An HDMI switcher helps the modern home entertainment enthusiast overcome several common problems. The most critical problem being that we never seem to have enough HDMI ports. Even top-end HDTV sets generally only have 4-5 inputs, and as more and more of our gadgets embrace HDMI, that means wire switching every time we want to use a device that’s not currently connected. With a large enough switcher, you can have them all connected at once.
Another great benefit of an HDMI switcher is that is that it helps us to tackle the rat’s nest. One of the biggest problems with wire management these days is that our home entertainments centers are getting larger, more dispersed and more complex. Each device has its own cable or two, and that can mean a half-dozen or more cables stringing this way and that. With a switcher, you at least have all of those cables coming into one entry point.
When shopping for a switcher or splitter, you’ll find a lot of competition and a wide range of respected brands: Apogee, IOGear, Joytech, Psyclone, TriLink, XtremeMac and so forth. That’s a lot of choice, and it can be overwhelming to the novice. It’s important to know that brand doesn’t matter much. As long as you’re buying a quality brand and the right splitter and cable configuration for your needs, the specific brand doesn’t matter.
After testing a wide range of HDMI and DVI AB switches, from manufacturers like Joytech, Psyclone, TriLink and XtremeMac, consumer groups have found differences in reliability and speed only when dealing with long stretches of cable. Even then, they were usually able to close the gap using an HDMI signal booster. But if you plan to use long stretches, it may be worthwhile to buy high-end. Otherwise, get the most basic model that meets your needs.
Feature set is an extremely important issue with HDMI and DVI AB switches because, for instance, not all of them support 1080p. If yours doesn’t, you can connect a 1080p device to your 1080p TV and have to watch the result at a lesser quality. Another important issue is powered versus “non-powered.” The powered units require a slot on your power strip; the non-powered units don’t. This feature costs a little more, but saving a precious slot is worth it to us.
Finally, when choosing an HDMI switcher, the most important aspect is that it has enough HDMI ports for your current configuration. Go ahead and plan for the future, but only if it makes financial and logistic sense to do so. In the worst-case scenario, you can simply buy another switcher and daisy chain the switches together. Using short HDMI cables, you can daisy chain numerous switches together with no loss of speed or reliability.