You don't want a splitter, you want a HDMI switch
Having the correct definition will help when it comes to searching for products; you'll get more hits, and a bigger number of those hits will be from companies that understand what they're selling.
takes the signal from one source (say a Sky box or Blu-ray player) and multiplies it up to display on several TVs at the same time.
takes the signal from several sources (e.g. a BD player and a Sky box and a media streamer/Kodi/Firestick etc) and then selects one signal to go to a single TV display.
Since the video signals are being processed electronically you can't just use a splitter in reverse as a switch, and you can't use a switch in reverse as a splitter. Buy the wrong thing for the job and you're a bit stuffed.
There's a short-list of features that you need to consider before purchase:
- Powered from the HDMI socket or from a wallwart transformer - this one is easy; avoid anything that doesn't come with an external power supply. HDMI has a 5 volt power rail to power the HDMI receiver circuit in a TV or AV receiver so that the HDCP handshake (hello, what are you, what are your capabilities?) can happen. It's not designed to power peripheral devices such as switches, and using those devices can stop the HDCP handshake happening correctly. Just use a power supply
- Manual switch with auto-sense switching versus manual switch + remote control - In theory, auto-sensing should tell the switch which source devices are on and which are off. The switch would then autoamtically change to the live device. Unfortunately there are some devices such as Sky boxes where this either doesn't work reliably or doesn't work at all. This means you end up having to get out of your chair to press the source button to change the switch manually. Just bypass all the aggro and go for a remote controlled switch. Beware though, those with a small thin credit card-sized remotes... the IR from the remote is generally a bit weak so you need to get close to make it work.
- Number of inputs - Sounds obvious, but have a spare input just in case, or lay an extra cable in the wall to the TV for the unexpected source you might add one day
- 1080p or 4K UHD - if you have a source that is genuine 4K UHD resolution - and I'm not talking about a Blu-ray player or other device that simply scales up regular 1080p to 4K resolution but a proper UHD BD player or an Amazon Fire TV or a Sky Q Silver 2TB box - then make sure your switch is 4K compatible too.
- ARC - Audio Return Channel - Do you have a surround sound system or sound bar? Does it rely on ARC for sound coming back from the TV, and will that signal have to pass through the switch? If so, get a switch that supports ARC.
There are plenty of HDMI switches available, and the prices range from under £10 to over £100. From the short-list above you can start to narrow down the choices. Bear in mind that HDMI can be a bit flaky even at the best of times with a simple A-to-B connection. Adding a switch or splitter in to the mix can complicate things in unforeseeable ways.
For example, earlier this year I visited an old customer of mine who was having trouble with the wireless touch-screen remote I installed several years ago. It turned out he bought a 4K UHD HDMI splitter to go with a 4K TV for the new extension. The splitter wasn't a real cheapie-cheapie; it was a £40 job from Cablesson, and they generally get reasonable customer reviews. Although it looked decent enough with its metal case, it still chucks out a load of radio interference that stops the wireless link working for his remote. Had I not gone to site to diagnose then my customer might have presumed that several hundred quids worth of advanced touch-screen remote was faulty rather than a £40 splitter messing things up. Be prepared to test everything, and get ready to return gear that doesn't work correctly. In the industry we have an alternative version for the HDMI acronym. We refer to it as H
If you don't need ARC or 4K then have a serious think about spending £50-£60 on a used Octava HDMI switch. There are a couple of Ebay right now (nothing to do with me, I hasten to add), they just work.
Octava, Extron, Kramer; these are all brands that produce products for the commercial installation market. This is a big step up from domestic. I use them for meeting rooms and lecture theatre installs where I want something bullet-proof. The picture quality will be identical to the cheap stuff off Amazon and Ebay. The difference is these things are engineered properly, they keep working for years and years, and they won't cause compatibility issues so long as they're used in an appropriately spec'd system.The used Octava switches at £50-£60 would have been around £250 new. They're a bit of a bargain used for the quality of the product.
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