HDMI Splitter shares video

HDMI Splitter shares video …

The HDMI Splitter does the opposite of what the HDMI “Switcher Box” that I covered in my last blog entry does – the Ying and Yang effect. Also known as a HDMI Distribution Amplifier, the HDMI Splitter allows a user to display the same HD image and listen to the same audio from one HDMI source on multiple targets such as LED/LCD TVs or projectors. This effect is sometimes referred to as “Mirroring”. One place where this is done a lot is in home Theater system. But, even more common is there usage in local electronic stores such as Best Buy. In these stores where they have many TVs on display you will notice that most of them are showing the same images. This is done with the use of the HDMI Splitter.

There is a strong correlation between the increase growth in the number of HDMI Splitters on the market and the popularity of High Definition sources, displays and availability of HDMI devices such as Blue Ray players and video gaming consoles. Over the years, there has also been tremendous improvements with regards to functionality for these devices. They track well with new functionality in the HDMI standard. For example, there are a lot of Splitters that has 3D and 1080P video resolution support. Like any other HDMI device there are limits to the allowable Splitter configurations due to system loss. However, it is not uncommon to have a bunch of HDMI Splitters cascaded together to display HD images on up to 64 devices simultaneously with minimal losses. In general, you can find Splitters available in 2, 4 or 8 port configurations. There is an active (require a separate power supply) and a passive version. The consensus is that the passive one is useless and should be avoided. Splitters have CE, FCC, and UL certifications. In some situations such as a consumer electronic show or even a home theater, long wire routes might be needed. In these cases, as with standard HDMI cabling, it is more cost effective to use Cat5e/Cat6 cables. Consequently, a CAT5e/CAT6 HDMI Splitter is used for these types of hook ups.

Conceptually, when you think splitter, the mind might visualize something like a headphone. While that would be representative, it would be a very simple form of this device. Contrary to your visual, like the HDMI Switch, the Splitter device is relatively complex. Beyond the need to make sure the HDMI signal is not degraded while it is being transmitted and shared, there is also a need to manage and account for all the back and forth communication that takes place between the signal device and the display. The information that is being communicated is called extended display identification data (also known as EDID) as documented in the HDMI specification. In a typical two device communication scenario, EDID is sent from the display to the source device to tell the source device what kind of data to send. By itself, that scenario is challenging enough, now add more than one display in the mix and the complexity is magnified. The original source has to communicate back and forth between the new Splitter source and all the displays that are connected to the splitter. Support for HDCP (High Definition Content Protection) which protects the multimedia content from being pirated and guarantees the content makes it to the display, adds an additional layer that needs to be managed by the splitter as well.

So, what are some of things one should consider before buying a HDMI Splitter?

1. The splitter will be limited by the display device with the lowest resolution. For example, if your source device transmits 1080p HD but one TV display 1080p and the second TV displays 720p, both TVs will only display in 720p even though the source device is capable of transmitting 1080p video.

2. It is recommended that you buy an active Splitter device. The passive ones are cheap and does not work as well. So, save yourself the headache and your money.

3. Try to keep the cable length between your source device and displays shorter than 50 feet. Anything more than that, will require some type of restoration/amplification device.

4. Make sure to only buy a splitter that is HDMI authorized testing center (ATC) certified. This will limit your options. But, should allow you to buy with more confidence.

5. Finally, try to buy from a vendor/manufacture that will allow you to return the device if you are not satisfied.

In the following section “Tech Talk”, I will get a little bit more technical about the HDMI Splitter and conceptually what is inside it.

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Inside the HDMI Splitter, basically, you have what is know as a DEMULTIPLEXER. This component is used in the Electronic Engineering world for expanding a single signal into multiple destinations (it might also be referred to as parallel drivers). I can go deep into the details of Boolean equations, logic diagram and truth tables to explain the digital behavior of a DEMULTIPLEXER but, I will save that for another time. Although, it is really not that complex since the expansion is not conditional. Anyway, instead, I will use a highway analogy to convey the point.

