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HDTV Video Switchers

The transition to HDTV has reached a tipping point, at which nearly all manufacturers are gravitating towards products that support digital and higher definition video.  As the number of products increase, most consumers will bump into lack of inputs for all their equipment.  A typical home entertainment system that consists of devices such as DVD Players, HD Cable and Satellite set-top-boxes, game consoles, as well as the increasing use of Scalers, Media Streamers, and Home Theater PCs.  

Many consumers have come to expect their A/V Receiver handle the task of switching, but often lack receivers that can switch high-definition (720p/1080i) video. The dominance of HDMI/HDCP  and 1080p in HDTV technology is quickly changing the needs of a typical consumer.  Shown below is a basic configuration using a switcher.

 

Video Connection Chart

Quick overview of the video glossary gets you up to the speed.  Below are connection types used for High Definition (HDTV) video found on back of most TV sets and the associated resolutions.

Component Video (Analog Green/Blue/Red 3x RCA) - *NTSC SD 480i and ATSC HD 480p/720p/1080i (consult TV manual compatibility)


VGA (Analog 15-Pin D-Sub or R/G/B/H/V 5x BNC) - ATSC HD 480p/720p/1080i and *some PC connectivity.  Some high-band component video/analog audio switchers allow hookup as RGBHV using the left+right audio channels as H+V inputs.  
DVI (Digital Single or Dual Link) - ATSC HD 480p/720p/1080i and *some PC connectivity
HDMI (Digital) - ATSC HD 480p/720p/1080i and *some PC connectivity

*Refer to TV manual for compatibility and range

Analog Switchers

The most common video source for HDTV is component video, owing its popularity to legacy of being conceived earliest in the HD transition.  There are many choices as well as flavors of Component switchers with models that also feature scaling or distributing to TVs in multiple locations.  

Matrix Switchers allows for multiple displays with multiple sources, all with individual control, perfect for centralization of your A/v gear and flexibility of use.  Matrix Switchers are ideal for commercial locations such as bars and restaurants or professional video environments.  Wiring used can be analog audio/video or CAT5 baluns and wiring. 

  List of Component Switchers  

Digital Switchers

Recent developments in technology as well as adoption of copy protection schemes have spawned an increasing number of digital sources such as HD cable and satellite boxes as well as DVD Players and high-performance gaming consoles.  Digital signals pose its own set of standards that must require different approach as used in transmission of analog video.  First and foremost, remember that the cables are carrying data streams needs to be free of errors.  When errors are introduced in the data stream, the result in digital image is often "sparkles", or random firing of specific colored pixels.   

The most common and misunderstood topic is the use of HDCP, the copy protection scheme for high-definition encrypted content.  Some older DVI based systems are not HDCP compliant and therefore cannot be used with any device that outputs encrypted HDCP signals.  Consult your manual before you pull the trigger.

Performance of all digital signal products correlate to the resolution and distance.  Fiber Optic cables ensure perfect 1080p transmission that is within the bandwidth of a single-link (1.65Gbps) at further than 50 ft. (up to 900 Meter) in distance.  While still very rare, wireless HDMI systems are available.  

  List of DVI Switchers  
  List of HDMI Switchers  

Matrix Switchers

Matrix switchers are designed to double as distributors but with the added function of individual control for the multiple input/output.  Matrix switching is available in both analog and digital flavors, click here for more information. 

Common Features and Options

Switchers can be the ideal solution when automation is integrated into your entertainment system.  There are several control system interfaces as listed below.   Companion audio switching is another popular feature for learning remote use.  Below are list of features to look for in your choice of switchers.  

Auto-Switching - Auto-sensing switches poll for active signal which triggers the switching function.  To optimize how this works, a priority sequence is also used to allow two devices to be powered up in a controlled manner.  

Remote Controlled - An IR port present with or without remote can be the lowest common denominator in the automation system, better combined with hard wired front panel push button.

RS-232 - The preferred interface for high level control, RS-232 is used for complex automation commands that control macro laden programming.  Whole house systems such as AMX, Crestron, as well as a whole new legion of automation pioneers appearing on the market ushers in more competitive pricing in the control arena.

Audio Switching - Companion audio switching helps to ease the automation programming allowing both to be done simultaneously.  Sometimes overlooked, and one of the more useful features is the presence of both analog and digital audio options, especially in a home with children or casual users that should be kept away from high end media systems.  Analog audio allows the use of speakers in a TV for casual watching or kids gaming.   

Video Distribution- Few switchers, often a multiple output matrix units offer amplification for distribution of A/V signals that require long cable runs.  

Video Scaling - Video processing or scaling is often done in the display, but many enthusiasts add external scalers that often improve the image quality, especially in digital panels that require more precise resolution controls for non-standard native pixel grids.  Many scalers function as switchers as more manufacturers introduce products that accept multiple digital sources (DVI or HDMI).

To ensure that a product delivers as advertised, we at Digital Connection make it a mission to test and rate products sold on our site.  Products that perform at the maximum test frequencies are labeled with 1080P-Ready symbol for the highest compatibility.  

 

 

 

 

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