The 10 Best HDMI Switches
History Of HDMI
High-Definition Multimedia Interface, more commonly known as HDMI, is an audio and video interface that allows for the transmission of extremely high-quality, uncompressed video data and either compressed or uncompressed audio data from one HDMI-compliant source to a display monitor of some kind. The HDMI source can be a Blu-ray player, a computer, or even a smartphone. A display can be anything from a TV to a computer monitor or even a video projector. If you are transferring only audio data, it can be any HDMI-compliant audio device. HDMI is today's replacement for the analog video standards of yesterday, which used VGA, composite video, or RCA cables and connectors.
Unlike some other technologies, HDMI actually has multiple founders, as it was developed nearly simultaneously by Thompson, Panasonic, Silicon Image, Sony, Hitachi, RCA, Philips, and Toshiba. Technically, each company developed their own version of HDMI technology, but they all do essentially the same thing and work with the same types of cables and connectors.
The initial development of HDMI technology began on April 16, 2002 and the first Authorized Testing Center (ATC) was opened in California on June 23, 2003 by Silicon Image. The goal was to produce an audio-video (AV) connector that could be backward compatible with DVI, a video display interface developed by the Digital Display Working Group. The reason it needed to be backwards compatible with DVI is because, at the time, this was the main technology used for connecting HDTVs.
Since its initial inception, there have been several updated HDMI versions released. Some of these newer versions were designed to improve the color specifications, the resolution, the audio and video capacity, and overall performance. Other updated versions have focused on adding additional features like 3D support, Consumer Electronics Control (CEC), and Ethernet data transmission.
HDMI Switches Versus HDMI Splitters
There is a bit of confusion among the average consumer about the differences between an HDMI switch and an HDMI splitter. Many people incorrectly assume the two are the same thing, but this is not true. An HDMI switch is the best choice if you have multiple HDMI sources that you want to connect to a single display device.
Many TVs only come with one or two HDMI ports, but most home entertainment centers have more than one or two HDMI source devices. Nowadays, the average home may have a computer, a cable box, a DVD player, and a gaming system that all require connections. An HDMI switch removes the hassle of constantly reaching behind your entertainment center to plug and unplug devices.
An HDMI splitter is best suited in applications where you have one HDMI source that you want to display on two or more monitors. While it is true that an HDMI splitter can operate in both directions and does have the functionality to also turn one HDMI port into multiple ports, it can get somewhat confusing when trying to operate it in this manner.
If you choose to use an HDMI splitter as an HDMI switch, it is vital that you only have one peripheral device turned on at any given time. If you forget to turn off one device before powering on a second device, the signal will get jumbled and data won't be transmitted correctly. With an HDMI switch, you can have all of the devices powered on at the same time without worry of an overlapping transmission. That said, just make sure you understand the differences between these two technologies before making your final decision.
How To Choose The Right HDMI Switch
Choosing the correct HDMI switch for your needs is relatively simple and you don't need to know much about the technology to do so. Here are some simple tips that will help you pick the best switch for your entertainment center. First, you'll want to consider how many devices you plan on hooking up to the switch.
Once you know how many devices you'll be using, you know how many ports you need your HDMI switch to have. It's not a bad idea to buy a switch equipped with one or two more ports than you plan on using. This way, if you expand your entertainment center at some point in the future to include more devices, or if a friend brings over a laptop or gaming system, you won't have to unplug one of your devices.
Another consideration involves the features you want. Some HDMI switches come with a remote control, while others require you to go and press a button to switch between devices. If you don't think you want to get off the couch to switch from one device to another, go with a model that includes a remote control. The types of data you need to transfer should be taken into account as well. If you have 3D TV, you need to make sure your HDMI switch is 3D-compatible.
Finally, price and quality of the hardware should come into play. You don't want to pay more than you have to, but you also don't want to wind up with a low-quality switch that may cause degradation of the image and audio quality.