HDMI ports enable connecting two audio/video devices. For instance, if you’d like to link your laptop to your TV and consume content on a larger screen, you’ll need HDMI.
HDMI ports are found on a wide range of consumer electronic goods — such as TVs, laptops, projectors, external monitors, streaming devices, gaming consoles, soundbars, cable boxes, AV receivers, etc. Setting up an HDMI link is pretty straightforward too.
However, things get a little complex when more than two devices are involved, such as sending the HDMI signal from a source device to multiple display devices or hooking various input devices to a single output device.
Thankfully, there are tools such as an HDMI switch or a splitter that make things easier. However, the big question is whether the HDMI signal loses its strength or integrity when split or shared with multiple devices.
To find the answer to the question and gather more information about HDMI switches and splitters, keep reading.
- What is an HDMI Switch? How Does It Work?
- Do HDMI Switches Affect Video Quality?
- HDMI Splitters: An Overview
- Do HDMI Splitters Affect Video Quality?
- Check the Cables Before Blaming the HDMI Switch/Splitter
What is an HDMI Switch? How Does It Work?
An HDMI switch lets you connect multiple HDMI input devices – such as a streaming device, gaming console, Blu-ray player, etc. – to a display device. The switcher comes in handy when the output device, such as your TV or projector, has fewer HDMI input ports than needed.
With an HDMI switch, you need not plug and unplug your various HDMI input devices to use them with your television, external monitor, projector, etc. A simple push of the button or toggle on the switch will enable connecting the various input ports.
Though the HDMI port on your output and input devices can handle multiple instances of plugging in and out, your source gears and their cables may not be up for the same and could wear out quicker than usual.
Do HDMI Switches Affect Video Quality?
An HDMI switch won’t affect video quality if it’s not defective or broken, to begin with.
Some HDMI switches that use two or more HDMI input and output ports or are bidirectional could transmit a weaker signal compared to another. For example, one video signal could be capped at 720p, while the other will transmit Full HD or 4K signals.
The switches available on the market now are all capable of at least 1080p video output. If your display device is 4K and you would like the outcome to be no lesser, make sure the HDMI switch you buy is 4K video compatible.
Do not assume all HDMI switches are designed to do 4K video signals by default.
The following are some excellent HDMI switches that you would not go wrong with:
- GANA 3-Port 4K HDMI Switch
- Kinivo 5-Port HDMI Switch 4K HDR
- BENFEI 4K HDMI Switch
Last update on 2023-01-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.
Some switches come with a remote, negating the need to change the input source physically. Product options include:
- ROOFULL 5-Port 4K HDMI Switch
- UGREEN HDMI Switch 3 in 1
- ULBRE HDMI Switch 4-Port 4K
Last update on 2023-01-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.
HDMI Splitters: An Overview
An HDMI splitter works just like a switch but in the opposite direction. It lets you transmit an HDMI signal to multiple output devices. The splitter does so by duplicating the original signal and sending them all to the connected devices.
A video splitter has multiple ports — the minimum being three: one input port and two output ports. It’s pretty common to see a lot more ports on it, however.
If a splitter has the numbers 1×3 in its description, it means it has one input and three output holes. An equivalent HDMI switch would have the 3×1 configuration: three input ports and one output port.
The HDMI Splitter Use-Cases
The need to connect multiple output devices to a single HDMI input signal arises in domestic and commercial settings.
At home, the splitter helps connect a TV and a projector to a single input source simultaneously. If there are two TVs in different rooms requiring the same signal, a splitter facilitates that.
Similarly, you could use the split connection to pair two different output devices, such as a projector and an external monitor. Some people use their televisions during the day and projectors in the evenings and use the splitter to provide the two devices HDMI signals from a single source.
In restaurants, bars, or any business space where there’s the need to play the same source content on multiple devices simultaneously, an HDMI splitter helps. In a business environment, you’ll need a splitter that’s more robust and reliable than splitters used at homes, such as this gofanco Prophecy Intelligent 1x8 HDMI Splitter .
Also, when the distance between your input and output device is significant, and you need a cable extension, a splitter links two HDMI cables. Multiple HDMI splitters could be employed to accommodate more than two cables, but buying a lengthier cord would be a lot more sensible and practical.
