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What is an HDMI® Switch?

By J.Gunsch
Updated May 17, 2024
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A high definition monitor (HDMI® switch) allows the user to select multiple entertainment devices in order to provide the best quality and resolution of the picture. The devices that can be hooked up to a HDMI® switch are game stations, DVD players/ recorders (HD or blu-ray), settop boxes, HDTV, and monitors. The sources must be HDMI® compatible.

There are different models of HDMI® switches. The simplest and most basic model is the 2x1 HDMI®, meaning that there are two inputs and one output. The user is able to switch between two different HDMI® sources. For example, the user will be able to have a HD DVD player and a game station hooked up to the switch. The 2x1 HDMI® switch is not highly recommended because the consumer will not have room for future expansion. The 4x1 HDMI® switch allows up to four sources, which is recommended. A 5x1 switch is also available for the ultimate expandability. An external HDMI® switch is beneficial for anyone who has a HD monitor and has less than the desired amount of inputs to expand the system.

There are many features a consumer should look for in an HDMI® switch. A consumer should consider expandability. A 5-port HDMI® switch is recommended for future expandability, while 2-port HDMI® switch will not. It is also important that the HDMI® switch has High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) capability. HDCP must pass data between source and monitor.

Another feature in a HDMI® switch that should not be overlooked is that it is backward compatible, or able to take the place of a Digital Visual Interface (DVI). This means that the user will just have to select the correct cables, either HDMI®, or HDMI® to DVI, to customize the system. The switch should also include a remote control in order to select the specific channel desired. A dedicated power adapter is essential in an HDMI® switch as some HDMI® switches are powered directly from a HDMI® cable, which can over load power to the HDMI® sources. The function of the HDMI® cable is to power the Extended Display Identification Data (EDID),which communicates the monitor's display capabilities to the computer.

HDTV technology is becoming more advanced all the time. Therefore, HDMI® switches may become absolute in the future as more TVs include HDMI® inputs.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon314455 — On Jan 18, 2013

Is there a switch which allows one hdmi input and out to two but only one output active at a time? I would like to have an hdmi output from the cable box and into one TV and one computer. At any time, I can select which I want to display (TV or computer) by selecting which output. This way, I maintain the hdcp signal without it detecting that it is going out to two destinations and subsequently causing signal failure.

By fpkwaile — On Feb 20, 2010

I have an HP Pavilion dv6500 with a HDMI port. I would like to connect this with the HDMI port in my HDTV but when I connect it, the television is telling me that it is not receiving a signal. It seems to me that the laptop is not transmitting the signal for some reason. Is there a way that I can turn something on so that my laptop transmits the signal the way it is supposed to?

By tsprague1 — On Jan 01, 2009

I have a digital tv, but not hdtv, that is connected to a catv. There are several channels lately that have been switched over to hd and we cannot get them with our current tv. I don't want to purchase a new tv. Is there a converter that will allow me to watch the hd channels from cable without purchasing a new tv?

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