HDMI Splitters and HDMI Switches

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These days, everyone has multiple HDMI-capable devices but only one or two displays to use them with. Sometimes, the hassle of switching out different cables, different displays, and different devices with HDMI connections is too much for anyone to bother with. Luckily, there are different devices out there such as HDMI splitters, HDMI switches, and HDMI extenders that all serve different purposes but sound relatively similar. It gets really confusing sometimes.

Well, lucky you! We’re here to show you what each of these devices does and which type you should choose depending on the job.

BEFORE WE BEGIN…

There are a few things one should know before undertaking a project that involves splitting or duplicating HDMI connections.

  1. Distance is key – The length of a cable directly correlates to its opportunities to lose signal strength. A ten-foot HDMI cable will almost always supply a better connection to its display than a fifty-foot HDMI cable would. No adapter can guarantee a strong signal strength over long distances, so be prepared for a minor loss of video quality under certain conditions.
  2. Split signals = split strength – Any adapter, splitter, or switch has to distribute the connection from its host device (like a Blu-Ray player, Xbox, or laptop) to one or more displays. Since this means splitting the video signal across multiple outputs, that means the strength of the signal is also split (relatively evenly) across those outputs. Consequently, instead of having one really strong connection, you’ll have three, four, five somewhat average connections. Be wary of the number of devices you split across and the capability of your computer’s video hardware.

HDMI SPLITTERS

You need an HDMI splitter if you want to…

  • Clone a single video output across multiple displays

HDMI splitters are simple and fairly self-explanatory. They take one male connection that plugs into the source device, and splits it across multiple (usually two) female connections. This connection then clones the video source across the screens that are attached. This means that, if you want to use multiple screens as one continuous display, you’ll need a different piece of hardware.

You will be able to use one display at a time with an HDMI splitter, but the devices must be turned on and off in the proper order to give the correct monitor first priority. This is usually achieved by plugging in the HDMI splitter, turning off all devices and displays, turning on the computer or console that is the video source, then turning on the display you wish to use.

HDMI SWITCHES

You need an HDMI switch if you want to…

  • “Switch” between different displays using a single video source

HDMI switches do exactly what you would expect them to do. An HDMI switch is a small box with a single video output to an HDMI display and multiple different outputs that can plug into a console, computer, or other devices all at once. Then, either with a button on the switch itself or with a remote control, you can switch or cycle between which of those devices you want to be displayed on that single screen.

For example, if you have an Xbox 360, an HDMI-enabled laptop, and an Apple TV, each of those devices would be running a cable into the HDMI switch. Each has its own numbered position, one, two, or three. With the remote or with the button on the switch, you then choose the location of each device. Choose one, your Xbox is on the screen. Choose two, the laptop, three, the AppleTV. This is great for home theater systems where you will likely have multiple devices going to a single large HDTV.

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Curious about other cool ways to connect HDMI stuff? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll blog it up! Thanks for reading!

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