November 26, 2013

HDMI Switch - Are cheap HDMI switches reliable ?

3x1 HDMI Switch (Passive)

If your home HDTV has ran out of HDMI Ports due to increasing HDMI compatible devices nowadays, you could well use a low cost HDMI switch to solve the problem. Also if you are having a budget or outdated HDTV with just one HDMI port and want to connect your  newly acquired HDMI enabled devices, you could well put the money into this type of switch. Using a HDMI switch makes it easy to switch between multiple HDMI capable devices like your Blu-ray Player, DVD Player, Playstation, XBOX, Notebook, Tablet, Smartphone and even Satellite/Cable TV Set-Top Box.

This is a low cost 3x1 port HDMI switch, which you can purchase easily from online sites like eBay and Amazon. It has 3 Input HDMI ports and 1 HDMI Output port. All the HDMI ports are of female type. Here, switching basically means that you can experience content from multiple media sources on a single HD Display or TV, with a press of a button. Some HDMI switches also have a Remote Control so that you don't have to leave your couch.

A Switch beats the hassles of plugging/unplugging different HDMI cables at the rear of your HDTV, wherein space and visibility is restricted.

HDMI Switch and the Test Setup:

I ordered this 3x1 HDMI Switch on for Rs.499, from a top rated seller. The plan was to connect my SONY Blu-Ray Home Theater System (Model: BDV-E290) and Videocon D2H HD Satellite TV Box (2011 version) into this switch and output it to my Panasonic 42 inch LCD TV. The SONY BDV-E290 Home Theater supports 1080p and 3D video output while the Videocon Satellite Box can support upto 1080i video resolution.

I also bought a MX MDR Electronics branded, 3 meter HDMI cable from a local dealer for Rs.250, to connect the SONY Home theater.

Both Panasonic TV and SONY Home Theater came with a complimentary 1 meter HDMI cable, so, that saved money on buying new ones.

The test setup had total 2 HDMI sources and 1 HDMI sink, i.e the Panasonic LCD TV. Both sources were plugged into the 3x1 HDMI switch before testing. During the testing, I found that, content from the SONY Blu-Ray Home Theater rendered to the TV without any quality degradation whatsoever. But the content from the Satellite HD Box were not even passing through the HDMI switch. I plugged the HD box output through each of the 3 input ports on the switch, but each attempt gave no video. 

So I decided to search through various online Audio-Video and HDMI forums to unearth this unresolved problem with the HDMI switch. Initial suspect was the HDCP protection which is encoded in some media content and device software to prevent illegal copying of media; but I couldn't find a conclusive evidence with regards to HDCP in this case.

What HDMI Licensing, LLC says:

After entering lot of forums, I Finally went through the knowledge base at (HDMI Licensing LLC), and came to following conclusions:

Some Satellite TV boxes or cable TV set-top boxes do not work correctly when used with A/V receivers or Repeater devices like a HDMI switch. This is due to erroneous implementation of HDCP in such set-top boxes. These set-top boxes do not support HDCP repeaters such as A/V Receivers or switch. Sometimes newer versions of firmware upgrade on such set-top boxes fixes this issue with HDMI... It was better to focus my entire investigation onto the Videocon box.

After studying a bit about the answer given by HDMI Licensers themselves, I emailed Videocon D2H Customer Care requesting them for a firmware upgrade for my 2011 version HD Box. They performed a firmware upgrade on it and re-installed it in 2 days time. With this upgrade, the HD box got the PVR (Personal Video Recording) feature which can be performed using a USB Flash drive of minimum 4 GB capacity (Unfortunately USB Hard Disk Drives are not supported).

[ Note that a monthly paid subscription of Rs.30 is needed to avail the PVR function. A one-time activation charge of Rs.250 also has to be paid ]

Testing the HDMI switch after the HD box firmware upgrade:

I tested the HDMI switch once again to check if the firmware upgrade would have corrected the suspicious HDCP issue; But to my disappointment, it did not work.

Now, I have decided to buy a powered HDMI switch and put that to test with the Videocon HD Box. Because, keeping aside the HDCP issue, the problem could also be due to insufficient current supply on the 5V line in the HDMI output of the set-top box. Moreover suspicion arose, when a Videocon Engineer told me that such HD Boxes do work fine with HDMI Splitters (which is also a Repeater device) (for example in TV showrooms where one TV connection is relayed to multiple LCD TVs).

What HDMI Specification says:

HDMI specification requires all source devices to supply atleast 55 mA on the 5V line. According to, most source devices for instance, Blu-Ray players or Game consoles supply a healthy 100-150 mA which is more than sufficient according to HDMI specs. That's exactly why the SONY Blu-Ray Home Theater worked seamlessly through this switch.

[ Android Mini PC with HDMI; connect to TV and make it Smart. Buy at Rs.2899 ] 

Issue yet to be resolved:

The Videocon HD box that I use runs on 12 V DC/1.5 A/ 18 W supply. Measuring the actual current on the 5V line could perhaps lead to identifying the exact issue with this unresolved HDMI problem. Till then, I am on the lookout for a powered 3x1 HDMI switch which is value for money and reliable.


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