious, I would probably say that you can “play” the ATEM – this is how good it feels and how fast an experienced user can go.
If you like a fancy T-bar for smooth fades, go with the L2. The LCD on the L2 is actually a touch screen, but… it’s nearly not responsive enough to actually be used for anything.
And if you are used to touchscreen operations, you’ll find the YOLO very intuitive and fast to master. Having a strong visual indication of what’s going on is a powerful tool for a switcher, but also has physical buttons.
Preview and Program
Clearly, having a screen on your device allows you to know exactly what’s going on with your stream. The Atem does need an external monitor for that. And that monitor will give you anything from multiview, to program, to each of the connected cameras.
The L2 has a small 5.5-inch LCD screen where you can see all four cameras, preview, and program. It’s basic but also an independent unit in that regard.
The YOLO has all the control you need, although it either comes as a small ribbon or a split screen. I could not get a traditional multi-view on the unit. I know it is a matter of preference and habit, but a good multiview makes your work much easier.
Transitions / Picture in Picture
All three units have your basic set of transitions, cuts, and jumps. Each unit has a slightly different selection, but in reality, there is a good chance you would only use the cuts, fades, and maybe don’t or two of the more “fancy” transitions.
All three units also have a Picture in Picture mode. Again, controlling this feature makes all the difference, and the control is very limited with the L2. It gets slightly better with the Atem. Though, again, you are limited to only camera one. Mostly, its hard to control the position and size of the smaller picture.
With the YOLO, you get full control over location and size, and the touchscreen interface makes it really easy to configure and control
All three units support chroma keying in one way or another. We were having a really hard time with the L2, but the Atem and Yolo were very easy to master. The Yolo box, specifically, has a more advanced set of Chroma keying control, so you can tune and configure the system relatively fast.
Overlays, titles, and lower thirds
The Atem can store and use 20 overlays, lower thirds, and logos. You need to preconfigure those and use a controlling laptop to operate them.
With the Feelworld L2, we only found one overlay that we could use.
This is really where the YoloBox shines. Not only can you use 4 overlays in parallel (think logo on the top right while running a lower third title). But also you can create those assets directly in the box. This makes the workflow so much easier as you need to make a last-minute fix or realize that you want another asset. I can not tell you how much this feature made our lives easier.
Power and Battery
Both the ATEM and L2 need a dedicated 12 volts adapter. The YOLO, though has an internal battery and a standard USB-C power jack.
Out of the three, the Atem is probably the most robust. It feels really nice and solid and has a low footprint. There are no mounting options, so this is clearly a desk unit.
The L2 is a bit bulkier and feels a bit more flimsy. And it has a 1/4 -20 in the weirdest place on the side. This is a desk unit as well.
Lastly, the Yolo, which is all about portability, suffers the same issues as any tablet. Glass. It has a front glass element. Luckily we are using the YC onion cage for it. And the cage does two things: One, it adds a ton of mounting options for microphones, transmitters, and other utilities. But also has a solid cable protector for each cable to keep those ports nice and safe.
The only caveat is the price. The YOLO is the winner here if you don’t mind the extra $150.00 for the cage.
Firmware updates and community
Well, there is actually only one participant in this category, and that’s the YOLO. Yolo is dropping about one update a month, adding more and more features like more sources, automated switching, Cloud support, and many, many more. So as far as future-proofing, a big fat point to YOLO.
Value for Money
This is a hard one to answer. But let me look at it from a simple buying perspective.
When you get the L2, you also need a computer. When you get the Atem, you’d want a monitor. And maybe a laptop to configure the unit. So the price to run a full setup would be more than just the unit price.
The YOLO, though, is a completely independent unit, so getting a YOLObox pro would be a single Expense. I also think it offers the best set of features for the price.
So, back to the beginning, which switcher is the best for you? Here is our concluding table at the bottom. Green means the best option.
Well, if you are on a limited budget and you already own a laptop, the L2 is a good option to start with. If you are a more advanced editor who needs more control, an easier panel to navigate, and care about the recording, the Atem will serve you well. And, If you are looking for a one-stop-shop, stream on the move, and looking for an intuitive solution that can stream without a need for WIFI, The YOLO wins our hearts.