There are many who know the problem: Your LED TV is slowly growing old and when you purchased it, nobody expected that there would be so many HDMI devices to be connected to it one day, true? There is a BluRay player, a Playstation, an XBOX, an Apple TV, a satellite receiver. Today, all these devices connect to the TV set via a so-called HDMI port. The HDMI port can be deemed the equivalent to what was once the SCART connector in the analog world. And once again, there are far too few of them on the TV set!
Problem: Not enough HDMI ports - Too many devices
Especially old TV sets often feature very few HDMI ports, sometimes only one. Today, this often leads to problems in practice. After all, who wants to crawl behind the TV set every time in order to re-plug devices? No one! But that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to buy a new TV set. In order to get more HDMI ports, it is often sufficient to acquire a cheap HDMI switch or HDMI toggle that allows you to connect multiple devices to the same HDMI port!
In the following, we briefly explain how this works:
Solution: More HDMI ports with switch
Connect several devices to one HDMI port without re-plugging
1. Count your devices! How many HDMI extensions are needed?
HDMI switches/toggles are practical but they aren't magic. Who would like to expand his television by ten HDMI ports should better acquire a new TV set. However, minor HDMI expansions can be done easily. In practice a ratio of 3: 1 has proven feasible, i.e. 3 devices can be attached to one HDMI port.
Switch ≠ Splitter!
Caution: Do not confuse HDMI switches with HDMI splitters! HDMI splitters generate multiple outputs from one output signal (e.g. multiple monitors connected to one single HDMI output)! Our case is different, here the task is to toggle the video output of several devices to one output, not vice versa!
2. Wiring / connection of devices via HDMI switch
To get more HDMI ports, you need an HDMI switch. This switch is looped in between the TV set and the devices to be connected to it. Use the remote control of the switch and the switch itself to toggle between the signals from the different devices.
Smooth operation requires the HDMI switch to meet the following minimum criteria:
- Transfer rate of at least 2.25 Gbps for easy full HD resolution
- Manual and automatic toggle function
- Explicit Full-HD support!
Depending on the manufacturer and its features, an HDMI switch will cost about US$30.
3. Comfort - more HDMI ports, less mess
You have already a lot of remote controls at home. Therefore, when selecting an HDMI switch, you should make sure that it will work without remote control in everyday operating conditions if possible. For example, switches that automatically detect the last active signal have proven functional.
Example: The satellite receiver sends its image via the HDMI switch to the TV set. Now, if the BluRay player - which is also connected to the switch - is turned on, the switch automatically toggles to the latter. If the Blu-ray player is turned off, the image automatically toggles back to the sat receiver. Such partially "smart" switches increase comfort considerably and should be preferred with respect to cheap switches in every day life.
Overview: Which devices are suitable for HDMI expansion?
Most HDMI devices can work with HDMI switches. Nevertheless, there are some limitations that you should know. Devices that require high-speed HDMI with a transfer rate of 10.2 Gbps (e.g. 3D BluRay Player, 4K contents) tend to be unsuitable for HDMI switches because in this case, extremely powerful studio equipment is required. For home use, it is preferable to connect devices with high-speed HDMI specification directly to the TV set.
The following devices should better be connected directly to the TV set:
- Blu-ray player with 3D contents
- Playstation 4
- Xbox One
- Equipment that displays 4K contents
The following devices are suitable for use with HDMI switches.
- DVD players, HD-DVD players, Blu-ray players
- Camcorders, Digital cameras
- Satellite receivers
- PC, Mac, Notebook, Tablet
- XBOX 360, Playstation 3
Special cases / FAQ:
Question: Can I upgrade my TV with 2 HDMI switches?
Answer: In principle, yes. If you have a TV with 2 HDMI inputs, you may for example connect 2 HDMI splitters to it, which in turn provide a total of 6 HDMI ports. However, in such configurations you can easily loose orientation.
Question: Does the HDMI splitter require additional electric power?
Answer: That depends. Most HDMI switches do not require a separate power supply but work with the 5V voltage supplied via the HDMI cable by the devices. In some cases, a switch may however require more power. Pay particular attention to the product description in such cases!
Question: Is it possible to connect multiple devices to different screens in order to achieve the possibility to toggle e.g. between Xbox and Playstation and between TV set and beamer?
Answer: Yes, that is possible. However, this will require an HDMI matrix instead of an HDMI switch. An HDMI matrix allows the inputs and outputs to be combined as desired.
What are your experiences with HDMI switches? Post them in our comments section below!
Tobias (author) from Germany on March 13, 2017:
Thanks! Glad to hear that :-)
Jim on March 12, 2017:
Thanks this was very helpful
Aashutosh patel from Gujrat India on March 11, 2017:
awesome one and so nicely explained tobias
NinetythreeProof on December 05, 2014:
Great information on the topic.