Isn’t it annoying how so-called high-definition television sets or HDTVs only have two HDMI ports that you have to switch between HDMI1 and HDMI2 on your A/V setup? Couldn’t you hook up more game consoles, top boxes for cable/satellite TV, or BD/DVD players? Thankfully, the HDMI switch or switcher exists for all your source device switching needs, thus increasing your ports from 2 to 5 or even 8.
However, what about the need to mirror or split your signal between two or more HDTVs? Is there such a thing as a reverse HDMI switch that enables you to hook up one source device to multiple display devices like an HDTV or a projector? Yes, there is. It’s called an HDMI splitter.
What Is an HDMI Splitter?
An HDMI splitter is the opposite of an HDMI switch. It splits the signal of one device rather than splitting the number of ports for the HDTV to use so that multiple devices can be connected unto it. Meanwhile, an HDMI matrix combines the multi-input capabilities of the switch when it comes to adding ports for multiple source devices with the multi-output capabilities of the splitter when it comes to splitting the signal into multiple displays.
A splitter is capable of splitting the signal of a satellite box, cable box, Blu-ray Disc player, DVD player, game console, and what-have-you. It distributes the HDMI signal to multiple TVs with the promise that they’re uniformly clear from TV to TV unless there are limits to its splitting abilities as indicated by the device itself. Or if the device is defective. You can expand the splitting capabilities of your splitter by getting them cascaded.
What Are HDMI Splitters Used For?
An HDMI splitter is used for, ostensibly enough, splitting the signal so that a source device can have its signal appear in two separate displays such as HDTVs, computer monitors, or projectors. This is handy for several reasons, chief among them the ability to watch cable TV on separate TVs using just one cable box by hooking it up a splitter and extending it towards another television set. It can also be used for mirroring displays.
By this, we mean the split signal can appear on two HDTVs sitting side-by-side, as though they’re mirroring each other’s displayed image coming from the media source. When using a higher-grade cable on a higher-grade HDMI source linked to a higher-grade HDMI port (HDMI 2.0 and above, for example), it’s possible for you to reach resolutions of up to 4K or even 8K. 10K resolutions are already in existence, in fact. The splitter also adds resistance in connection to your devices through multiple ports.
How Do Splitters Work?
A splitter works by using techniques to provide multiple outlets from one signal, thus splitting it in twain or more than two signals to allow your game or video to run on multiple monitors. There are devices that duplicate or split the signal into two ones with equal strength. There are other splitters that split the HDMI signal from video and audio, thus allowing you to hook up the sound part to a stereo system and the video signal to the monitor.
There are various other splitter types to choose from, ranging from the simple two-way splitter to an amazing 16-way splitter that allows you to see your video in 16 monitors as though you’re a security guard in a posh hotel. The most modern of splitters are even capable of retaining signal strength without loss in terms of modulation. Essentially, a splitter has one input for one HDMI device then delegates this signal to multiple ports.
How Do You Split HDMI to Multiple TVs?
You use a splitter in order to split the HDMI signal to multiple HDTVs. If you wish to split the signal to one HDTV and one CRT TV, you won’t be able to do it on an ordinary splitter. You also cannot link a signal converter or adapter with a splitter because there’s too much signal extension happening to avoid signal attenuation or outright signal loss. There are also 16-way splitters that can split the signal across 16 HDTVs, monitors, and/or projectors with the same signal capabilities.
The most common splitter type is the one-to-two or 1:2 splitter. It typically attached to a cable/satellite box to allow you to distribute the signal to two TVs so that you won’t have to buy a separate box for each TV. If you have more TVs, you need more outputs, so buy a 4-way, 8-way, or 16-way HDMI splitters to coincide with the number of TVs you got in your home.
Does Splitter Reduce Quality or Not?
A good splitter should not reduce the quality of your HDTV signal. Otherwise, they’re bad or defective splitters. However, there are several caveats to this. If you have 2 or more HDTVs and only one of them has a lower 1080p or 720p HD capabilities, it doesn’t matter if you have 2 or more 4K HDTVs hooked up—all of the signals will be reduced to the resolution of the lowest quality with no exceptions. This isn’t indicative of a low-quality splitter because all of them do this.
Additionally, your splitter can also drop in quality depending on the length of the HDMI cable, as if the second TV is in another room and requires an extension. Putting a splitter on top of a Cat6/Cat7/Cat8 Ethernet cable extension can lead to signal attenuation you wouldn’t normally get if you had only used the extension or the splitter alone. Don’t stack the splitter with an adapter, converter, or extension as much as possible.
HDMI Splitter vs. HDMI Switch vs. HDMI Matrix
Here are the differences and similarities of the HDMI splitter, switch, and matrix.
- HDMI Splitter: An HDMI splitter is a device that splits the signal of an HDMI media source so that it’s possible for it to display or mirror its signal to 2 or more displays, whether they’re a collection or mix of HDTVs, computer monitors, and/or projectors.
