As HDMI standard has matured and become part of the common home and business entertainment installations people have begun to ask how to make the most of their expensive equipment. The most popular recurring question is how to get high definition signals to multiple displays without buying or renting multiple pricy products. The answer for most people is to use a simple HDMI Matrix Switch, but this quickly runs into the problem of adding expensive HDMI cables that are limited by signal quality to between 45 and 50 feet. The solution to this limitation is to add a HDMI Extender.
HDMI Extenders are fantastic products for providing the quality of HDMI signals over longer distances using 3 different options:
- The first is to use an in line active extender which is a directional HDMI cable with a signal booster built into the cable.
- The two more popular options convert the HDMI signal for transmission over standard network Cat5e/Cat6/Cat7 cables or fiber optic cables.
HDMI extension over Cat5e/Cat6/Cat7 cabling is the most popular form of extension because it has the widest range of capabilities. Originally, HDMI extender products were developed independently by each manufacturer and as such each extender had its own set of proprietary capabilities such as how far the signal could be extended and at what resolution. While standard HDMI over Cat5e/6/7 Extenders are fantastic for simple transmission of HDMI signals from a HDMI source to a high definition display; they are quickly being eclipsed by HDBaseT HDMI Extenders.
HDBaseT is a standard that was developed by a group of industry leaders to consolidate the HDMI extension technology around a group of features. Like the early HDMI extenders HDBaseT provides video and audio over a standard LAN cable. However, this new standard also includes some very key features that allow them to support the capabilities of the newest TV sets such as a wide range of control signals including CEC and RS232; 100baseT Ethernet for supporting smart TV features; and power over cable for powering the HDBaseT receiver, which is key in installations where power outlets are at a premium.
Despite the fact that HDMI Extension products largely use standard Cat5e or Cat6 or Cat7 network cables, they are not really designed to function within a computer network. Though there are a few exceptions of devices that are LAN capable, integrators should carefully evaluate the situation to make sure it is absolutely necessary before using them. HDMI Extenders are designed to be point-to-point extenders because of the bandwidth necessary for a constant stream of HD video and audio signals. This is especially true for HDBaseT extenders that use full uncompressed HD video and audio. The resulting traffic can degrade the network experience for other devices on the network. For transmission over distances greater than 100 meters, the solution is to use a fiber optic extender. In rare cases where the transmission must happen over a LAN, it is often recommended to use dedicated inexpensive network equipment to create a parallel network. HDMI technology is a major part of gaming industry, as all games now being made are HDMI based and for a true HDMI experience you need to have a genuine quality HDMI Extender unit for signal extension beyond a certain distance.