HDMI Switchers and Cables – Internet TV Options

April 11, 2014

 After starting the series on disconnecting from cable TV “Cutting the Cord” , I realized it was a never-ending story. There are so many branches to the story, I decided to just consider it another category and write about it anytime I felt like it.. Granted, this is a little outside of the “prime objective” (Protecting Your Home Through Preventative Maintenance), but what the heck… its my site and I get lots of hits on Internet TV Options :).

The HDMI connector on the rear of your TV is currently the best way to get the highest quality reception from the source (DVD, DVR, Cable Box) to the TV screen. The quality of reception is no better than the cable that carries it. Typically TV’s have 2 maybe 3 HDMI connections. Optimally, for peak performance having a cable from each device to the TV will provide the best performance. However, for many people (me) it might not be practical, especially if your equipment is located in another room (like me). For this reason the best solution may be one good cable and a HDMI splitter (aka switch). By adding this device near your equipment you can connect all the source equipment using short cables, then you only require one cable between the TV and the HDMI splitter.

How do I choose a HDMI splitter? You can spend as little as  10 bucks to as much as several hundred. I looked throughout the  available devices and found the Monoprice products to be moderately priced and include the necessary features. Whether you go with Monoprice or not, here are the important features to include within your selection process.

  • Number of ports: Select a device with at least one maybe two or more ports than you need. For only a couple of bucks extra, you can accommodate a future game console or DVR. I would suggest a splitter with at least 4 ports.
  • LED indicators: A power-on lamp as well as a source indicator
  • IR Remote: If you equipment is located in another room, remotely switching from one source to another will be important. Granted, you now have ANOTHER remote to keep up with. Make sure and read my recent article on remotes.
  • HDMI Compliance: Make sure the device you purchase meets the current HDMI standards known as “HDMI 1.3a”. This is an industry standard rating that defines a level of performance. The features associated with HDMI 1.3 or better will provide higher speed and deeper color. It will also support 1080P. If a 3D TV is in your future, change that to HDMI 1.4.
  • Supports 1080P:  This will ensure, the device will not limit the broadcast ability of the source equipment. Devices compliant with HDMI 1.0 or better will cover this item.

What do I pick for an HDMI cable? There are lots of choices. It can be very easy to get caught up in the hype of all the flim flam marketing mumbo jumbo.. Most retailers jack the prices of most interconnect cables to recoup the lousy margin they had to take of the DVR they just sold you. (See PM cable comparison)  So if you can wait a couple of days, just buy it over the internet.. You will save BOO KOOS of money, especially if you have to buy a long one (like me). Many times, too much information just helps in making the decision difficult. (Some times when I try to explain some techy things to my wife, she reminds me that she really just wants to know what  time it is, and not how to know how to build a watch.) The basics are important: Larger wire size for longer distances. The smaller the number = bigger wire size. Here is the simple rules.

  • The lower the number, the larger the wire size (20 gauge (ga.) wire is larger than 26 ga.)
  • Use the shortest cable length between the connection points, don’t buy extra long ones and just coil them up.
  • Cable lengths of 15 feet or less = 24 ga
  • Cable lengths of 20 feet or less = 22 ga
  • Cable lengths of 45 feet or less = 22 ga (cable lengths over 45 feet will require an amplifier to provide you a quality signal).
  • Meets HDMI Standards 1.4
  • If you plan to run the cables through the walls, technically they should meet UL Class 2  to meet the fire rating.

As for a cable source,  I have used both Monoprice and Cablestogo with positive results. If you need a booster for lengths over 45 feet, look at Monoprice as well.