Do HDMI Splitters Affect Video Quality?
Like an HDMI switch, an HDMI splitter will not hamper video quality if it’s non-defective, hooked on correctly, and capable enough to carry its load.
Since an HDMI signal is digital, the output is there to be seen, or there’s no video at all. That also means a more expensive splitter will not have a superior function than a regular HDMI splitter.
However, the more expensive splitter is likely to be built well or of high-quality materials, which would add to its longevity. If handled irresponsibly, the splitter would not likely break.
Too Many Simultaneous Connections Could Hamper Quality
If a single HDMI signal is powering multiple output devices, there could be a degradation in video quality — especially if you’re using the cheapest one available. The drop in quality would usually be in the form of video lag.
High-quality splitters may not necessarily ensure an output uniform across various display devices, but they would significantly reduce any loss of video quality.
The OREI HD-108 4K , for instance, is a 1×8 splitter that works like a charm despite the more-than-usual number of ports it comes with. Even when serving the maximum number of display devices it can handle, the HD-108 causes zero loss in picture or audio quality.
Some splitters, however, could suffer from a drop in signal quality after a specific number of splits. And that could be the case even when some of its ports are unoccupied.
Check the Cables Before Blaming the HDMI Switch/Splitter
Often, any trouble with an HDMI signal is less with the source or destination devices or junction tools (such as splitters and switches) and more rooted in the cable itself.
HDMI cables are tasked with carrying signals across distances. For the signals to travel smoothly, there must be no hurdles in their path (digital noise, cable contusions, etc.).
In other words, a sub-standard HDMI cable is likely to cause video output issues more than switches and splitters.
Cables that are relatively long could also present video quality concerns, mainly if they are too long to handle for a single switch or splitter.
1. What video quality does an HDMI splitter default to?
If two TVs are connected to a splitter, and both sets are turned on, the video resolution or output would depend on the hardware specifications of the televisions.
Suppose one TV is 4K and the other one is a 1080p television. Both are connected to a 4K input source. In that case, the video playback will be Full HD on both TVs. The splitter will not modify the 4K signal for the 1080p device alone.
If the 4K signal traveling through the splitter is powering the 4K television alone, the output will naturally be 4K.
2. Does an HDMI matrix switch affect video quality?
HDMI switches usually have a single output port, but there are switches with multiple output ports as well – for instance, the Orei 4K HDMI 2x2 Matrix Switch . The device also comes in the 4×4 configuration.
Talking about the impact on video quality, there’s likely to be no major difference between a switch with a single output port and a device with multiple ports. That’s because we are dealing with digital and not analog signals.
Moreover, the multiple output ports means the switch would likely be used to output signals to more than one device, or a single output port is highly unlikely to be burdened with input information from multiple active input devices.
3. Is there a difference in signal quality between powered and non-powered HDMI switches/splitters?
Like active and passive HDMI cables, HDMI splitters can be broadly classified as “powered” and “non-powered”. While non-powered splitters are perfectly capable of their jobs, the powered types provide an edge in signal length and strength.
Though there’s no hard and fast rule, powered HDMI switches or splitters are ideal when the cable length is more than 20 feet so that the HDMI signal is powered and that there’s no lag in the video.
A non-powered switch/splitter could struggle to transfer digital data across lengths that are best handled by their powered counterparts.
An HDMI switch or splitter will affect video quality when tasked with something it is not factory-made to do. Do not blame the HDMI device if a 4K video looks bad through a splitter/switch that’s made to output 720p videos at max.
Ascertain your video output requirements and buy an HDMI switch/splitter accordingly. Setting up the device is pretty straightforward, or you need not be technology-savvy. Give the manual a read if you want to.
If all of the above requirements are taken care of and the video output is still sub-par, the cable is likely bad. Because if the splitter/switch is faulty, there won’t be any audio/video output. Contact the seller to get a replacement or refund on your HDMI switch or splitter if there’s no video output.
Catherine Tramell has been covering technology as a freelance writer for over a decade. She has been writing for Pointer Clicker for over a year, further expanding her expertise as a tech columnist. Catherine likes spending time with her family and friends and her pastimes are reading books and news articles.