Imagine you have a one (1) lane highway that expands into three (3). This is a magical highway that allows the same car that enters via the single lane to exit and travel down the 3 new expanded lanes. By the nature of how the highway is constructed, the process outlined above is done automatically. So, fundamentally, the DEMULTIPLEXER behaves opposite to the MULTIPLEXER.

Also, some of these devices have repeater circuitry to help restore any signal loss that might have occurred as a result of Demultiplexing the digital signals.

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HDMI Switcher Box Shares HDTV

HDMI Switcher Box shares HDTV

The HDMI Switcher box is a good solution for creating additional HDMI input ports. For older HDTVs or other displays with one HDMI port, a HDMI Switcher box can be used to share a single port. It is like a selector switch from the old days that allowed the sharing of a single computer monitor with multiple computers. Obviously, there is a lot more complexity to a HDMI switch box. For example, almost all of them have remote control that allows the user to control them in the same way a TV is controlled.

So, what would be a typical scenario where a HDMI Switcher Box is used. Lets say you have a HD video camera, PSP video game and a Blue Ray player. Your HDTV only has one HDMI port. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a newer HDTV with many more HDMI ports, you can simply purchase a 3-to-1 HDMI switch box for much less and would work perfectly for this situation. The hook up is simple, you would need to purchase a HDMI Cable for each source (i.e., the PSP game, Blue Ray Player, etc …) that connects to one of the HDMI inputs on the Switcher box and a HDMI Cable to connect the output of the switch box to the HDMI input port on the HDTV.

Here is an example of a pretty good HDMI switcher box from Amazon:

Like HDMI itself, most of the HDMI switch boxes on the market are kind of smart – meaning they have some level of automation. It will detect which source is the last one to be powered on and give that one priority to the HDTV display. There is usually some type of LED indicator to show which source is selected at any one time. Also, the user has the ability to override the automatic behavior with the remote control. They can manually select which source to show on the HDTV.

As a general matter, most HDMI Switcher boxes have similar features and construction. There are too many manufacturers to mention and I am not in the practice of pushing one brand over the next. But, there are certainly functions and features you can compare to make an informed buying decision. In terms of HDMI Cable versions, there is pretty good compatibility between the latest standard and high-speed HDMI Cables and most of the switches on the market. The thing to be mindful of is that there are a few HDMI features that are Not supported yet: the Ethernet channel and Audio Return. Some of the lower end devices do not come with IR receivers or remote. That might be a reason to stay away from those types. Another thing to look out for is whether the HDMI switch box comes with its own power supply are whether it is powered from the HDMI Cable. My suggestion is to stay away from devices that don’t have an independent power source. They tend to not work as well.

Here are a couple of issues that you might run into and how to debug them:

1) There is no picture present:

  • Check that all connectors are connected well.
  • Check that the HDMI cable is not damaged.
  • Check that the power of the HDMI Switcher is on.
  • If there is a reset button try to reset the device.

2) HDTV could not show in 1080p resolution:

  • Make sure the content, source devices (Blue Ray Player, etc …) fully supports 1080p.
  • Make sure your HDMI cables are capable of transmitting 1080P video signal.

In the following section “Tech Talk”, I will get a little bit more technical about the HDMI Switch Box and what is inside it.


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Inside the HDMI switch box, basically, you have what is know as a MULTIPLEXER. This component is used in the Electronic Engineering world for selecting between different signal sources. I can go deep into the details of Boolean equations, logic diagram and truth tables to explain the digital behavior of a MULTIPLEXER but, I will save that for another time. Instead, I will use a highway analogy to convey the point.

Imagine you have a three (3) lane highway that merges into one (1). The merging process is controlled by traffic lights. Therefore, at the point of merger, the incoming lane that has a green light is allowed to merge into the single exiting lane. If one incoming lane has the green light then the other two incoming lanes will see a RED light. The lights can be controlled automatically by sensors in the lanes or they can be controlled manually by a traffic cop. That is the essence of how a Multiplexer and the HDMI Switcher box works.

Also, some of these devices have repeater circuitry to help restore and signal loss that might have occurred as a result of multiplexing the digital signals.

