HDMI is the standard today because it transfers high definition digital audio and video on one cable (as opposed to four or five with component cable), long cable runs do not degrade signal quality and it’s inexpensive (if you buy online; the physical stores charge insane prices). Nearly every image-producing device has HDMI today – smartphones, streaming media boxes and cameras included. The television manufacturers, though, struggle to keep up. Even their top-of-the-line models only have three or four inputs. Consumers end up with more HDMI outputs on their equipment than their TV has room for. Life becomes a tedious cable-switching routine. The HDMI switch is designed to solve this problem.
An HDMI switch is to your television what your audio receiver is to your discrete component music system. H music system has one set of speakers and several sound-producing devices that share it – an iPod,an iPad, a turntable, a music keyboard, a computer and so on. You plug them all into the multiple audio inputs on the receiver. If you want to hear the iPod that’s plugged into Input 3, you just choose No.3 on the remote.
The HDMI switch works the same way. Plug all your HDMI outputs into it, plug it into one HDMI port on your television and choose whatever HDMI input you wish to watch at the moment on the switch’s remote.
These were strictly for high-end home theater territory, not long ago. Now that everyone owns multiple video-capable devices, these switches are commonplace. A simple switch with two ports and a three-button remote costs only $15 on Mono Price. Better models from Sony and others run to $50.
Automatic switching is an attractive option. Switchers with this feature automatically switch to the most recently turned-on device – no need to touch the remote.
This method is problematic with always-on devices like the TiVo. With two always-on devices, your automatic switcher won’t know which port to switch to. You should buy a unit that offers port prioritization, then. You could put always-on devices on Ports 3 and 2. It will then always show Port 3 if there’s nothing on Ports 1 and 2.
Most people need nothing more than a generic HDMI switch – they don’t need to pay attention to the HDMI version (you only need to worry about version numbers – 1.3 and 1.4 – if your TV and video devices are capable of higher-than-Full HD resolutions).
Since HDMI switches plug to the one television port, every connected device will show on the same TV color profile. You could get around this buying multiple HDMI switches. If your Blu-ray player and videogame console display well on one color profile, you could plug them into one switch and into one television port. You could group other devices together with other switches this way, too.
Modern home theater A/V receivers often come with several HDMI inputs of their own. If your receiver has this feature, you won’t need a separate switcher then.
HDMI switches are popular products in our entertainment-oriented world. When you have seven or eight entertainment devices with video and just three or four HDMI ports on your television, you might find yourself wishing for one of these. Read on to learn about them.