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Leatherman Wave Review
Cons: Limited carry options, proprietary bit driver isn’t as versatile as standard 1/4"
Bottom line: An excellent multi-tool for every day use by a variety of users.
With the introduction of the Wave, Leatherman brings their top of the line design and materials to a more reasonably priced product. To step up in marginal feature and materials improvement costs almost twice as much. The Editors' Choice Charge TTI is indeed a better product, but is it twice as good? We didn't think so, and therefore honor the value of the Wave with our Best Buy Award.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Leatherman claims their Wave tool is their best selling product. This is likely with good reason. For the most part, it contains all the same features as the top-of-the-line Editors Choice Leatherman Charge TTI at half the price. The materials are less flashy on the Wave, one of the blades is significantly different, there is no pocket clip carry option on the Wave, and Leatherman ships the Wave with minimal accessories while outfitting the Charge TTI with all the bells and whistles. Otherwise, though, the Wave is the same. The innovative externally-accessed blades and saws are the same, as is the presence of Leatherman's proprietary bit driver. The scissors of the Wave are tight and handy, and the ergonomics are on point. Read on for the extensive details of what earned the Wave our Best Buy award.
On our weighted scoring metric, the Wave comes in in a close second place to the Editors' Choice winner. As noted above, there are just minor differences that tip the balance in favor of the Charge. For half the price, these compromises are likely worth it to bargain shoppers.
The Wave has nearly a full suite of functions. If you are prepared to accessorize your tool, you can add some Leatherman aftermarket product to bring this even closer to the top of the class. The pliers are of full function, the blades are excellent and easy to access, and the saws are good enough to cut wood and metal in improvised settings. The scissors tucked into the handle are small, but tight and efficient.
The bit driver the Leatherman has cooked up is interesting, but effective. Like any proprietary interpretation of a standard product, this bit driver has pros and cons as compared to its conventional counterpart. It is best to compare this bit driver to a 1/4" driver. Basically, the Leatherman version is a narrower version of this. Some of the dimensions are the same, in fact. Leatherman bits work in a standard 1/4 driver, while 1/4 bits will not function in a Leatherman driver. 1/4" drive would be more versatile and stronger, but bulkier. Leatherman ostensibly designed this bit format as to be more compact in their pocket tools, and it serves that purpose. Interestingly, though, on the Wave, Leatherman integrates the bit driver as well as a fixed flat-head screwdriver. One can easily get a flathead driver bit for either Leatherman or standard drivers. We would have loved to see Leatherman omit the fixed flat head driver and use the space gained to include a full-sized 1/4" driver. Doing this, and somehow making the pliers of the Wave (or Charge, for that matter) locking like those of the Top Pick Leatherman Crunch would make the perfect multi-tool. In any case, no such perfect tool exists, and we can choose from what is available. As when determining a feature set on a multi-tool, there are few compromises to be made with the Wave.
As mentioned, the Leatherman Charge TTI has more functions than the Wave. All the other tools in our review have fewer. All have pliers, screwdrivers, and knife blade. We like the subset of tools that has scissors, like the Wave, the Gerber Dime, and the Best Buy Leatherman Wingman, among others. The Leatherman Crunch and Baladeo Locker both have the coveted 1/4" driver bits but make significant compromises in other areas. Notably, neither of these have scissors.
Leatherman has had years to fine-tune the ergonomics of its tools. It has been in this pliers-based multi-tool business the longest. As a result, their products are widely polished. The Wave has rounded pliers handles, minimal pinch potential, and a well-thought out set of tools accessible from the outside of the stowed pliers. The knife blades can even readily be deployed with one hand.
Because of inherent trade-offs in ergonomics (for instance, the strongest plier grip comes when the handles are closed to a narrow profile in one's fist. This makes those handles prone to pinching some people's hands. Narrow is better for plier grip, worse for pinch potential) no product scores perfectly on ergonomics. Those that attain high scores do so with a variety of benefits. The Gerber Suspension will never pinch your hand, while the Wave might. The blade on the Wave is unguarded by the bulk of the handle while the blade of the Leatherman Crunch is a little inhibited because of the way it faces in relation to the plier's handle. In short, there are trade-offs and a variety of things to look at concerning ergonomics.
For its feature set, the Wave is somewhat compact. It is solidly in the upper echelon of products, regarding size and weight. In fact, the largest five products are all remarkably similar in weight. The outer contours of the Wave are smooth and easy on your pockets. The included sheath is slick and reliable. We wish the Wave was configured for clipping to our pocket and that it had a lanyard loop for those inclined to carry it that way.
As compared to the Charge TTI, the Wave is overall a little less portable. It is smaller and slightly lighter, but the pocket clip option of the Charge TTI appeals to some. Our lead test editor carries the Charge TTI regularly in pocket clipped mode. If the Wave had the ability to be configured that way, it might become his conventional device. Of course, the tiny keychain tools like the Leatherman Squirt PS4 and the Top Pick Gerber Dime are much smaller and more portable.
The materials Leatherman chooses and the sophisticated experience they bring to the table are displayed in the Wave. The steel is of excellent quality, and is polished, while all the hinges are tight but not binding. The carefully located tools are all intelligent and useful. The Wave nearly tops our chart for construction quality, up there with the best in the business.
The Charge TTI edges ahead of the Wave by its even more sophisticated materials choices. Anything with titanium is going to feel awesome in hand. There's just something about that flat gray metal that inspires confidence. Otherwise, the Charge and Wave are similar in quality. The Victorinox SwissTool SpiritX attains a similar level of quality with a more svelte feel. The SOG Pocket PowerPlier is well-made in a utilitarian, bullet-proof way. All these upper echelon tools are very well made and will last a lifetime.
This award winner is a good "every day carry" tool for someone that can either carry it loose in their pocket or in the belt sheath. The tools will all hold up to daily use and the selection of functions is bound to be useful almost hourly in some lives.
The Charge TTI is clearly our top award winner. It is a "no holds barred" approach to producing the ultimate multi-tool. The Wave has basically all the same function and quality, at just a little more than half the price. When we were handing out awards, a Best Buy award for the Wave was a clear choice. Only the sibling Leatherman Wingman is a contender in terms of value. The Wingman has fewer tools and more compromises in construction quality but is again half the price of the Wave. All around the Wave and the Wingman are both great values. Therefore, both earn Best Buy awards for complementary reasons.
When we discovered that the Wave offers almost all of the advantages of the Editors' Choice Charge TTI at half the price, the choice to award it our Best Buy Award was an easy one. This is an excellent product for a reasonable price.
— Jediah Porter
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