- HDMI Switch: An HDMI switch is the opposite of the splitter in terms of how it splits the signal. This time around, it gives an HDMI that normally has two HDMI ports extra ports so that it’s possible to link it towards 2 or more HDMI media devices such as a DVD/BD player, a cable/satellite box, an HD game console, and/or a computer/laptop/tablet/smartphone.
- HDMI Matrix: An HDMI matrix, also known as an HDMI matrix switch or switcher, is a device capable of two-way switching between multiple media sources and multiple displays in a home entertainment or cinema setup. The HDMI matrix can also refer to a setup that mixes multiple HDMI splitters and switches together to accomplish the same purpose.
Choosing The Right HDMI Splitter in Life
When it comes to choosing the right HDMI splitter for you, you should be aware of the following. Modern splitters in the 2010s and 2020s support HDMI versions 1.3 to 2.0. Splitters can’t support the Audio Return Channel (ARC) and HDMI over Ethernet (HEC) as properties of such features require a single TV source device. It’s also highly recommended that you use a higher-grade cable when using a splitter. This adds resistance when connecting devices through multiple ports.
You should also make sure to not confuse a splitter with a switch, although you can avail of a bidirectional HDMI switch or an HDMI matrix for the same purpose. To wit, a bidirectional HDMI switch can turn itself into a splitter in a flick of a switch. Meanwhile, an HDMI matrix can operate as both a switch and splitter at the same time, so you can buy one for signal-splitting purposes.
The 3 Best HDMI Splitters
When choosing the 3 best HDMI splitters, the input should be able to take in the following devices:
- Blu-Ray Disc player
- DVD player
- Satellite Receiver
- Sony PlayStation 3
- PS4 Pro
- Xbox 360
- Xbox One
- Nintendo Switch
- Other gaming consoles
- Certain TV sets
- PC desktop
- VR headset
- Apple TV
- Cable box
- Amazon Fire TV Stick
- And so forth
As for the output, it should work with the following display and audio output types:
- HD-Ready TVs
- Full HD TVs
- Apple TVs
- Samsung TVs
- Computer monitors
- And so forth
With that said, here are the 3 best HDMI splitters on the market according to our research.
- Techole 4K Aluminum Ver. 1 HDMI Splitter 1 in 2 Out: This is the 2nd best HDMI splitter according to Amazon.com customer ratings. One of the Techole 4K splitter’s main claims to fame is its 1 in 2 splitting action. It outdoes the Omnigates HDMI splitter despite it offering only 1 in 2 outputs because it got fewer customer complaints in terms of its splitting abilities. It also didn’t overpromise and underdeliver. It’s also capable of long-distance transmission that usually results in signal attenuation in more limited splitters. It can go up to 10.2 Gbps bandwidth for wide-ranging use, with it reaching 40 feet input and 60 feet output for a standard AWG26 HDMI standard cable.
Furthermore, it promises no drop in resolution, no flash, and no lag as long as the resolution of both displays/output devices remains the same. Just remember that it’s not a display or monitor extender. It also has wide compatibility with HDMI 1.3-1.4 and HDCP 1.4. Its 4K offers crystal-clear images that run at 30Hz. It also offers 2K at 30Hz and 1080p at 60Hz for good measure. It gets minus points for not being able to support HDCP 2.0 and 2.2. However, it makes up for this shortcoming with its simple plug and plays operation.
- KELIIYO 1 in 4 Out V1.4b Powered HDMI Video Splitter: This is the best HDMI splitter according to Amazon.com customer ratings. Yes, it lacks the 4K capacity of either Techole or Omnigates. However, it still gets higher ratings overall because it’s the best 1080p or 3840 x 2160 splitter of its class with 2K and 3D resolution support. It’s because it’s a dependable 1080p Full HD 1-in-4 HDMI video splitter with an AC adapter that duplicates or mirrors the screen dependably, it’s a highly rated and highly demanded video splitter. This best-seller caters to more customers too since the majority use 1080p HD anyway.
Another thing that’s notable about this 1×4 HDMI splitter is that its HDMI output signals are identical and clear. It transmits its video and audio simultaneously and without lag to all four screens, projectors, or HDTVs without any artifacts or quality loss. It’s also highly compatible with all the aforementioned devices. It caters to a wide breadth of resolutions as well, such as 1080p/i, 720p/i, 576p/i, and 408p/i as well as a maximum resolution of 3840 x 2160 at 30Hz or as close to 4K as you possibly can. It essentially offers dependability over a resolution cap, allowing it to compete even with its 4K competition.
- Omnigates HDMI Splitter 4K HDMI Splitter 1 in 4 Out Ver. 1.4 HDCP: This is the 3rd best HDMI splitter according to Amazon.com’s customer ratings. Although it matches the 4K max resolution of Techole and the sheer compatibility of Keliiyo, it falters in the rating department because of a minority of users getting defective splitters that die out within 2 months of usage. Still, others are critical of how it doesn’t switch inputs via remote. However, there are also customers who claim it works flawlessly out of the box or as soon as you plug it in. It also works with more resolutions than the Keliiyo, with it reaching 4K and 2K as well as every 1080p and 720p variant.
