TVs in general have a limited number of HDMI ports available to connect multiple devices. As a basic rule of thumb, I always leave one HDMI port empty to have the flexibility to connect an additional unit when I test new devices. But, my TV only has 3 HDMI ports and I have a PlayStation, a Nintendo Switch, a Roku, an Amazon Firestick, a DVD Player, a TV box, and a computer. The solution to enjoy all my devices without the hassle of connecting and disconnecting every time will be an HDMI switch.
But, what is an HDMI switch used for? An HDMI switch is a device equipped with multiple HDMI input ports and one output HDMI port as a video source to be connected to one of the HDMI interfaces on the TV. For example, a Nintendo Switch, a PlayStation, and a cable box all have HDMI outputs, but the TV has only one empty HDMI input.
This option will be an easy solution, but you will have to have some different considerations when choosing the right one for you. I will cover more of this in this article.
Can You Use an HDMI Switch on Firestick?
The Amazon Firestick is always connected to my TV and when I start considering using an HDMI switch, it always makes me wonder if I can connect it. I start disconnecting all the other attached devices and connect the switch to the HDMI Port 3 on the TV, then I connect the Amazon Firestick to the HDMI port 1 on the switch. When I turn on the TV, the screen shows all the menus and I play an HD video with the same picture quality as before.
An HDMI switch can be used to connect the Amazon Firestick without compromising the audio or video quality, as well as Roku units. This is possible because the HDMI cable transmits digital signals, which can be copied without loss of quality, remaining the same quality from the source.
Do I Need an HDMI Splitter or Switch? Are They Different?
When it comes to choosing between a switch or a splitter, it can be difficult to understand which one it is you will need. Physically, both look quite similar, but the HDMI switch is used when you have multiple source devices like a Blu-ray player, a gaming console system, or a cable box and you want to connect them into a single TV with only one free HDMI port.
All these devices will plug into the switch, then a single cable can be run from this switch into your TV HDMI port, allowing you to choose between which device you want to see.
On the other hand, a splitter is used when you have one source device that you want to share with multiple displays, requiring you to take a single cable from your source into the splitter. Then, you can run multiple cables to all of your different displays. A good example is the electronic store’s display that is playing the same movie in multiple displays at the same time.
Switch vs Splitter basically, the concept is simple:
A switch is used when you have multiple sources that you want to share with one display and a splitter is used when you have one source that you want to share with multiple displays.
Do HDMI Switches Degrade Picture Quality?
When I found the 5 To 1 HDMI Splitter on Amazon, it showed that the unit will play Full HD 1080p, 3D,2K, and also 4K, but today you will need to look more in-depth because the bandwidth will play a big role in the picture quality.
For me, it looks like a good deal for around $12 on Amazon. My 1080 HD TV works fantastic but there are other considerations you will need to look at it.
The video output signal for HDMI 1.4 B is 4k, but it only supports 4k at 30 frames per second. This means that a lot of the 60 frames per second content on YouTube and some other platforms won’t play or you’ll get a diminished playback with a frame rate of half of what it’s designed for. This is an issue, right?
The other problem is the HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) support. You’ll notice that it supports 1.0 or 1.1. So, going back to our Netflix and Amazon video question, if you don’t have HDCP 2.2 support for those 4k sources, they won’t playback on your TV; instead, it will go back down to 1080p quality.
This happens because 2.2 is the new DRM standard (Universally Standardized Digital Radio System) for all this new 4k stuff and if your switch box here doesn’t support that, you’re out of luck.
I did more research to find another switch with the minimum requirement for 4K content and I did find one with a good amount of positive reviews on Amazon The NEWCARE Switcher. I haven’t tested it yet but it has better characteristics that kind of meet all the things that I would be looking for in a switch box: 4k at 60 Hertz for around $14, also on Amazon.
The description advertises an HDCP 2.0. I believe this will support that frame rate at
that resolution HDCP 2.2, which is all the things that you’ll want. Here are the specifications from the listing: Support HDMI Output Video – 4K/60/24Hz, 2K/60/30/24Hz, 3D, 1080P, 1080i, 720P, 720i, 576P, 576i, 480P ; Support HDMI Output Video Up to 4K x 2K (3840 x 2160) 60Hz (Max). Support 3D, Supports 12- bit Deep Color, RGB(YUV:4:4:4), Compatible With HDCP2.2.
Always remember to choose the ones that suit your own configuration.
Now you know the difference between an HDMI switch and an HDMI Splitter and how to choose the right one by looking at the unit specifications. This 5 To 1 HDMI Splitter from Amazon that I am using works perfectly on my TV and could be your cost-friendly solution as well.