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HDMI-to-VGA converter

HDMI-to-VGA converter

In an ideal world, a HDMI-to-VGA converter would not be needed. The best option would be to only have HDMI compatible devices, in which case, we can simply use a HDMI-to-HDMI cable to connect them up. However, currently, we do not have that. Truth is, HDMI is a relatively new standard (V1.0 released around 2003) so there are a lot of older devices that do not have HDMI ports (or even DVI ports for that matter). One such example is older computers and display monitors that have VGA ports. Therefore, if you have a newer device that only has HDMI ports and you would like to connect it to an older monitor you would need a converter cable. In this case, a HDMI-to-VGA would fit the bill.

Obviously, with this arrangement there will be some lost in quality of the content that is displayed. But, depending on the objective that you are trying to achieve, that might be acceptable. Even in a pure HDMI eco-system, the maximum HDMI functionality and benefit is determined by the device with the minimal amount of HDMI functions. The same rule applies to any HDMI-to-other_format converter.

The above example highlights the HDMI-to-VGA cable, but, I suppose the reverse connection — VGA-to-HDMI is also possible. A computer with a VGA port that connects to a HDTV with a HDMI port for example. In any event, the same limitations applies ! If both of the devices that you are trying to connect have VGA ports, then use them and a regular VGA cable. You will NOT gain any benefits by using a HDMI-to-VGA cable when you have the aforementioned VGA-to-VGA scenario.

So, what are some of the technical differences between a HDMI and a VGA connector ?

The explanation will get a little more technical, so I will explain it in the “Tech Talk” section below.

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To start, the pin count between the two connectors are different. The VGA port has 15-pins while the HDMI port has 19. Fundamentally, the VGA port is an ANALOG device that uses analog signals to communicate. HDMI is all DIGITAL. Consequently, for a HDMI-to-VGA converters, DIGITAL signals are being converted into ANALOG signals using what is known in the Electronic Engineering world as an Digital-to-Analog (DAC) converter. For the reverse connection VGA-to-HDMI, the reverse conversion with an electronic device called a Analog-to-Digital (ADC) converter is used.

By-the-way, if you don’t know, and you are wondering what is ANALOG and DIGITAL ? Basically, an ANALOG voltage signal is a signal that can be any voltage value (an infinite amount of different possibilities) between some low and high threshold. For example, if the low threshold is 2 volts and the high threshold is 5 volts, the analog signal can be any value within that range.

Unlike the ANALOG signal, the DIGITAL signal is essentially limited to only two values: 0, 1 — where the “1″ is actually an abstraction of some set analog voltage (i.e. 3 volts). For obvious reason, a DIGITAL signal is usually much easier to process and manipulate. Which probably explain why we are currently living in the digital age. There are some other technological factors for why digital is so ubiquitous but, I won’t get into that at this time.


Monster HDMI Cables

Functionally, Monster HDMI cables are suppose to be equivalent to any other genuine HDMI cable that is currently on the market. However, as a brand they pride themselves on quality and performance. Therefore, going with that logic, it is reasonable to conclude that their cables are more durable and possibly longer lasting. From their marketing collateral, they stress the fact that they do not make low performing cables – only high performers. The two characteristics that they speak to a lot is the bandwidth (A.K.A. Data Rate – how much data could go thru their HDMI Cables with minimal distortion as measured with the “eye test”) and cable length (the fact that the signals do not start to degrade as fast and violate the “eye test” compared to other vendors). In addition, they claim to perform extensive stress testing like twisting and pulling on the connectors to make sure the signal integrity remains intact in real situations such as the installation process.

