There’s a certain sense of luxury when you open the OPPO HM-31 HDMI switch. For starters, the simple fact that you need an HDMI switch means you’ve probably got a nice HDTV and home-entertainment setup, which by some folks’ account is the very definition of “luxury.” On the other hand, there’s the quite literal feeling of the velvety sack in which the switch comes packaged inside its box, which gives the same aura as unwrapping slippers in Business Class on a cross-continental SAS flight. But that’s really where the luxury ends with this switch, because once you plug it in, the OPPO HM-31 is all business.
Although it’s hard to believe, even the most modern 1080p HDTVs can be rendered handicapped by their number of HDMI inputs. For an arguably new multimedia interface, HDMI has come into its own rather quickly, with devices such as Blu-ray players, HD-DVD players, DVRs, PlayStation 3s, TiVOs and digital cable set-top boxes all demanding an HDMI input if their true HD signal is to be appreciated. But look at that brief list: six different components, six HDMI outputs, six HDMI cables…and all probably trying to connect to an HDTV with a maximum of four HDMI inputs. Rather than begrudgingly connect a few of those devices via component cables, you’ve now got the option to connect them all, just as long as three of them go through OPPO’s new HDMI switch.
The OPPO HM-31 HDMI switch works just like any switch should: you plug three devices into its backside, connect its output port to your HDTV with a single HDMI cable, and watch in joy as the switch feeds those three devices’ digital signals to the HDTV while taking up just one of the HDMI inputs on your set. Just like that, you’ve freed up three HDMI ports and solved the serious problem of accommodating multiple HDMI-equipped devices.
The first question on anyone’s mind is rightfully “how’s the signal?” In a word: flawless. Because HDMI is a digital connection, none of the fidelity from the original source is lost as it passes from the switch to the HDTV, so you never have to worry about “artificial” grain or pictures becoming less saturated simply because the switch is acting as an intermediary. This switch is virtually invisible in terms of passed-through video performance.
This flawless playback isn’t without its hiccups, however. Although the HM-31 supports three distinct HDMI inputs, the hardware prioritizes their display based on which port they’re plugged into. And since the OPPO HM-31 automatically detects when one of the devices is sending a signal and switches to that port accordingly, this prioritization can lead to some interesting snafus. For example, say you have an Xbox 360 plugged into port one, a PlayStation 3 plugged into port two and an HD-DVD player plugged into port three. When the Xbox 360 is turned on, the HM-31 HDMI switch automatically activates port one and sends that signal to the HDTV. If the Xbox 360 is turned off, the PS3 is turned off and the HD-DVD player is turned on, port three then automatically activates and sends the HD-DVD player’s signal to the TV. And for all you control freaks out there, the included remote control can override any auto-sensed input, letting you manually switch from one device’s signal to the next.
Once you get the right port outputting, the OPPO HM-31 works like a charm. The video pass-through is flawless, the device itself can be laid flat or mounted on a wall, and the auto-switching from port one to two to three only takes a few seconds. In other words, the HM-31 is a useful solution to your HDMI input problems, if you’ve got those three extra HDMI devices that are looking for a way to “plug in” to your life — and your HDTV.
- Score: 8
- The capabilities are great, but the auto-detection is too “smart” for its own good.
— Jonas Allen