What kind of Video Splitter or Switch should I get?

Sometimes you might want to get one Video Source to several Outputs or several Video Sources to one Output.

Splitter:
A splitter takes one input signal and sends it to X available outputs, for example 1×2 or 1×4 or even more.
-> Connect a console to your TV and Capture Card

Switch:
A switch allows you to get X inputs to one output. 2×1 or 4×1 in this case.
-> Connect several consoles to one TV

Now, whatever device you need (or combination) the following questions are important:

What type of inputs and outputs do I need?

Consoles for example sometimes only allow one output to be active, while on a PC system you normally have a DVI port, HDMI and maybe an old VGA or newer Display Port. The content can also be protected (for example the PS3 uses HDCP for its HDMI port) which can make it necessary to get a stripper or use a different connection-port. Now I wont go into detail about stripping-devices, but you might wanna read about the legal side of things.

For a Splitter the Input Port has to fit to your Video Source (HDMI/Component, etc. for Consoles, HDMI/DVI/DP for PC’s, or even other types for Cameras or other tools) The Output of course has to fit to your Monitor(‘s) and/or Capture Card(‘s).

For a Switch pretty much the same applies. Your different Video Sources need to have a type of connector in common or the switch has to offer different input port types. The Output has to fit to your Monitor or Capture Card you will be using.

What do you want to do with the cloned/doubled/tripled signal?

Answering this will also help us answer question number three. For example if you just want to output one video signal to two monitors of the same type, you would get a 1:2 splitter for the connection type your two monitors have. But if you want to split the signal of an older console to record its footage, it might be necessary to convert your signal while splitting it as well. So using a RCA output of the console you could split the signal to RCA and HDMI to connect it to your capture card and your old TV at the same time.

You can also combine a switch with a splitter to connect several consoles for example to a TV and a Capture Card. Since you probably never use more than one console at a time, this can save you the hassle from unplugging and replugging stuff every time.

One also very important question is, what type of signal am I even using? In this case I am talking about Digital or Analog. HDMI and DVI use a digital format which does not need any conversion, but you have to be aware that a DVI connector wont be able to deliver any sound signals. Older consoles often only support analog output through RCA(yellow/white/red) or even SCART connections. For the Xbox 360 you can get all kinds of adapters to even get DVI output instead of HDMI or RCA.
While the PS3 can output over HDMI and RCA at the same time (according to my information, please correct me if you have a PS3). Not to forget, it can vary from model to model which connectors are available. Slim consoles often have less available outputs than their “bigger” brothers.

By the way, Wikipedia is normally a very good source to get more information about the different type of video connections and even about different console models. Now that we know what we need:

How to find a working splitter/switch which hopefully wont kill my budget?

First of all, the price range of splitters and switches is very high. There are unfortunately a lot of cheaper devices, that in some cases just work and in some cases just wont. Then for some types of Output you can get splitter cables that are more like adapters and of course the active splitting boxes. For switches pretty much the same variety of devices is available.

You have to be careful and check their reviews, check their support for exactly the inputs and outputs you want (DVI-D,DVI-I,Dual Link-DVI etc, HDMI1.1/1.2/1.3?). If you are working with these types of connections, take a look at this Wiki article:

  • DVI-D (digital only, single-link or dual-link)
  • DVI-A (analog only)
  • DVI-I (integrated, combines digital and analog in the same connector; digital may be single- or dual-link)

For DVI-D and DVI-I you should be able to get a DVI HDMI cable or an adapter, while for DVI-A (very rarely used) you cannot use this simple method, only analog signals are available in this case. Also, each of the three connectors has slightly different connections and may not fit your available port if you do not check that they have the same type.

When buying, make sure you have the option to return the device if it wont work in your scenario. So before you go out and buy a 300$ splitter for Dual Link-DVI, make sure a 40$ for HDMI would not deliver the exact same result using the correct cables.

At this point you should have enough info to search for the splitter or switch you need.

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