The Good and Bad of HDMI Switching


This holiday season was the season my family finally made the jump to HD TV.  I absolutely love HD TV, and I am really looking forward to watching NASCAR and actually being able to read the tickers!  As result of getting the TV, I ended up receiving or giving products that needed an HDMI connection to the TV.  We got an Xbox 360 for Luke and I, plus I was given a Roku 2 XS and a Blu-ray player for Christmas.  One of the things on my Amazon list was a Kinivo HDMI switch as I knew right away I would need one, and luckily Gear Diary’s Michael got it for me for my Secret Santa gift.  It took some time and some learning, but I was finally able to get it working the way I wanted it to.  Since it was such a hassle, I wanted to share the good and the bad of HDMI switching, and what worked for me once I finally got it working.

Common HDMI Switch Hardware Issues

One thing I noticed is that there is a lot of variability in this category —  you can find switches that cost anywhere from $15 to $1000; how much you spend doesn’t necessarily affect how well the switch will work for you either.  That $15  switch may work for you, but not work for someone else, and the same can be said about the really expensive ones too. Some of the switches do things other than just switch; they might handle upscaling or driving more than one display.  In my case, all I needed and wanted was simple HDMI switching.  That’s it.  Seems easy right?  Well it wasn’t.

The Kinivo switch I have is actually my second one; the first one I received was dead on arrival and refused to power up.  Kinivo support finally resolved the situation and sent me another one that did work, however I still had some issues with it that I was finally able to resolve on my own.  That wasn’t the case with the two other switches I tried.  I tried one from Best Buy under their Rocketfish brand and a cheap Belkin one I got from Walmart.  Neither worked for me, and it was probably the next problem in HDMI switching that caused the issue: HDCP.


For those who don’t know, HDCP or High Definition Content Protection is what the industry uses in both appliances and computers to protect the content between the video device and the screen.  I do not know why they need to protect this path, as I am unaware of any way you could rip the content via this method or why you’d want to.  HDCP creates hassles for people who are being honest, and it has no real impact on piracy at all.  HDCP makes devices like HDMI switches harder to work with specific combinations of hardware, and, as I have found out, not every HDMI input on my TV supports HDCP in the manner needed for a switch to work.  My solution to getting the Kinivo switch to work was to put every HDMI cable output on the switch including the cable box and putting that on the first  HDMI port on my TV, the one labeled HDMI1.  The funny thing is each of the devices I had connected to the switch worked just fine connected directly to the second port on my TV, but when I put them behind the switch I’d get no picture OR audio, and that made NO sense at all.


HDMI switching is way harder than it ought to be.  This may be because many TV makers assume you’ll be attaching a receiver to add surround sound and other things to your TV, and these usually have multiple HDMI inputs.  My brother does this, and he didn’t have an issue at all; he’s never had to use a switch like I am using.  Eventually, I will also be buying a receiver and some speakers, but I will likely be upgrading my screen first to one that is capable of 1080p.  For now, the Kinivo is working great, and I highly recommend the brand. If you are in a similar situation, just be patient and try every combination you can think of to get things working.  You shouldn’t have to do that, but with HDCP is messing things up at this time, I don’t see any other way around it.

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About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.

1 Comment on "The Good and Bad of HDMI Switching"

  1. Thanks for this article. I usually go with the mainstream and niche brands and don’t trust with new/indie entries…sounds like you got lucky with one.

    Can you she’d some light on whether a faulty or inoptimal HDMI switch could damage my TV? I’m really thinking about investing one for my Samsung T24B350 to switch between a Chromecast Ultra and an old Motorola Atrix’s Mini-HDMI port…I only have one input HDMI port left…could use some expert/experienced advice.

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