So, how does Monster justify their claims ? First, they said their HDMI Cables are Simplay (an independent third party test lab with expertise in validating HDMI) verified. Second, they have a “Monster Cable for life Performance Promise”. Directly from their website: “If the audio and video components you purchase in the future ever surpass the performance of select Monster® cables you buy today, Monster® will upgrade these cables absolutely free.” Of course, the offer is only on their higher performing more expensive cables. These are the list of eligible cables:

  1. M1000HD HDMI Ultimate High Speed with Ethernet

     2. HDMI 1000HD Ultimate High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet

      3. Digital Life™ High Performance SuperThin Mini HDMI Cables – High Speed

      4. Monster® SuperThin™ High Speed Powered Camcorder Cable

On the high end, Monster’s best performing HDMI cable will operate with a bandwidth of 17.8 Gbps. Compared to the testing requirements of a regular high-Speed HDMI cable of 10.2 Gbps, you can see that there is a significant increase in performance. With their “V-Grip” feature, they are able to address one of the few concerns about the regular HDMI Cable – the possibility of getting disconnected during cleaning or other stressed situations. The “V-Grip” feature increases retention force for a more reliable connection. 

Monster also seems to have an edge on the Custom HDMI cable market, as I mentioned previously, one of the things they praise themselves on is for high performance longer length cables. According to the information on the website, they are able to have better performance over long distances because their cables use loss-less insulators, larger conductors and special winding techniques. Plus, the cables are UL CL rated so that they can run in walls.

From what I can see, it does appear that Monster might have some better performing, good quality HDMI Cables, but, is this better performance really needed for most applications ? Probably not ! Is it worth it to pay the premium price for them ? I don’t know, that is a question that you will need to answer for yourself. 

Monster cables can be purchased from many online stores. As I mentioned in my previous blog entries, I typically buy electronics and other products from AMAZON. The link below will take you to the Amazon store where you can find Monster and other HDMI cables.

Monster Cable

For the next blog entry, I will touch on the topic of VGA-to-HMDI and HDMI-to-VGA cables.

HMDI cable, Huh ?

Yep, another case of a mis-typed search term. Did you mean to type “HDMI Cable” instead of “HMDI Cable” ? It happens to the best of us! Numerous times I started my search with the intention of finding information about HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) and ended up with accidentally typing “HMDI Cable” into the search engine. Assuming that you really wanted to find information about HDMI cables, you have come to the right site.

This entry was suppose to be about “Monster Cables” but, I mistakenly type “HMDI” so frequently that I thought it made sense to add a supplemental entry to help others that make the same mistake as I do.

My first entry on this blog tried to answer the question of “What is a HDMI Cable ?”. It goes into details about the benefits of HDMI and why it is better than the older analog solutions for connecting HD (High Definition) electronic devices together. The fact that it is all digital so the quality of the audio and video is crystal clear. The fact that HDMI is a “smart” cable so it facilitates communication and Ethernet sharing between the connected devices. The fact that a HDMI cable saves you money (even though it cost a little more than a single analog cable) and is easier to hookup since it combines more than 3 cables into one.

The second entry deals with the process of what to consider when buying HDMI cables and where to buy them. The process can be simple or complex based on a whole bunch of factors. However, in the latest 1.4 version of the standard, HDMI Licensing, LLC has new guidelines about labeling that should help to simply the buying process.

Anyway, although “HMDI Cable” led you to this site, I hope you are able to find the information you were searching for. By-the-way, you can also check out the “Additional HDMI Info” page that has links to some other valuable HDMI resources and the many more entries on this topic that will come in the future.

How to buy a HDMI Cable

Now that the question of “What is a HDMI Cable” is answered, it is now time to address the question of “How to buy a HDMI Cable” and “Where to buy them”. The truth is, the process can be very simple but, there are many variables that complicates it. The first issue is that there are many non-genuine HDMI cables on the market. The second is that there are many different flavors of HDMI devices because the standards does not require a manufacture  to implement all of the functionality of any specific version. The third is that the price range for the cables are all over the map – from very expensive (greater than $400) to very cheap (less than $5). The fourth is, HDMI Cables are available from almost all electronic Brick-and-Mortar store. But, the selection is even greater online. Finally, the number of HDTVs, Computers, Tablets, Blue-Ray Players and all type of Consumer Electronic products that has a HDMI port is staggering. As of just last year, it is estimated that more than 3 billion HDMI out-fitted devices were shipped. Considering that some of these devices have multiple HDMI ports should give you a sense of all the possibilities. Also, add to that, the fact that you have a Micro (Type D), Mini (Type C) and a Standard (Type A) version of this connector plug and the possibilities grows exponentially. I should point out that although Type A, C and D plugs are all different sizes, the pin count for each connector remains the same at 19.

