Have you ever needed more HDMI connections? Maybe that TV you bought only had one, or maybe you just bought the latest and greatest in entertainment gadgets, but for whatever reason you need more HDMI ports. HDMI switches are now here to solve that problem. Here we will attempt to answer some of the most common questions about them.
What is an HDMI Switch?
An HDMI Switch is a device that can extend the number of devices that can be plugged into an HDMI port. They allow, for instance, an HDTV with only one HDMI input to have a Blu-Ray player, gaming consoles, and computer all plugged into the same port and all switchable at any moment. The only action is powering the switch.
Is a power cord needed or will the cables themselves power the device?
HDMI cables require a certain amount of power to carry the signal to its destination. Most devices with HDMI output provide that power as part of the normal operation of the device, although HDMI switchers also need power provided to them; they include a repeater in their internal workings, which takes the signal and retransmits it, allowing the signal to travel farther. Some switches try to remain small and portable by drawing power from the device plugged into them through the HDMI cable. In my experience, this is not a good idea. By using some of the bandwidth provided by the cables for power alone, you weaken the overall signal being sent to the output device; for instance, watching a Blu-Ray movie on my HDTV while using a self-powered HDMI switch caused audio clipping, video artifacts, and sometimes complete loss of the signal. The other option is to include an external power source, such as a 5V DC converter that plugs directly into an outlet. The advantage of the external power source, is that the issues caused by the self-powered splitters do not show up in these.
What is the difference between a Switch and a Splitter?
A Switch is used to allow the connection of multiple devices to an HDMI port. A splitter is the opposite – they allow a single device to be split to multiple displays. For example, having your cable box going to 2 TVs which are in different rooms will allow you to watch the same thing in both rooms.
Is there a device which can act as a Switch AND a Splitter?
An HDMI switch isn’t only used for sending multiple inputs to one output; some more complex units have the ability to send data the other direction. For instance, if you have multiple HDTVs set up around a room, at a bar or other place of business, for instance, you may want to be able to control multiple devices and assign them to different displays. There are some HDMI switchers that allow this. A 4×4 HDMI Switch can send the signal from any of the 4 devices on to up to 4 displays. For example, a sports bar might want to show three games on twelve televisions. Three 4-to-4 switches could be used to link four HDTVs to one cable box, allowing the owner to set just three channels, rather than having to walk around the bar changing each one individually. Devices can also be independently assigned to any of the displays. So you can have a Blu-ray player playing on 2 displays and the cable box playing on the other 2.
How Can I Share Devices with Multiple TVs?
It is possible to share devices with multiple displays by using a Matrix HDMI switch. For example, a 4×2 matrix HDMI switch is capable of sharing 4 devices between two different displays. This is essentially a switch and a splitter all in one solution.