With Avatar’s Blu-Ray discs having sold 2.6 million copies in the first two days, it appears that we have been in the HD era longer than we thought —- so long that some of the HDTV’s early adopters find themselves in a slightly awkward position today, as there are so many HD devices to be plugged in, yet so few HDMI ports on their HDTVs for these many devices.
Early HDTVs tend to have just about 1 or 2 HDMI ports, maybe because there used to be not that many HDMI devices around in the market.
In order to connect your many HDMI devices to your HDTV, one way, of course, is to upgrade to a new HDTV which nowadays usually has 4 or more HDMI ports, but that also results in significantly lighter weight of your wallet.
A more economic way is to use an HDMI switch.
If you have many HDMI devices that you want to hook up to your HDTV, but your HDTV has only 1 or 2 HDMI ports, this article will give some in-depth information on a 3 Port HDMI switch.
2. What is an HDMI switch (HDMI switcher, HDMI selector), and what does it do?
An HDMI switch (also known as HDMI switcher, HDMI selector) receives HDMI signals from multiple HDMI sources and sends the signals from one of them to your HDTV. This way, it serves as an agent to accept many HDMI signals for your HDTV, even if your HDTV has only 1 or 2 HDMI port(s).
You can connect multiple HD sources to your HDTV, such as your:
- Blu-Ray player, HD-DVD player, DVD player with HDMI output;
- PS3, Xbox360, Wii with HDMI output;
- HTPC, or computers with HDMI ports;
- HDTV box, satellite dish network, HDTV recorder;
- HD camera, or HD Cam recorder;
- Any other devices that are capable of outputting HDMI signals.
People have come up with all kinds of creative names for HDMI switches. The most common names are HDMI switch, HDMI switcher and HDMI selector; however, it is also popularly known as an HDMI hub, HDMI adapter, HDMI switchbox, sometimes even HDMI splitter (although HDMI splitter receives one signal and outputs to more than one HDTVs), or any combination of these words.
3. Appearance and Design
Let’s take a closer look at the HDMI switch.
It has 4 ports on its sides, 3 input ports receiving signals from HDMI sources, and 1 output port sending signals to the HDTV. There is a red LED light on each input side to indicate which source is selected.
It has a “Select” button on its top surface. This button is for manual switching of the HDMI inputs, which we will cover soon in the following Automatic and Manual HDMI Switching section.
The following table summarizes its technical details.
|Input / Output|
|Video||FullHD, 1080p, 1920×1080p|
|Audio||LPCM, DTS/DTS-HD, Dolby Digital/Dolby TrueHD|
|HDMI Compliance||HDMI v1.3b|
|HDCP Compliance||HDCP v1.0/1.1 pass-through|
|Input DDC Signal||5 volts p-p (TTL)|
|HDMI Connector||Type-A 19pin Female (common)|
|No. of HDMI Input||3|
|No. of HDMI output||1|
|Progressive||1080p, 720p, 576p, 480p|
|Interlaced||1080i, 576i, 480i|
|Frequency||60Hz / 50Hz|
|Amplifier Bandwidth||2.5Gbps / 250 Mhz|
|Operating Temperature||0 ~ 70°C (32 ~ 158°F)|
|Storage Temperature||-10 ~ 80°C (14 ~ 176°F)|
|Operating Humidity||10 ~ 85% RH|
|Storage Humidity||5 ~ 90% RH|
|External Power Supply||None|
|Size||51 x 52 x 14 mm (2 x 2.1 x 0.6 inch)|
Some of the highlights include support for:
- 3 HDMI inputs and 1 output;
- 1080p (FullHD), 1080i, 720p resolutions;
- LPCM, DTS/DTS-HD, Dolby Digital/Dolby TrueHD audio formats;
- HDMI v1.3b compliant (common);
- HDCP v1.0/v1.1 pass-through (common);
It supports all HD and SD resolutions, and all the audio formats supported by Blu-Ray standards.
It supports up to 3 HDMI inputs. For many users, 3 ports are enough for their needs. Some users may need to connect to 4 or more HD sources. Although this particular HDMI switch does not fit their needs, there are also 4 port, 5 port or 8-port HDMI switches, which usually have higher price tags.
Is HDMI v1.3b good enough?
The short answer is yes, because 99% of the products out there in the market are compliant with HDMI 1.3b or earlier standards, such as HD-DVD players, PS3, Xbox360 and most Blu-Ray players.
Although HDMI v1.4 (released in May 2009) does bring in some features such as 3D Over HDMI and resolutions up to 4k x 2k, there are very few products or cables supporting this new standard. Because of this, we did not know of any HDMI switches in the market that support HDMI 1.4 yet, although it should be a matter of time for the switches to adopt HDMI 1.4 as well in the future.