If you’re not unlucky enough to receive a defective product, you should be able to enjoy a splitter with consistent audio and video transmission, 100 feet long-distance transmission (40 feet input and 60 feet output), HDCP 1.4 and HDMI 1.2 and beyond compatibility, the ability to work with various game consoles, television sets, cable/satellite boxes, streaming devices, and so forth. It’s also as easy to operate as the Techole. Its main Achilles’ heel is poor quality control in some of its units, leading to bad reviews from otherwise satisfied customers because some splitters stop working after a short period of time.
Here are the most frequently asked questions people have when shopping for their own HDMI splitter to suit their needs.
- Will an HDMI splitter bypass HDCP? As a rule of thumb, you should get an HDMI splitter that’s compatible with the HDCP version of the device you wish to split signals with. For example, the Techole 4K Aluminum Ver. 1 HDMI Splitter 1 in 2 Out supports HDCP 1.4. That means any machine or media player with HDCP 1.4 or earlier support can work with it. HDCP 2.0 to 2.2 will block it out or not give it the handshake because it views it as an unknown or older device.
To err on the side of caution, copy protection protocols will block certain devices from working or working at full HD capacity to safeguard against piracy. Even if it’s a splitter instead of a recording device, HDCP will do its best to keep it from receiving uncompressed signals properly until it can do the right handshake that the protocol can recognize. There are ways to simply bypass the HDCP restriction of course, such as the HDMI splitter test winner.
- Do I need a powered HDMI splitter? You don’t necessarily need an HDMI splitter that requires an adapter or external power source that directly plugs into your electric socket if you’re looking for the convenience of not having yet another device plugged into your power strip or wall socket.
However, this comes at the price of getting a splitter that cannot broadcast its signal far, which is an issue when splitting the signal of a single cable/satellite box. If you wish to split signals at long distances of up to 100 feet, you need a powered HDMI splitter for the job. A splitter that doesn’t need an external power source is known as a passive splitter. It’s powered by the device it’s connected to instead.
- Can the HDMI splitter also transmit audio or is it only the video? An HDMI splitter can transmit both audio and video to two separate screens or TVs, thus requiring two HDMI cables for both. A splitter can also transmit standalone audio separate from the video. You can avail of what’s known as an audio splitter to split the audio and video of one device into two output devices, the other device being your speakers or sound system.
The HDMI protocol combines both video and audio signals into one cable instead of multiple separate cables in the case of the RCA or VGA protocol. To be able to separate the audio of your source device for your surround sound system composed of stereos, base speakers, soundbars, subwoofers, and so forth, you need a splitter that can specifically separate audio from video to allow you separate outputs for both.
- Can you split an HDMI signal to two or three monitors? Yes, you can. In fact, as covered above, you can split the HDMI signal to up to 16 separate monitors that are all 1080p Full HD as long as not one of them is 720p or below in resolution. The signal drops to the lowest resolution device by default, regardless of how many higher-resolution displays are available.
However, aside from splitting or mirroring the signal to multiple monitors, it’s also possible to extend your computer desktop across two different monitors that act as one. You can use it on various applications, including video editing or playing HD/Ultra HD games. The caveat here is that not all splitters, monitors, or laptops can support this extension.
- Does the Oculus Rift work with HDMI splitter? A splitter won’t work with a VR headset even though the headset is another possible output device. You need a 3D HDMI signal over it. There are certain splitters that claim 3D compatibility, but many of them refer to monitor 3D effects instead of the 3D possible with a VR headset. Needless to say, but the hardware to operate your Oculus can cost almost as much like the headset itself.
You instead need an HDMI matrix switch that will enable you to select which output device should receive the signal with a push of a button. A splitter that splits the signal from monitor to Oculus Rift doesn’t work because most splitters are calibrated for monitor, HDTV, or projector use. Just get an HDMI matrix with 3D HDMI and HDMI 2.0 support to work with your Oculus.
- Can you use an HDMI splitter on FireStick, Roku, Apple TV, or Chromecast? Yes. Or rather, they should be able to. Many splitters on Amazon.com or eBay.com advertise compatibility with those streaming devices as a selling point. In regards to whether or not they really are compatible, you’ll have to either check for yourself or check out the customer reviews on individual splitters.
In fact, some of the manufacturers of these streaming devices go out of their way to ensure that they work excellently with splitters and switches for the sake of increasing sales and satisfying their consumer base. Any splitter that fails to deliver the streaming goods to multiple TV sets will get bad reviews and fade into obscurity at the behest of the free market.
As useful as the splitter is, there are some cons to its pros. If the resolution ability of one or more of the HDTVs is different, the splitter will drop the split resolution the lower resolution instead of the higher one. For example, between a 4K HDTV and a 1080p HDTV, it will display a 1080p signal for both by default.
Additionally, if the lower resolution HDTV is powered off, the splitter will rescan the destination display and support the higher resolution of the HDTV that’s turned on. Ideally, you should split the 4K signal into two 4K HDTVs so there are no resolution drops. Also, signal converters probably won’t work when used in tandem with a splitter. Use your HDMI to VGA or HDMI to Component adapters as standalone devices instead.