These days, my HDTV often sits quietly in my family room… like a lonely, dark monolith, aching to be found. The Big Game is the one moment each year that specifically reminds me there’s a big, hulking Guardian of Forever I should be visiting now and again.
Distant Man Cave
Once upon a time, I invested a great deal of time and energy setting up my own home theater. It was once a source of great pride that I had a respectable AV set up. But as more of my media consumption moments have become fragmented onto smaller, mobile platforms like my iPad and iPhone, I haven’t really focused lately on keeping my multimedia ‘shrine’ up to date.
The major exception is my recent addition of a new Apple TV to my old 42” Panasonic Plasma. As invigorating as that move was, I realized during my installation that I had unfortunately run out of available HDMI ports on my aging TV. So now, my tech toys have to compete for which ones get to stay on the island.
And that’s not so fun…
Buy an HDMI Switch
But short of purchasing a new TV, the only Franken-fix is really to buy some type of HDMI splitter or switcher.
(Also known as a switch)
The good news is I’m not alone with this problem. There are lots of HDTVs out there with insufficient HDMI inputs.
(Mine has only two.)
As a result, there’s a myriad of HDMI switch solutions available on the market to solve this problem.
The other problem is figuring out which one to get…
Convenience is Overrated
The pricing for an HDMI switch ranges from twenty bucks to a hundred dollars or more. It’s already a pretty mature market. So you should only pay for what you really need.
One major variable is how many inputs the switcher can handle. It’s typically from two to five, but you can easily find switches up to eight inputs.
(It just costs more.)
Many switches today have automatic sensors, which detect when one input is active verses another. Lots of folks out there run into problems with this feature especially with inputs that are always ‘on.’ As for me, I really don’t need this ‘intelligent’ detection. I’m just fine walking over and switching the switch manually.
The same goes for remote controls that come with many of these models. That’s just another remote I’m going to lose. Again, I don’t mind pressing a button on the main unit before I sit down.
(As much of a hardship as that apparently is for others…)
Passive is my Preference
The other major consideration is whether you’re going to get a powered unit with its own AC plug or a passive, unpowered unit that draws minimal power from the HDMI cable and its source.
I really like the idea of a passive switch without its own power supply, because I simply don’t want to plug in yet another power-sucking phantom device into my media center.
That said, there are reviewers out there saying that you should beware of passive switches, because they’re less likely to work out for you, depending on the specific AV source combinations you’re using.
Of course, others say you’ll be just fine with a passive unit.
I say take the chance to avoid having to plug in something else.
(And keep your receipt just in case.)
There are plenty of reasonably priced choices out there with decent reviews.
Here are three options…
The Efficient Option
KanexPro 3×1 HDMI Switcher – $29.95
It can handle three inputs, which is one more than I need.
It’s a passively powered box with ultra-low power consumption that doesn’t require an external power supply.
(The designers thoughtfully allowed for a USB power option, if absolutely necessary…)
The KanexPro can also handle up to a 4K signal… not that I’m watching anything close to that today.
The Cheap Choice
Alternately, there’s the Comprehensive 2×1 HDMI Switcher – $19.95
It’s as bare bones as they come with only two inputs, and it essentially looks like a bulky splitter.
If you still feel a little queasy with the idea of your AV sources not providing enough juice to run a passively powered switch, then I suggest buying a switch with its own plug is your way to go…
This box has its own power cord and lots of blinking lights to tell you what’s going on.
(Overkill for me… but to each their own.)
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m going with the KanexPro Switcher.
My home media center now is ready for Super Bowl Sunday…