TYPE A, C and D HDMI connector

So, what is a non-techie to do? As I said, you can make the process very simple by buying a HDMI Cable with all of the functions of the latest standard (currently V1.4a) to fit the type of HDMI port that is on your Electronic Device. Obviously, that might be an over-kill and cost more than you need to spend for functions that you might not use.

For a more deliberate and informed process, this is what I would recommend. First, from what I have seen, prices are better online than what you would find in a Brick-and-Mortar (unless it is a discount/surplus store like Ollies). That make sense since big online operations like Amazon or even volume sellers like Walmart tend to have lower over-head cost. They also don’t need to pay an online sales associate. So, shop at your preferred online store – one that has good name recognition and a brand name to protect is even better. This way, you can return the product if you are not satisfied.

I do still suggest that you go and speak to the “techie” at the Best Buy (or where ever), to get some guidance on what they consider to be a good HDMI brand. As well as, which features your cable should have based on the specification of the devices that you are trying to connect together. This leads me to probably one of the most important guidance in your buying decision “think features and functions instead of simply HDMI version.” This is important because, again, manufacturers are not mandated to implement all functions in a specific version. The standard is backwards compatible so even though the emphasis shouldn’t be version number, try to stick with the newer versions. Here are some of the questions that one might ask as they are trying to decide which cable to buy:

  1. What are the features of the devices I am trying to connect together ? Do I want to share Ethernet connectivity between the HDMI enabled devices that I am connecting ? The functionality of the HDMI Cable will be limited by the device with the lease amount of HDMI features.
  2. What will be the distance between the devices ? This will determine the length of the cable you will need to purchase. The longer the cable, the more expensive it will be. In extreme cases, you might also need to add a repeater, extender or some type of amplification if the cable needs to cover long distances (over 10 meters), as is the case for some home theater. Alternatively, long distance routing might force you to buy an “active” cable (has built-in electronic to maintain the quality of the digital signals) vs. the passive one that is primarily used in most situations.
  3. What type of ports are on the devices that I am trying to connect ? Is it a Mini-to-Standard (Type C to Type A), Micro-to-Standard (Type D to Type A) or Standard-to-Standard (Type A to Type A) HDMI connection ? In some case, you might need to buy a conversion connector. Or, a cable with two different types of plugs at each end. By-the-way, HDMI port on a device will always be female. The plugs at the end of the cables will always be male.
  4. Is this a genuine HDMI cable ? There are a lot of non-compliant cables on the market. You can find information about registered (official) vendors and manufactures on the HDMI organization website. The link is on the “additional HDMI resource” page of this site.
  5. What is a reasonable price for the cable I need ? This is tricky to answer since there are so many factors that affect the price of a HDMI cable. As mentioned before, the features (such as bandwidth and 3D) and the length is just a couple of them. However, it is very reasonable to get a high quality 6-ft cable with a lot of the V1.4a functions for $10 – $25 online.

I buy a lot of my cables and many other things at: AMAZON.com It is probably a good place to start. They have cables that covers the full cost spectrum. This link will take you to the Amazon store.

HDMI Licensing, LLC has also done things to simplify and improve the consumer buying experience. As of V1.4, there are specific labeling requirements. The cables are described as Standard (Category 1) or High Speed (Category 2). So, for newer cables they are required to be labeled by cable types. These are the different labels and what they mean:

HDMI Cable labeling

Standard HDMI® Cableis designed for most home applications, and is tested (@ 74.25 MHZ) to reliably transmit 1080i or 720p video. This is also the HD resolutions that are commonly associated with cable and satellite television, digital broadcast HD, and upscaling DVD players.

Standard HDMI® Cable with Ethernet – has the same functionality as the standard cable plus an additional dedicated data channel for HDMI Ethernet device networking. All of the devices that needs to be networked must be HDMI Ethernet enabled.

