Running out of HDMI ports? Want to display the same content on two or more displays? Then you probably need an HDMI switch or HDMI splitter.
Sometimes, the answer to a common tech-related problem is a simple and cheap one. That is the case for both people who don’t have enough HDMI ports to support all of their devices, or for people who want to display the same content on multiple TVs or monitors. If you’re running out of HDMI ports, that problem can be solved easily with an HDMI switch. And, if you want to run the same content across multiple displays, you need an HDMI splitter.
In this guide, we’ll go over how HDMI switches and splitters work and discuss which option is likely the best for your needs, and we’ll also recommend a few of the best HDMI splitters and switches currently available.
How Does An HDMI Splitter Work?
An HDMI splitter simply allows you to plug in multiple displays into one device. So, for instance, if you want to show the same Netflix show in two different rooms at the same time, you can use an HDMI splitter to do so.
Or, in other words, an HDMI splitter just allows you to duplicate the display to other displays. However, it’s important to note that the duplicated content on the other display cannot be independently controlled. So, you cannot connect multiple TVs to an HDMI splitter that is connected to an Amazon Fire Stick and then run Amazon Prime Videos on one TV and Netflix on the other. Whatever content you choose to watch on the Fire Stick will be displayed on both of the TVs connected to the HDMI splitter.
Most HDMI splitters split the source to two displays (known as 1 x 2), but there are also splitters out there that can split the source to more than two displays.
*One important thing to note about HDMI splitters is that the output resolution on all of the displays will match the resolution of the display that has the lowest resolution. So, if you have your Fire Stick outputting to a 4K TV and a 1080P TV via a 1 x 2 HDMI splitter, the 4K TV will only be displaying content at a 1080P resolution.
How Does An HDMI Switch Work?
An HDMI switch allows you to plug in multiple sources into a single display and then switch between them as necessary.
So, for example, if you only have two HDMI ports on your TV and you have three devices that you want to plug into your TV—let’s say your PS4, an Amazon Fire Stick, and your cable box—you can use a 2 x 1 HDMI switch to hold the PS4 and Amazon Fire Stick, and then you can plug your cable box into second HDMI port on your TV.
In this instance, your PS4 and Amazon Fire Stick will be controlled via your HDMI switch. To access the PS4 or Fire Stick, you will turn your TV’s input to the HDMI port that holds the HDMI switch, and then you will turn your HDMI switch to either the PS4 or Amazon Fire Stick, depending on which device you want to use.
2 x 1 HDMI switches are the most common options, but there are options that allow for even more devices to connect to a single HDMI port.
HDMI Splitter vs HDMI Switch: Which Do You Need?
The question of whether you need an HDMI splitter or an HDMI switch is relatively easy to answer.
- Do you want to duplicate what is on your TV to another separate TV? Get an HDMI splitter.
- Did you run out of HDMI ports and you need a way to connect two or more devices to a single HDMI port on your TV? Get an HDMI switch.
*If you need an HDMI splitter, make sure the description lists it as a ‘1 x [some number]’ and not as a ‘[some number] x 1’ and vice-versa for an HDMI splitter.
For recommendations on some good HDMI splitters or HDMI switchs, check out our picks for the top options below.
Best HDMI Splitters
Need a cheap HDMI splitter that will get the job done? These should do the trick:
Best HDMI Switches
Need a budget-friendly HDMI switch that will allow you to expand the number of devices you can use on a single TV? The switches below will work (or check out our guide on the Best HDMI Switches):
While there is some confusion that HDMI splitters and HDMI switches do the same thing, the reality is that they are two separate devices that serve two separate purposes. So, if you’re unsure of whether you need an HDMI splitter or an HDMI switch, the guide above should help you quickly figure out which device is the right option for you.