written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 2/23/2011
How does an HDMI switch work? What types of HDMI switches are available? What are the pros and cons you have to take note of before purchase? Most importantly, how do you choose a suitable HTPC HDMI switch that doesn’t ruin your HDTV viewing experience?
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If you have many HDMI sources – cable/satellite TV receivers, DVD players with HDMI output, PC with HDMI output, gaming consoles with HDMI connectivity and HTPC – you would like to connect to your HDTV, then an HDMI switch would do the job for you. Before we look at the best HTPC HDMI switch, let’s consider the types of HDMI switches available out there.
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Types of HDMI Switches
The most basic form of HDMI switch is the manual type. If you have a number of HDMI sources all turned on at the same time, you would want to use a manual HDMI switch. All you have to do is push a button to switch between devices.
If you do not fancy a manual switch, you can opt for an automatic HDMI switch. An automatic switch detects the latest HDMI device you turn on and sends the AV signal to your HDTV.
Say you are playing device A on your TV. The moment you switch on device B, the switch will detect device B and establish a connection with your HDTV, overriding device A. Device B will then have to give way to device C, if it is the latest device to be switched on.
So, with many HDMI devices connected to your TV, all you have to do is turn on the one you want to view the last and the switch does the rest.
As convenient as an HDMI automatic switch is, it is not going to work with all devices, especially with those you always keep `on’. This would include an HTPC, which you don’t usually switch off. This would also be the case if you have an HD DVR or satellite TV receiver box that is actually in sleep mode when turned off. As these HDMI devices will always be `on’ in the background, the automatic HDMI switch will be confused as to the latest device switched on. This will prevent the proper functioning of the switch.
When this happens, you would have to resort to the manual mode. This would involve physically going to the switch and choosing the desired HDMI device. You probably don’t want to do this several times a day. Therefore, if you have an HD recorder or an HTPC as part of your home theater setup, an automatic switch isn’t going to serve you well.
So what is the best HTPC HDMI switch alternative? The alternative is an HDMI switch with a remote.
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HTPC HDMI Switch with Remote
Bear in mind that an HDMI switch with a remote is going to cost you a little extra. However, it will come in handy with an HTPC or an HD recorder which will be `on’ in the background.
If you are just starting out and are unsure as to which type of HDMI switch to purchase, go with an HDMI switch with remote in case you need to add an HD recorder or a HTPC to your home theater system in future.