HDMI Splitter vs HDMI Switch

When you want to share your HDMI signal with more than one device, the options can be a little confusing. Do you need an HDMI splitter, or an HDMI switch? Here’s a breakdown of what each does, and when you might want to use each.

Both solutions are very common especially in gaming setups, so it’s important to know the difference so you can get the right one for your needs. Instead of disconnecting and reconnecting cables every time you want to switch between devices, an HDMI splitter or switch will let you do it with the push of a button. But, which one should you get?

Let’s deep dive into HDMI splitters vs switches, so you know exactly what you need for your home theater or gaming setup.

What is an HDMI Splitter and when should you use it?

A Splitter duplicates the signal it receives and sends it to multiple displays. So, if you have an HDMI cable going from your computer to your Splitter, the Splitter will take that signal and send it to two (or more) different monitors. This is great if you want the same image on multiple displays at the same time.

For example, let’s say you’re giving a presentation and you want your audience to be able to see your slides on a projector screen as well as your laptop screen. In this case, you would use an HDMI Splitter to duplicate the signal so it goes to both the projector and your laptop. That way, you can keep your laptop open to refer back to your notes, while still projecting your slides for everyone to see.

Another common use case for an HDMI Splitter is if you have a cable box or other device that only has one HDMI output. If you want to connect that device to more than one TV, you can use an HDMI Splitter to send the signal to multiple TVs.

Just keep in mind that an HDMI Splitter only duplicates the signal it receives. It doesn’t extend the signal in a PC/Mac display set-up, for example. If you want to do that, you need an HDMI Extender.

An HDMI Splitter has a single input or «Input» that will be the video (and audio) source, and several outputs or «Output», which will be where we can connect the screens where we want to see the image. So, we have Splitter ranging from 1×2 (one input and two outputs) to 1×16 (one input and sixteen outputs), with other more specific options.

What is an HDMI switch, and when should you use one?

An HDMI switch is the opposite of a Splitter. Instead of duplicating the signal and sending it to multiple displays, a switch takes multiple input signals and sends only one of those signals to the display at a time.

This is helpful if you have multiple devices that you want to be able to switch between quickly and easily. For example, if you have a gaming console, a Blu-ray player, and a cable box all connected to your TV, an HDMI switch will let you switch between those devices without having to unplug and replug any cables.

HDMI switches often come with a remote, so you can switch between devices without having to get up and push a button on the switch itself. Some switches even come with an auto-switching feature, which will switch to the device that’s turned on automatically.

Like HDMI Splitters, switches come in a range of sizes, from 2-ports to 8-ports. The number of ports you need will depend on how many devices you want to be able to connect.

Both devices can degrade the signal

If your device is of a higher generation than the one supported by the HDMI Splitter or Switch, then you may find that the signal being transmitted is not adequate. This is because both devices are designed to transmit a signal at a specific speed, which corresponds to the different HDMI standards.

it’s well established that each resolution needs a specific bandwidth. So it is possible that the sending device such as the console or the PC transmits the signal with a speed and it decreases. The consequences of this? A drop in resolution or refresh rate. So make sure that the HDMI Splitter is of the same generation as the best of your devices to which you are going to connect. There is nothing worse than connecting a 4K console to one of these devices and finding that the graphics on the TV have been downgraded to Full HD.

image: “DN-HDMI423 HDMI selector/splitter” (CC BY 2.0) by cinz

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About S. Santos

👋 I'm a technology columnist and tech blogger, with a love for video games, gadgets, home entertainment and personal technology. I've been writing about the industry now for over 10 years - first as an editor of various magazines before branching out to work on my own blog. I like to keep up with the ever-evolving world of gadgets, home entertainment, and personal technology. If not fiddling with AV cables at home or in front of the computer, I can be found playing tennis or padel. This blog is my space to explore new topics related to these hobbies; as well as share some thoughts about life in general (sometimes you need a break from electronics!). 😎

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