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Are HDMI Switches & Splitters Any Good? Pros and Cons

Find out if HDMI switches and splitters are any good, the difference between HDMI switches and splitters, and learn about the pros and cons of each.

HDMI cable Brandon Jones / TechReviewer

Last Updated: November 17, 2022

Written by Brandon Jones

HDMI splitters and switches help add flexibility to your setup, but are they any good, and are there any issues when using them? Are splitters and switches the same thing?

In this article, I discuss if HDMI switches and splitters are any good and the difference between them. I'll also talk about the pros and cons of each device.

I list my recommended HDMI cables, switches, and splitters below if you're stuck trying to find the right ones, but it's best to understand what you want first by reading about the differences.

HDMI Switch vs. Splitter

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HDMI Switch vs. Splitter
Device What It's Used For
HDMI Switch Connects multiple sources (game console, Chromecast, cable box) and switches between them on one display.
HDMI Splitter Connects to a single source device and splits it into multiple displays.

HDMI Switch

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The main reason for getting an HDMI switch is when you need more HDMI ports for your devices. HDMI switches are required much more often than HDMI splitters.

How HDMI Switches Work

An HDMI switch can route two or more HDMI sources into a single source.

For example, if you usually have 1 HDMI port on a TV, you could use an HDMI switch to make that TV have two or more ports for connecting a game console, Chromecast, and a cable box.

Pros and Cons

HDMI switches are great for adding more ports to your display. Generally, if you wanted to connect multiple devices to your display, you'd have to keep unplugging and plugging them in. Having an HDMI switch will make it much easier to change sources and not wear out the HDMI ports on your devices.

If you get a higher-quality switch, there are no real downsides to adding an HDMI switch to your device. HDMI switches won't degrade the signal quality. You also shouldn't notice any additional lag to the image. HDMI switches also usually support ARC (Audio Return Channel).

Things to Know When Buying

Most inexpensive HDMI switches support only HDMI 1.4 instead of HDMI 2.0 or 2.1. HDMI 1.4 only supports up to 1080p resolution.

If your display is 4K or higher, you should get an HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 switch and cable. The higher versions of HDMI are backward compatible, making it even better to get the latest version.

When looking for HDMI switches, you should try to get one with more ports than you'll need, just in case you want to add more devices later.

Some HDMI switches also have remotes, so if you prefer extra convenience, get a switch that includes one. These aren't as common, though.

HDMI switches aren't meant for extending the reach of an HDMI connection. Below I discuss the max length of HDMI cables and how to extend them.

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HDMI 2.0 Switch

HDMI 2.1 Switch

HDMI Splitter

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The main reason for getting an HDMI splitter is when you need to connect a single source device and split it to multiple displays. HDMI splitters aren't as widely used compared to switches.

How HDMI Splitters Work

An HDMI splitter duplicates a single data source and splits it into multiple HDMI cables to connect to multiple displays to view simultaneously. A splitter doesn't connect multiple devices to a single display; instead, you should get an HDMI switch for that.

If you have a game console, a projector, and a TV, you'd usually have to unplug the HDMI cable on the game console every time you want to switch. Instead, with an HDMI splitter, the console will display on whichever display you have on at that moment.

Pros and Cons

HDMI splitters are good if you want to show the same content on multiple displays at once. HDMI splitters are usually needed if you have a single device but multiple displays in different rooms and want to show the same content on all displays.

HDMI splitters won't degrade the signal quality. You also shouldn't notice any additional lag to the image. HDMI splitters also usually support ARC (Audio Return Channel).

With that said, there are some things to look out for when buying an HDMI switch, which you can read about below.

Since HDMI splitters duplicate the same content, only one resolution is set for the displays unless the splitter explicitly has that feature.

Another downside to using splitters is needing multiple cables going from the splitter to each display. Having many cables can get a little messy if not organized well, but it'll get the job done.

Things to Know When Buying

The downside to splitters is that they sometimes don't support HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), which prevents the copying of digital audio with a form of digital copy protection. So be sure the splitter passes HDCP before purchasing one.

Ensure that an HDMI splitter comes with a power supply (self-powered). Ensure that an HDMI splitter comes with a power supply (self-powered) since it will reduce signal quality or not run properly.

Like for HDMI switches, when buying an HDMI splitter, make sure it supports the correct HDMI version your displays have. If your display is 4K or higher, you should get an HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 splitter. However, it's challenging to find HDMI 2.1 splitters.

The higher versions of HDMI are backward compatible. The same HDMI cable version is also needed to connect from the source device and your displays. When in doubt, get an HDMI 2.1 cable.

HDMI splitters aren't meant for extending the reach of an HDMI connection. Below, I discuss the max length of HDMI cables and how to extend them.

