Whether you’re trying to beef up your home theater or you’re setting up television sets in a corporate setting, one thing you might run into is the need to connect one source to multiple displays. At first, this sounds like it would be a simple task. After all, it’s easy to find a headphone splitter that can connect two sets of earbuds to a single source. But after a few minutes of Googling, you’ll realize that HDMI sources aren’t quite as simple.
For starters, HDMI is copy protected. There needs to be two-way communication between the display and the source to ensure that the content is not being duplicated. This makes splitting a signal much more complicated than just splitting wires. Plus, there are many different types of HDMI. Some types support 4K, others support 3D. So which one is right for you? We’re going to take a look at the three best HDMI splitters currently on the market for 2017. Once we’re done going over each, we’ll help you find the one that’s right for you.
OREI HD-108 8-port HDMI Splitter
If you’re looking for video or power accessories, OREI is one of the first companies you’ll want to look at. Their products range from power adapters to flashlights to charging systems, many of which are designed with corporate clients in mind. When it comes to their HDMI splitters, this means that they’re trusted to create reliable hardware that’s compatible with all kinds of devices on the market.
While the OREI HD-108 8-port HDMI Splitter isn’t quite rack mountable, it’s almost the same size. It’s quite thin, but very long. The face of the device is taken up by the power switch and all of the indicating lights on the front that keep you up to date about what outputs are in use. It’s got a total of 8 outputs that can be used at the same time, in any particular order. The indicating lights also support two-way communication. This means that if you turn televisions off, the indication lights will turn off to show you that they’re no longer in use. Other devices only tell you if the cable is simply connected. When you’re handling 8 separate devices, this is a much better system.
The case is made from bent aluminum. This provides it with good cooling, and also ensures that it’s durable enough to stand up to day to day use. This does, however, make it a little heavier than some. We’d highly recommend that you keep it mounted somewhere sturdy.
Because the connections are all located along the back, it’s really easy to keep your cables nice and organized. It does add a few minutes to the set-up procedure, but keeps the entire thing looking much more professional and organized.
This splitter can handle both HDMI and DVI signals. Both signal types are capable of providing resolutions of up to 1080p. The only difference between the two is the type of resolutions that can be upscaled. With HDMI, you can upscale 280i, 576i, 480p, 576p, 720p, and 1080i to the full 1080p resolution. With DVI, interlaced video signals are not supported.
Both signal types are powered. This means that a low voltage is transmitted with the video signal as a bias current. The problem you often encounter with 4 or more outputs is that the voltage is too weak when divided between all of the outputs. To address this problem, the splitter has built in amplification and buffering. Each channel has its own amplifier. This means that you won’t run into issues with video displaying incorrectly or cutting out.
The buffering is useful to keep all signals on the same timing. Have you ever gone into an electronics store and noticed that some televisions are a few seconds behind others? Buffering can solve this problem. All of the signal will be delayed equally by a few seconds, so it can be played back at the same rate.
The OREI HD-108 8-port HDMI Splitter supports both full 1080p as well as both active and passive 3D video. It can transmit in-band sound in almost any format. LPCM, the technology used in most Blu-Ray movies is the preferred method of encoding. But it can also transcode Dolby SC3, DTS7.1, TRU-HD, and DTS-HD master audio. Transcoding means that the audio format can be changed from one output to another. You can have some televisions using standard 2.1 stereo, and others connected to a full 7.1 system.
AUKEY 1-in to 4-out HDMI Splitter
Aukey is another contender in the HDMI splitter market, although their products tend to be geared more for the consumer market. While this one only has a few outputs, it supports the latest technologies. The manufacturer was clearly going for a “quality over quantity” market.
The AUKEY HDMI Splitter is extremely compact. It’s the kind of thing you’d be able to tuck in behind your television, slipping it in line with your existing system. On the back, you’ve got two HDMI ports (one input and one output) and the plug for the 5V power adapter. The other three outputs are located on the flip side. If you need to change the settings, you can do so from the top. Along with a tasteful decoration and the branding, there is a single button that lets you turn the outputs on or off.
This design is perfectly suited for both desktop or home theater use. For example, you can easily plug your laptop in and have it connected to both the TV and a computer monitor. Since there are connections on both the front and the rear, so you’re not going to find yourself reaching around, trying to plug in those hard to reach cables.
