We have more connected gadgets than ever before, but our TVs offer only so many HDMI ports. That could be a problem if you want to connect all of your game consoles and streaming devices. Oh, sure, you could get up and play musical wires every time you want to switch an input, but that's no way to live. Instead, consider investing in an HDMI switcher. These high-tech splitters route all of your HDMI devices through a single box (or dongle) and then funnel them to your TV, giving you up to five extra HDMI ports.
We've purchased 10 of the most popular models straight off of Amazon and tested them to see which ones work best.
Credit: Gana; Shutterstock
To simulate a realistic use-case scenario, we hooked up each HDMI switcher to a 1080p screen. Then, we connected a Nintendo Switch, a PlayStation 4 and a Roku Streaming Stick (on every switcher that offered three or more ports), and evaluated how easy it was to switch between them. We took into account each switcher's price, how many ports it offered, whether it came with a remote, whether it needed an independent power source and whether it switched inputs automatically. Each device's looks also played a small part in our rankings, since it'll have to live alongside the rest of the devices in your entertainment center.
Although the Zettaguard ZW410 is one of the more expensive HDMI switchers out there, it's also one of the best. The ZW410 offers four HDMI ports, automatic switching when you turn on a new device and a remote control that changes inputs faster than any other device we tested. The ZW410 supports 4K when used with a 4K TV, but full-HD inputs looked great as well in our tests. There's even a picture-in-picture feature, although it's fairly anemic and too small to really be useful. You'll have to keep the switcher hooked up to a power source, but that's a fair trade-off.
The Univivi 5x1 HDMI Switcher is an attractive, compact and inexpensive HDMI switcher with a lot more ports than you'd expect for its price and size. With five ports, you're unlikely to run out of space for your favorite consoles and streaming devices, and its large, comfortable remote control switches between inputs pretty quickly (although not as quickly as the Zettaguard). The Univivi supports 4K content, and switches between inputs automatically as you turn on devices. The device requires an external power source, but that's about its only drawback.
The J-Tech Digital JTD4KSP0301 is inexpensive but delivers a lot more features than you'd expect for a sub-$30 box. The device not only supports 4K content but also comes with a remote and automatically switches between inputs when you turn them on. The JTD4KSP0301 requires an external power source, which is admittedly a little inconvenient for a three-port switcher, but given the kind of fantastic performance you get, it's a fair compromise.
Credit: J-Tech Digital
Kinivo HDMI switchers sell well on Amazon, and it's easy to see why. They're small, easy to use and look very unobtrusive in an entertainment center. The Kinivo 301BN supports three 1080p HDMI inputs. Although it requires an external power source, you do get a pretty decent remote control in return. The 301BN can also switch between inputs automatically when you power on a device. Unless you need more than three inputs, there's really no reason not to recommend the 301BN. (Kinivo makes a five-input switch as well, but it's a little more expensive.)
If you are willing to sacrifice a little convenience for pure simplicity (and a very, very low price), you simply can't go wrong with the Gana HDMI Switch 3x1. This 4K-compatible HDMI switcher is a cable that has three HDMI ports on one end and an HDMI hookup on the other. That's it. You switch between cables by physically pressing a Select button (there's no remote), and there's no auto-switching. Then again, you can have the Gana for less than $10, and it doesn't require an external power source. If you have three or fewer devices to hook up, it doesn't get any easier than this.
I wanted to like the Monoprice 105557 more than I actually liked it. The device is a competent HDMI switcher, featuring four HDMI inputs, a coaxial input and a digital audio input. However, even though it's extremely versatile, the performance is only so-so. The device requires an external power source; but there's no automatic switching, and the remote control is quite slow. One of the HDMI ports is on the front of the device, making most setups look ugly and cumbersome. If you need a coaxial input or digital audio, this is where you should begin your search; for most other viewers, it's a little too expensive.