HDCP in HDMI Switches
HDCP is a copy protection to prevent copy-righted contents from traveling across HDMI / DisplayPort / DVI freely, unless the connected devices are HDCP-compliant. The EnjoyGadgets HDMI Switch reviewed here supports HDCP version 1.0 / 1.1 pass-through.
So, what does all this mean? It means that if your Blu-Ray, for example, works with your HDTV when they are connected directly by an HDMI cable, then they should also work with this EnjoyGadgets HDMI Switch, because the switch simply passes the HDCP encryption to your HDTV without changing anything, which is what it means by “HDCP pass-through”.
In short, if your devices all work with your HDMI cables directly, you do not have to worry about HDCP issues when using this HDMI switch.
5. Automatic and Manual HDMI Switching
This HDMI switch can choose the HD sources either automatically or allowing you to choose manually.
Automatic HDMI switching
Each time you turn on whichever source, the HDMI switch will automatically select this source. If you decide to turn on a second source, the HDMI switch will switch to this second source. If you turn on another, it’ll jump to this third device.
Auto-switching may not work when there is one or more HD sources that are “always on”, such as a HDTV recorder or a satellite network box, which you probably do not turn off that often and is always working in the background.
In that case, you will need to manually choose the HD source you want.
Manual HDMI switching
There is a “Select” button on the top of the HDMI switch that allows you to manually choose your desired HD source by pressing it once. Pressing the Select button will select the HD inputs in order.
For example, if the switch currently has Input 1 for the HDTV, pressing the Select button will select Input 2, and pressing it again will select Input 3, pressing it yet again will go back to Input 1.
If the switch currently has Input 2 for the HDTV, pressing the Select button will select Input 3, and pressing it again will select Input 1, pressing it again will select again will go back to Input 2.
So on and so forth.
In most cases you do not have to press the Select button as the auto-switching function will take care most, if not all, of the switching jobs.
Manual HDMI switching with remote control
In addition to the Select button, it would be more convenient if you could have a remote control that lets you select Input 1, 2, 3 by pressing on the remote, instead of going over to the switch and press a button on it.
Unfortunately this mini switch reviewed here does not have a remote control, but you can find an HDMI switch with remote control here. It has essentially exactly the same function and specs, except that now it has a remote control and a receiver for it. I will write a detailed comparison of these two switches later.
You may find famously-branded HDMI switches at around $250 in a local BestBuy store, or maybe $150 if you shop around. Your intuition probably tells you this doesn’t make sense: it’s such as simple function, why does it have to cost that much? Plus, with many 42-46 inch HDTVs priced around $700 nowadays, $150 – $250 truly seems to be too much, we might as well add a couple of hundred more to buy a new HDTV.
How about…just $20?
Yes, the HDMI switch reviewed here will cost just about $20, but it will have the job done literally perfectly just as the $250 ones will.
Some part of you inside probably keeps telling you those expensive ones must have much better audio/video qualities because they cost so much more. However, in the digital world, it’s either 1 or 0: signals either get transmitted and transmitted in its 100% full quality, or it will get lost with nothing at all transmitted —- there is nothing in between.
Monster Cables has been selling HDMI cables at $50 with claimed features such as “gold-plates” or whatever materials that make up the cable, but these expensive HDMI cables will work only as well as a $2 HDMI cable. Most of the price difference is their profit.
The same applies here: the HDMI switch doesn’t modify the signals at all, HDMI signals are passed over from input port to output port untouched, and this ensures that whatever in the HDMI source will be sent to your HDTV as if the HDMI source connects to your HDTV directly. So, $20 HDMI switch will switch HDMI signals just as well as $250 ones
- Support 3 HDMI sources;
- HDMI v1.3b compatible;
- HDCP v1.0/1.1 pass-through;
- Support all HD and SD resolutions, including 1080p;
- Support DTS/DTS-HD, Dolby Digital / Dolby Digital TrueHD, LPCM audio formats;
- Automatic and manual switching;
- Mini size;
- 1-year warranty;
- Great price.
- Does not support the latest HDMI v1.4;
- 3 input sources may be insufficient for some users;
- No remote control.
If you look for an HDMI switch that can quickly switch among your 3 HDMI sources for your HDTV, this is an excellent HDMI switch at an unbeatable price. It supports virtually all HDMI devices currently on market. It supports all video resolutions and audio formats outlined in Blu-Ray standards. It’s definitely a great buy for just $20.
If you are a remote-control person, you may choose an HDMI switch with a remote control.
On the other hand, if 3D Over HDMI is a must-have feature for you, this probably isn’t the right product for you, and you may wait a little longer when the industry will eventually start adopting the new standards.