Comparing an HDMI cable splitter to an HDMI switch is not about deciding which is better. It's about determining which will help you accomplish your goal.
An HDMI cable splitter can split one HDMI signal input into multiple signal outputs. In other words, the cable splitter will mirror an HDMI signal across more than one display. Every connected display will show the same image at all times. They also receive identical audio if the splitter is capable of handling audio.
An HDMI switch switches between multiple HDMI signal inputs, but it outputs just one HDMI signal. This technology lets you switch between devices connected to one display. Most HDMI switches have a physical button you must use to switch between HDMI inputs. Most switches also pass through any audio carried by HDMI inputs.
When to Use an Active HDMI Splitter Main Differences
Can mirror an HDMI signal on multiple devices at once
May require external power
Usually affordable (under $20)
Can switch between HDMI signals, but only displays one at a time
May require external power
Pricing depends on number of inputs supported
When to Use an Active HDMI Splitter
Active HDMI splitters are often used when you have long cables or are outputting the signal to multiple devices. As a consequence of the extra power, active HDMI splitters are better at sending signals a longer distance in comparison to a passive HDMI splitter which is better for shorter distances. Active splitters tend to cost a bit more on Amazon as well.
Adding more power to the HDMI signal typically means using a power outlet. You’ll use a transistor to pass the original signal to the connected device. As it was noted above already, this will increase the power and can also reduce interference. Active HDMI splitters are better for not only longer cables but for sending the signal across multiple devices.
Cons of HDMI Splitters
There are a few downsides to using HDMI splitters. For instance, you are weakening the signal when it’s split, and this can lead to lower quality audio and visual. It also can’t be done more than twice unless you use an active HDMI splitter. Contrast this to an active HDMI splitter which will reduce the risk for signal interference, even from radio frequencies.
When there’s a problem with radio interference the audio will sound choppy and you’ll see green and red dots on the screen. If the issue is persistent, even if you’re using an active HDMI splitter with a short cable, you’ll need to switch to an HDMI shielded cable to deflect the radio waves. HDMI shielded cables are more expensive but usually come with either a carbon allotrope or metal alloy.
How to use a HDMI switcher?
When you want to plug multiple devices into the single HDMI port on the TV, you will quickly learn that you need additional inputs, and this is what makes HDMI switches so useful. An HDMI switch is a simple device that allows multiple devices to receive the signal from the TV’s one input and then send those signals out to different channels.
While there are several types of HDMI switches, the only difference is the number of devices that can be connected. The most popular ones can switch between three devices. Thankfully, setting up an HDMI switch isn’t difficult.
The switch must be able to plug into the power outlet and the TV’s HDMI port, moreover, it also has to be in reach of your devices. After you plug the switch into an electrical outlet, connect your devices’ HDMI cables to the ports on the switch. If your switch has pre-labeled ports for DVD players, gaming consoles, etc, you want to connect those devices to the corresponding inputs.
Finally, connect the HDMI cable from the switch to the corresponding one on the TV. You’ll need to set up the devices so that the channel each one is connected to corresponds to the proper port on the switch. Once this has been completed, you should have clear audio and video and the process is finished.