No, HDMI switches don’t work both ways. It can only switch from one source device to another. If you want to switch or mirror your display from two or more monitors or TVs, you need an HDMI splitter. If you want to do both so that you have a “switcher” that works in switching from display to display and media source to media source, what you need is a matrix switcher. Naturally, the matrix switcher is much more complicated to use than a mere HDMI switch or HDMI splitter.
In turn, the High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is the most common A/V connection in the 21st Century or the 2010s to 2020s. However, HDTVs might have as few as one or two or three ports for HDMI. You need an HDMI switch in order to increase the amount of devices you can hook up to your HDTV.
The HDMI Switch Is The HDMI Version of an Extension Cord
The HDMI switch is the HDMI version of an extension cord or power strip. It gives you additional HDMI ports or outputs for your HDMI device inputs. Instead of plugging and unplugging your HDMI-equipped source devices like your game consoles (Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii-U, Sonny PlayStation 4, and Microsoft Xbox One), upscaling DVD/Blu-Ray/Ultra HD Blu-ray player, cable/satellite box, media streamer, and so forth, you can plug them all at the same time using a (for example) 5-port HDMI switch. To wit:
- Understanding HDMI Switchers: An HDMI switcher is basically something that expands the number of HDMI ports you have so that you can connect more HDMI media sources to your HDTV, monitor, or video projector. They can also be referred to as the HDMI hub so you can use that term to widen your search options when it comes to these devices. The number of extra HDMI inputs on a switch can range from 2 to 8 ports. Just connect your devices or sources to the HDMI inputs on the switch and connect it to the input of the TV.
- The Switch Switches from Device to Device: As its name suggests, the HDMI switch switches from one hooked-up device to another as though you’re switching from HDMI1 to HDMI2, only this time, you can go from HDMI1 to HDMI5 or HDMI6. You have more HDMI ports to work with the care of the HDMI switch, allowing you to switch from PS4 to an Xbox One to even a Nintendo Switch. They’re all connected to your HDTV or monitor as well as a projector. You can switch between devices or ports at will using a remote or a button on the switch.
- A Lack of HDMI Ports or Outputs: Because most HDTVs only have space for HDMI1 and HDMI2, the HDMI switch or switcher was developed. It’s kind of like the HDMI power strip or extension. There are several adapters that allow vintage A/V connections to connect to an HDTV that also use the switch format, only this time the ports are for component or RCA cables. Switches enable you to overcome the need to buy a new TV just to get more inputs for your game consoles or media players. The external HDMI switch fills the gaps left by your HDTV’s limited ports.
- 4K HDMI Switchers Are Available: If you’re concerned about switchers degrading the speed or quality of your HDMI cables or devices, there are 4K switchers available that cater specifically to premium or ultra-high-speed HDMI cables for HDMI 1.3 to HDMI 2.1 and beyond. Many of these switchers have 5 HDMI ports or more for good measure. Just remember that as a rule of thumb, the switcher doesn’t degrade the quality of your HDMI connection unless it’s damaged or it’s a pirated device that can’t overcome your HDTV’s High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) handshake requirement.
Understanding How an HDMI Matrix Switch Works
If you really wish to have an HDMI switch that works both ways, such that you’re able to switch between not only HDMI source media players but also HDMI displays such as HDTVs and projectors, you need a special kind of switch. This is where the HDMI switch matrix comes in. The switch matrix used to be a switch matrix system that connects both a switch and a splitter together. An HDMI splitter, by the way, is the device that splits the signal of one source media into multiple displays.
With that in mind, how does an HDMI matrix switch work?
- Best of Both Worlds: An HDMI matrix switch, simply put, is a device or formation that combines the abilities of an HDMI switch and splitter in one package. If you were to combine splitters with switches together, it becomes possible to assign multiple devices to 2 or more displays. You can switch between devices and switch between monitors. You can even mirror a display on one device or have two devices running simultaneously on their respective monitors. Incidentally, the matrix switch format is available in the device form. You can use that to link 2 or more devices to 2 or more displays for the ultimate home entertainment system possible.
- An HDMI Switcher and Splitter in One: Another name for the HDMI matrix switch device is the multi-input and multi-output HDMI switch. It’s essentially an HDMI switch with at least two outputs for the displays, so it acts like a splitter for the HDMI switcher. It has every feature possible that you can find in an HDMI switch but with the additional capabilities of an HDMI splitter, such that you can also assign ports to an extra HDTV or 4. You can use its remote to assign a device to a specific monitor or to split and mirror the image of a given media player to twin monitors if you wish.
- More Flexibility Than Your Average Switch: An HDMI matrix switch allows more displays to switch to while distributing multiple sources to said displays. Any input combination can be switched to a given display. A standard HDMI matrix switch has 4 x 4 ports, such that you’re allowed to link 4 devices to 4 HDTVs. You can turn them on and switch them to whichever TV you want or turn them on at the same time in case you want to play a game, watch satellite TV, stream a video, and have a movie playing simultaneously.
- The Other Differences Between a Matrix Switch and a Switch: To give you a better idea of what makes a matrix switch different from a switch, let’s discuss HDMI switch categories. There’s a type of switch that’s either single input or multi-input. Multiple HDMI source switches allow you to share and switch between devices like BD players and set-top boxes. Your HDTV can switch and share data from up to 5 HDMI sources or more this way. A single input switch, on the other hand, can either be an RCA or A/V adapter that links one device to one port for adaptation or conversion purposes.
- HDMI Distribution Amp versus Matrix Switch: An HDMI distribution amp or splitter allows you to display a video stream to multiple HDTVs or HDMI projectors. As its name suggests, it splits the signal into multiple signals, allowing you to mirror the same display into multiple monitors. Some distribution amps can be cascaded in order to support more displays. Meanwhile, a matrix switch can do both. It can switch to one port and split the signal to multiple devices or turn on two ports in order to play one signal—let’s say a BD player—in two monitors while the other two monitors mirror another signal—let’s say a game console.
- HDMI Switch with Optical Audio Port: There are even HDMI switches that don’t only cater to HDMI source devices but also to your audio system. You might have a Dolby or DTS surround sound system filled with stereos, soundbars, base speakers, subwoofers, and the like. With this HDMI switch, you have the ability to switch not only from one video signal to another but also from one audio signal to another using optical or digital output. You can even go wireless Bluetooth if you wish. It’s something that completes your component system and then some.
- The Bottom Line: Here’s the bottom line. HDMI switches can only go one way, switching from source device to source device but it cannot cater to multiple displays like monitors, HDTVs, and projectors at the same time. In turn, HDMI splitters can only split the HDMI signal from one device to two screens or monitors. It cannot cater to multiple devices at the same time as switches can. If you want to do both, you need either to connect a splitter and a switch together or invest in what’s known as an HDMI matrix switch or switcher.
HDMI Matrix Switches Are Switches That Work Both Ways
The HDMI matrix switcher combines the best of both worlds. It’s a splitter that splits up signals from multiple devices to multiple displays. It can also switch from one device to another so that you can have one device go from monitor to monitor at your behest. In other words, matrix switches or switchers capable of splitting signals to multiple inputs and outputs. They’re based on the matrix switch system that combines splitters and switches together to allow a home entertainment system to switch from media source to media source and/or display to display with a simple click of the remote.