Standard Automotive HDMI® Cable – The automobile is a hostile environment, therefore the Automotive HDMI cable is designed with that in mind. It has similar technical characteristics as the Standard HDMI Cable with support for 1080i/720p video. The two important distinction of this cable is that the signals have stronger strength and it also has a latching system to secure the connection. This is to prevent the vibration in the car from leading to a break in connection.

High Speed HDMI® CableIs designed and tested (@340 MHZ) to operate at data speeds of  up to 10.2gbits and handle video resolutions of 1080p and beyond, including future display capabilities such as 4K, 3D, and Deep Color. If your HDMI devices (such as a Blu-ray player) support these features, this is the recommended cable to get.

High Speed HDMI® Cable with Ethernet – has the same functionality as the High Speed cable plus an additional dedicated data channel for HDMI Ethernet device networking. All of the devices that needs to be networked must be HDMI Ethernet enabled.

Hopefully, I was able to provide you with some useful information to help make your HDMI buying decision a little bit easier. So, now you know “How to and where to buy the ideal HDMI cable” for your situation. In my next posting, I will cover the “Monster” cable. It is on the higher end of the cost scale but, it is a very well respected and recognized brand.


What is a HDMI Cable ?

All cables are not created equally – that is a literal statement ! In my opinion, their has been a paradigm shift in the cable world. This shift is for the better ! For the most part, analogous to the convergence of voice, video and data in the communication space, so too, there has been a convergence in the cables that carry them. The perfect example of this is the HDMI cable. These days, the HDMI port and cable is ubiquitous in both the Computer and Consumer Electronic world. It makes perfect sense, it can be used as a “smart” interface for almost any device that needs to transmit and receive HD signals. Simply, the HDMI cable and port is the best of all worlds:

Quality – All crystal clear digital vs. Analog. No conversion process to distort the signal.

Smart – HDMI connected devices has two way communication with each other. This enables new functionality such as automatic configuration or one-touch play.

HD Content Protection – This is done using a copy right protection protocol name High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) developed at INTEL. This will allow consumers to access premium content that can not be copied in transit.

Ease Of Use – Multiple cables are combined into one to prevent “rat nesting” for a simpler setup and hook-up. With billions of HDMI enabled devices shipped, there is little doubt that it will be the multimedia connection medium of choice. Therefore, using this interface will future proof your entertainment hardware investment.

So, what does HDMI mean anyway ? The acronym stands for: High Definition Multimedia Interface. The High Definition (HD for short) aspect of it is obvious (somewhat ! Since the popularity of this interface correlates with the popularity of HDTV and other HD devices). But, there is so much more to it. From a historical perspective, HDMI is somewhat of an evolution of DVI (Digital Visual Interface), which is a digital video connection that is used in the PC world. One of the main drawbacks of this interface is that it requires a separate audio cable. HDMI fixed that, it is an all in one solution – Video, Audio, High Definition, 3-D, Ethernet and then some. Sounds great, right ?

Well, there are a few things to consider and decisions that consumers need to make when considering the purchase of one of these cables. Like most standards, HDMI is constantly improving. It started with V1.0 and it is now at V1.4 (I won’t get into the details of what is included in each version for this posting – let me know if you would like a specific posting on that). But, naturally, as I stated above, the functionality and features improve with each new version. Here in lies the issue – not all HDMI cables are functionally equal. This stems from the fact that the standard does not require manufacturers to implement all the functions in any specific version. But, the problem goes beyond functionality when you consider non-genuine parts that does not meet official HDMI manufacturing standards. It has been found that a large majority of the HDMI cables on the market are not compliant – they do not meet the HDMI compliance test. This could be due to the fact that these “illegal” manufactures use poor components and manual processes (like soldering) to make these cables. Consequently, the consumer must be mindful of these facts when they are trying to make a buying decision.

Hopefully, I was able to answer your question of “What is a HDMI Cable ?” For the next blog entry I will speak to what a buyer needs to consider when buying  HDMI cables and where to buy them.