Splitters and Switches and Matrixes, Oh My!
By Zachary Medved

Do I need a Switch, Splitter or Matrix?

We get a lot of questions from people wondering what the difference is between HDMI splitters, HDMI switches, and HDMI Matrix splitters. While all of these devices can help make your home theater awesome, they each have different functions. Here we’ll help you understand what these devices do, and which one will best fit your needs.

HDMI Switches

HDMI switches allow you to connect multiple sources to a single display. It used to be that a home theater system consisted of one 24-32 inch TV with built in speakers and a VHS player. Many things have changed since then and now home theaters have more wires and gizmos than an average electronics store. That can cause problems when you’re trying to get everything to connect together. With DVD players, Blu-Ray players, multiple game consoles, media servers, and satellite receivers there often aren’t enough ports on your TV to connect everything, especially if you have an older model HDTV.

With an HDMI switch you can connect all of your sources to the switch and have one cable that connects the switch to your display. You can then switch between the different sources by pressing a button or using a remote. Some switches even have an auto switch feature, where the switch automatically switches to the device that is powered on.

HDMI switches are also numbered so you know how many devices are supported, for instance a 4 x 1 HDMI switch has 4 inputs and 1 output.

HDMI Splitters

HDMI splitters, as the name would suggest, take the signal from one source (like your computer, game console, or Blu-Ray player) and split it so it can be seen, mirrored, on multiple displays. Since HDMI uses digital signals, there is no loss of quality by splitting it to two different displays. However, all of the output signals will be exactly the same as the original.

Another important thing to remember is that if one of your displays has a lower maximum resolution, that is the resolution that will show up on both monitors. The HDMI splitter must use a resolution that will be supported on all of the displays being used.

Different splitters let you use different numbers of displays. You can usually tell in the name how many displays are supported, for example a 1 x 2 HDMI splitter has 1 input and 2 outputs.

Another important note about splitters: They can only send 3D to all displays or 2D to all displays, not a mix of the two.

HDMI Matrixes

The HDMI matrix essentially combines the features of splitters and switches into one awesome package. It allows you to use multiple sources and multiple displays. A matrix allows you to send mirrored signals from one source to multiple displays, while simultaneously sending signals from alternate sources to other displays.