TECH: Connecting multiple HD devices over long distances
IF you own more than one High Definition (HD) television and several HD capable ‘toys’ or digital devices, there is a way to connect these all together. High definition is really something to behold – especially on larger screens. The extra cost involved is usually well worth it. But the question is how to connect all these devices together while taking full advantage of their HD capabilities.
One way of accomplishing this is to use a HDMI matrix. These come in a few configurations but the most common ones are 4×2 and 4×4. This means 4 inputs and 2 outputs, and 4 inputs and 4 outputs respectively. A matrix will allow you to connect any input device to any output device. It is also possible to have any combination of input to output. For example, you may have 4 TV’s and 2 skyHD boxes; a matrix will allow you to connect one skyHD box to 3 of the TV’s and the remaining sky box to the other TV.
A HDMI matrix with HDMI ports means you are limited to using HDMI cables, which are unfortunately only usable up to about 15 meters without boosters. This can be a shlep when it comes to locating devices around the home, especially if you want to locate devices in separate rooms. Long HDMI cables are fairly expensive especially you want decent quality ones.
Another option is to use a HDMI over CAT5 enabled matrix. This gives you the ability to send high definition signals over a standard CAT5 networking cable, which is a lot cheaper than a HDMI cable. These devices can also transmit full 1080p over a distance of 50 meters. This should be more than sufficient for most homes. If you’re still not happy with your length, you can get an in-line repeater module which will extend the distance up to 100 meters.
There are now newer devices which can transmit HDMI over IP, but bear in mind that this is not the same as HDMI over CAT (which is essentially just using the CAT cable as a cable with no networking protocol).
The HDMI over IP devices are truly grand in their specifications. They allow a cable to run up to 1000 feet and can transmit to up to 200 compatible devices all using a standard Ethernet infrastructure.
Of course, such power comes at a price and these devices are significantly more expensive than the standard HDMI-only units, so it’s a good idea to do some surveying first before buying either one. However, this is relatively new technology so prices are sure to drop given time.