You own an Xbox 360. You own a PlayStation 3. You own a Mac Mini. You own an HD-DVD player. You own an HD DVR. You own, well, more HDMI-equipped devices than a single HDTV can support. Thus is the conundrum of technophiles and early adopters; when buying the latest HDTVs and high-definition home electronics, there’s a point where one product category is always ahead of the rest. And HDMI inputs are just such a point.
In the battle of input demand versus reality, it seems like home entertainment aficionados always end up with the short end of the stick. The higher a consumer’s demand for high-definition video, the harder it is to satiate that craving with a sufficient number of HDMI inputs on the back of the HDTV. Fortunately, IOGEAR has heard high-definition fans’ cries for help, releasing an incredibly sleek and easy-to-use 4-Port Automatic HDMI Switch.
In a world of too-few HDMI inputs, the IOGEAR 4-Port Automatic HDMI Switch enables users to plug four different HDMI-equipped devices into the switch, connect the switch to an HDTV (or VGA, SVGA or SXVGA monitor) with a single HDMI cable, plug the switch into the wall, and watch with glee as all four devices have their video signal appear on the monitor with the simple press of a button. Voila! Bye-bye HDMI input problem.
Using the IOGEAR 4-Port Automatic HDMI Switch could literally be no easier. Everything you’ve wanted from a plug-and-play device is included in the box — and yes, that includes the requisite HDMI cable, too. After plugging up to four devices into the input ports on the back of the switch, the switch connects to the TV and immediately starts displaying the video signal from whichever device is actively transmitting one.
To switch from device to device, users have three options. First, they can rely on the IOGEAR switch to automatically detect which device is sending a signal, in which case the hardware will magically switch to the active port and start displaying a picture within three seconds or so. The second option is to manually choose which port’s signal to display by pressing the corresponding button on the included (and credit card-sized) remote. The third and final option is to press the only button on the switch’s front, which changes from one input to the next with each press. Whichever way you choose to switch signals, though, the HDMI switch performs beautifully, transmitting full 1080p video with 2.25Gbps bandwidth and a full HDMI 1.3 signal.
What’s the big deal about full HDMI 1.3 support? That depends on what “support for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio” means to you. For owners of Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD movies this is music to the ears, as it ensures that the lossless audio contained on those discs will actually get passed through the switch and to the A/V receiver at hand.
What’s most amazing about IOGEAR’s hardware, though, is that it does all this in such a small form factor. IOGEAR’s R&D team clearly studies industrial design, as the word “minimalist” doesn’t even begin to describe this piece of home entertainment technology. Even though the IOGEAR 4-Port Automatic HDMI Switch includes four inputs rather than the more-common three, and even though it has the manual-override button on the front to switch HDMI sources, the case is a mere 0.9 inches thick, 6.4 inches wide and 3.5 inches deep, and it only weighs half a pound.
As nice as that small size may be, there are some side effects to having such miniscule dimensions. The first issue is that having four HDMI devices plugged into the switch’s four ports tends to “weigh down” the hardware and make it tip a bit toward the back or fall of the entertainment center entirely. The second issue is related in that there’s no way to mount the device on a wall, which essentially forces you to either live with the tipped hardware or resort to cramming it in an out-of-the-way location that can be easily overlooked.
When the IOGEAR 4-Port Automatic HDMI Switch originally hit stores, its arguably high price tag put it in an awkward position competitively. Since that time, though, the device has come down in price and become comparable to HDMI switches with just three ports and no HDMI cable, making IOGEAR’s hardware a far better value. As a result, the 4-Port Automatic HDMI Switch is a perfect complement to any home entertainment buff who has more HDMI devices than inputs.
- Score: 9
- Its HDCP compliance makes it somewhat “future proof,” and its inclusion of four HDMI inputs and an HDMI cable make it well worth the price of admission. Its slight size is inconvenient at times, but it’s still a great piece of hardware that serves a very useful purpose.
— Jonas Allen