This splitter supports HDMI 1.4 with a total bandwidth of 3.4 Gbps per output. This means that 4K video can be used. It does have upscaling, but there are a few considerations with this feature. You can upscale any SD or HD signal to 1080p. 1080p can be upscaled to 4K, but only if you’re inputting raw 1080p signal. A Blu-Ray movie will look great upscaled to 1080p. But if you’re using an older Xbox 360 console or SD input, you’re really only watching a 1080p signal.
For the most part, consumer won’t notice this. There is only so much you can ‘improve’ a signal before you reach diminishing returns. But it is something to keep in mind.
The AUKEY HDMI Splitter supports pass-through audio. All of the standard compression algorithms are supported. DTS, Dolby, PCM, and everything else works just fine. The catch is that all of your active outputs need to support the same output. Let’s say, for example, you’ve got a 4K computer monitor attached with 2.1 sound and your home theater with 7.1 DTS. In this situation, you’ll be forced to go down to 2.1 since the monitor doesn’t support 7.1. The solution is to turn off audio on the monitor, so that audio can be passed straight to the home theater system.
CSRET Ultra HD HDMI Splitter
This is another consumer grade HDMI splitter that’s suitable for connecting a single source to two outputs. It’s one of the newest version on the market, taking the bestselling platform CSRET released a few years ago and adding in support for the latest video formats.
The CSRET Ultra HD HDMI Splitter is probably one of the most attractive HDMI splitters we’ve come across. It’s got an aluminum frame that is bent from a single piece, and mounted to the solid frame with two screws on each side. What make it stand out isn’t the powder coated matte black coloring, but the lime green highlights. The aggressive logo on top makes it clear that this is a 4K capable splitter, and each of the ports are clearly labelled. The pin-striping doesn’t actually serve any technical purpose, but it looks great.
There are four indicator lights along the top that show you whether the power is connected, when the input is active, and which of the two outputs are currently active. Like the previous model, this splitter is detecting actual communication with the television. Even if your monitor is plugged in, you’ll only see the indicator light turn on if you’re actively outputting video to an active display.
This model supports the latest HDCP 1.4 standard, allowing it to output content at 4K. Since there are only two outputs, it can support independent resolutions. You can have your 4K television playing back a 4K movie, and still have it downscaled to 1080p on your monitor. If you’re gaming, you can also use the “ultra HD” resolution that clocks in at 3840 x 2160. While this isn’t true 4K, this resolution is commonly used for gaming or PC use.
Along with the 4K resolution, it supports the 30 and 36 bit deep color resolutions used in HDR movies. This is something we’re always impressed to see. Most vendors are more concerned about the resolution than the color. But let’s be honest, the difference between 4K and 1080p isn’t as mind-blowing as the change from standard definition to high definition. But HDR is, hands-down, one of the most impressive upgrades to your video that we’ve seen. If you’ve got a TV that supports it, you’ll be happy to have this feature available.
With only two outputs, there’s no chance of having issues with voltage or buffering. In this situation, it’s advantageous that the manufacturer has a straight pass-through signal. You’ll make sure that both displays show your video in real time, so there won’t be any delay caused by filtering or buffering. If you’re using the audio output directly from the source, this helps you avoid troubling lag problems that plague other splitters.
Which HDMI Splitter is Right for Me?
Depending on how you intend to use your HDMI splitters, the one that suits your needs depends on what you intend to do with it.
The OREI HD-108 8-port HDMI Splitter is designed for use in business environments. When you’re dealing with more than 5 displays, there are a number of issues that can be tricky to deal with. Fortunately, this splitter addresses all of them. You won’t suffer from lag, stuttering, or incompatible audio sources. Plus, the layout makes it easy to keep your cables organized.
If you’re looking for something suitable for a large home theater setup, the AUKEY 1-In to 4-Out HDMI Splitter is ideal. This model can support 4K resolutions, making it perfect for the modern home theater. Typical usage would be to connect something like a computer to a monitor, television, and projector. If you don’t have that many devices, the CSRET Ultra HD HDMI Splitter is a good middle ground. It only has two outputs, but it’s up to date with the latest standards and has one of the nicest designs we’ve seen.
Remember, these splitters are only used to connect a single source to multiple displays. If you’re looking to connect multiple sources to a single display, check out our reviews of the best HDMI switches.