Good luck, BOB

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Cutting the Cord IV.I

May 8, 2011

 If you have read my posts on this subject, cutting the cable cord is a growing interest.  CNET correspondent David Katzmaier revealed the reality of his journey that resulted in returning to cable. Cutting the cord can be difficult and you may/may not be a candidate for the transition. Since I am not complete with the cut over, I thought I would do a state-of-the-transition of my own, but more in a techno-nerd sort of way. Here are some things I have learned along the way as well as some concerns and considerations:

  1. Cold Turkey: As the author of the CNET article mentioned, he went cold turkey in one fail swoop and besides the immediate cable withdrawals he also struggled with antenna adjustment issues. A broadcast antenna can experience similar reception issues found with satellite services more so than cable or phone based services.
  2. Antenna Reception: As noted in my earlier entries, having a good antenna and good broadcast antenna service will be paramount. This is the core of your (off cable) service. If you have poor reception, pixeling, or blocking you will get quite frustrated with the service. If your antenna service is marginal on a good day, it will be poor on a bad day. Wind, rain, tree’s with large leaves in the summer will all negatively impact the reception. If you are old enough to remember depending on a TV antenna for all of your broadcast television, you will remember fuzzy, scratchy and intermittent service. This can also occur with the digital antenna.
  3. Limited Reception: Some channels will not show up. Obtaining ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX are the big broadcast providers. However, due to antenna placement, you may have difficulty receiving all of them. Even being relatively close you may find it difficult to get good reception. Spend the money on a good antenna, mast, coax, splitters and amplifiers to ensure high quality reception. If you are not a much of a technogeek, consider hiring a professional to establish your antenna service. As a DIYer project, its quite a trial and error process.
  4.  Antenna Placement: Even though having an antenna on a 10 ft. mast may work for many urban dwellers, antenna masts of greater proportion may be required. In my case, I have struggled with getting adequate reception of the 4 major networks off of a 10 ft. mast (and I live in the city).  I have continued to tweak my arrangement and after about 2 months. I have been monitoring the quality during some spring showers and it appears to be working pretty well.
  5. It’s Not the Same: To put it bluntly, cable TV services do a decent job to create a seamless one remote solution. Without the cable box, you will have to manage your watching habits a bit more. Using the tuner built into the TV, you will have to select different input sources that you have to move across to see what you want. For instance: the Broadcast antenna will be source one, where the Roku box will be another as well as a DVD player. Most modern TV’s have multiple input sources built into the tuner .
  6. No Online TV Schedule: With Cable, it got real convenient to channel surf the TV guide to see what else is on. Right now, an online TV schedule does not exist in my arrangement. However, as an option, TV Guide has a mobile app for Iphones and Itouch devices. You can program in your zip code to see localized TV programing. (NOTE: Once I install the Channel Master DVR, the TV guide is part of the programing, so I assume I will regain the surfing feature.)
  7. Multiple TV’s: Much like the cable boxes, if you want to watch multiple viewings through the Roku box, you will need more that one (there are other methods to use one centralized Roku box, but it will cost as much as just adding a second box). However, if you are just looking at broadcast TV on a specific set; no additional boxes are required.
  8. Sports: If you are tied to live time sports beyond your normal region or programing area; cutting the cord will be an issue. If you are still committed to making the move, you might consider looking at the online sources for real-time sports outside of your region

Cut the Cord Gradually: This would be my biggest recommendation. It’s best to wean the household off the cable instead of the flash cut.

  1. Dedicate one television to the conversion: This will allow you to gradually move toward using this solution as an acceptable viewing solution.
  2. Connect the new antenna to this TV to work out any bugs found in the reception. As I mentioned, we struggled with getting adequate antenna service to work a reliably as the Cable Service. For that reason we continued to go back to the other room. Since it appears we have cleared up the problem, we dont find it necessary to go to the other TV to watch broadcast television. This process will also help you identify what programing you are really watching. If you find you have to watch Overhauling, or the DIY network, it may be a struggle to make the final cut.
  3. Live with the solution for a month or so: Get the antenna service working well. Purchase the Roku box and use that to watch on demand movies. We got the Roku box and we have watched a few movies, but maybe 3 over the last week, which is a lot less than I thought I would be watching.
  4. The good news: Broadcast and Internet TV options continue to grow. Stay tuned for my next installment of “Cutting the Cord”.  My next step is to purchase the Channel Master DVR (recently reduced to $299 on Amazon).

Stay tuned!

BOB


Cutting the Cord – Living without Cable TV

December 7, 2010

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