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3 in 1: HDMI switches and splitters for the digital home cinema

By Simon Blohm
Translation by Siobhán Hayes
04.06.2008, 08:02

In the future, the compact HDMI input is to replace the cumbersome SCART completely. The HDMI port is used for loss-free digital transfer of audio and video signals and has caught on as a successor to the analogue scart connection in entertainment electronics devices as well as in many graphics cards and monitors.

But what should you do if your new LCD TV or projector only has one or two HDMI connections, but you want to connect the satellite receiver, DVD player, audio receiver, living room PC and games console digitally? In this case, you cannot avoid using a switch.

Practical solutions are better than inexpensive irritation

Here, it is necessary to differentiate between an input (on the output device) and an output (on the player device) where HDMI is concerned and be aware of thus when purchasing a switch. The simplest and cheapest solution is a cable – also known as a Y-piece or Y-coupling -, with which two image sources can be connected to an output device.

Y-cables are available for less than ten Euro from Amazon. Unfortunately, they are often unreliable. (Picture: Amazon)

In the ideal case, the input signal of the device attached is recognised independently and is displayed on the output device. However, many users complain that this simple solution provides a low-quality image signal if they receive an image at all. With the HCDP copy protection standard necessitated by HDMI, simple cable splitting poses a problem. Despite the very low price, you would be better advised to avoid this solution.

It is better to opt directly for a HDMI switch, which allows for connection to two or more devices. The advantage here is that high-quality products can deal with HDCP copy protection without any difficulty. The selection is large, with prices beginning in the low double figures and ranging to up to several hundred Euro for HDMI switches.

The price is determined by the number of connections and the additional features. We differentiate between HDMI inputs (HDMI-In) and outputs (HDMI-Out), whereby player devices are connected to the former and televisions, projectors or monitors to the latter. Models with numerous HDMI-Out connections are considerably more expensive than those which only come with inputs.

The TransElectric HDMI-Switch HDMI-410R is one of the first models that became available for less than 100 Euro. Up to four player devices can be connected with a TV set using this device. (Picture: Amazon)

Eight in one

The first group of HDMI switches has a connection for HDMI-Out and two to eight HDMI-In connections. This means that up to eight player devices can be run on one HDMI input, e.g. on an LCD-TV. The beginner models in the lower price sector have two to four outputs as well as the input; the outputs must be selected manually on the switch by pressing a button.

They are suitable, for example, for connecting a DVD player and a DVD recorder to a TV set or a projector. These switches have no display to inform the user which connection is currently active and they cannot be switched on or off. They are available from many different unknown manufacturers at prices from ten Euro. One example is the 4 In /1 Out HDMI switch available from Amazon.

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