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HDMI 2.0 Splitter

HDMI 1.4 Splitter

Which HDMI Cable Type Should You Get?

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Since HDMI 2.1 is backward compatible with older HDMI versions, it's probably best to buy an HDMI 2.1 cable for future-proofing. You will ensure that you'll get the most out of your display without worrying about which one to buy. HDMI 2.1 is also needed for devices that support eARC, for better quality audio to soundbars and audio receivers. If you want to make it even easier, be sure to check out my recommended HDMI 2.1 and 2.0 cables below.

With that said, to get all of the features and speed increase, be sure to check if your display and device (PCs, game consoles, etc.) both support HDMI 2.1 and its features.

Keep in mind that HDMI cables can only go up to specific lengths. If you want a very long HDMI cable, you may need to go with HDMI 2.0 instead and follow one of these HDMI extension methods.

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Shorter HDMI 2.1 Cable

Longer HDMI 2.1 Cable

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Shorter HDMI 2.0 Cable

Longer HDMI 2.0 Cable

Max HDMI Cable Length

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Each type of HDMI cable has a limitation of how long it can reach. There's no specific "max" length a cable can go, but a limitation from the material they're made with.

Most newer copper HDMI cables reach around 15 to 25 ft (5 to 7.5 m). HDMI cables made with fiber optic can reach much farther. On average, fiber optic HDMI cables can reach around 50 to 200 ft (15 to 60 m).

Below are the three types of copper HDMI cables with their average length limits and resolutions they can handle at their max cable length:

Max Length of Copper HDMI Cables
Type Max Cable Length Speed Supported Resolutions
Standard HDMI 49 ft (15 m) < 10 Gb/s 720p 60 Hz | 1080i 60 Hz
High Speed HDMI 15–25 ft (5–7.5 m) 18 Gb/s 1080p 60 Hz | 4K 30 Hz
Ultra High Speed HDMI 10–15 ft (3–5 m) 48 Gb/s 4K | 5K | 8K | 10K 120 Hz

Why HDMI Cables Have a Max Length

Most HDMI cables are made of copper, limiting the cable's length because it loses signal strength the farther it reaches. Signal loss can happen with cables made of other materials also. This signal loss (attenuation) is measured in decibels per distance—the greater the distance, the more signal loss.

The signal level may not be high enough if an HDMI cable is too long due to too much attenuation. If you need to support a longer distance, you'll need an extender, repeater, or fiber optic HDMI cable. Otherwise, you will need to find a way to use a shorter HDMI cable.

How to Extend HDMI 2.0 Cables

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HDMI Repeater

An HDMI repeater extends the connection for shorter runs by connecting two HDMI cables and amplifies the signals for better transmission.

Determining the max length when using a repeater depends on the HDMI repeater and the HDMI cable type, but I give the average ranges below. Remember that HDMI repeaters are directional, so be sure to use the device's correct input/output sides.

HDMI Repeater Range
Resolution Length
4K @ 60 Hz 60–100 ft (18–30 m)
4K @ 30 Hz 100–130 ft (30–40 m)
1080p @ 60 Hz 135–195 ft (40–60 m)

To be safe, assume a repeater can reach only the shorter end of those ranges.

Fiber Optic HDMI Cable

Fiber optic HDMI cables are like standard HDMI cables but made with optical fiber inside the cable and meant for farther distances up to 164 ft (50 m) for 4K @ 60 Hz.

These cables aren't meant to be used with an extender, repeater, or switch and should be used alone. They also must be installed in the correct direction, with the output/display label connecting to the side with the display.

Learn more about fiber optic HDMI cables in my article: What Is a Fiber Optic HDMI Cable and Is It Worth Getting?.

HDMI Over Ethernet Extender

The HDMI over Ethernet extender is similar to an HDMI over fiber optic extender but uses an Ethernet cable for a shorter extension. An HDMI over Ethernet extender can extend the connection up to 130 ft (40 m) for 4K @ 60 Hz or 230 ft (70 m) for 1080p.

Learn more about HDMI over Ethernet in my article: HDMI Over Ethernet - How to Extend HDMI With Cat 5e/6a.

HDMI Over Fiber Extender

An HDMI over Fiber extender uses an optical fiber cable to transmit the data to reach a much farther distance. You could use an HDMI over Fiber extender to extend the connection up 1,000 to 3,300 ft (300 to 1000 meters) for 4K @ 60 Hz.

Learn more about HDMI over fiber in my article: HDMI Over Fiber - How to Extend HDMI With Fiber-Optic Cable.

Learn About TVs

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Want to learn more about TVs? Check out the articles in my TV series:

Learn About HDMI

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Find answers to your HDMI questions by checking out the articles in my HDMI series: