(CNET.com) -- HDMI connectivity has become increasingly popular as more and more devices use the interface. If you own more than two HDMI-capable gadgets, you may find yourself in dire need of additional inputs, as most HDTVs and AV receivers do not satisfy the growing demand for such ports -- and those that do are quite expensive.
If you find yourself in this situation, look no further than an HDMI switcher. This device will add additional HDMI ports to your HDTV, usually ranging from three to five, so you can integrate more HDMI-enabled gadgets into your setup. Here, we'll review the Radiient Select-4ce 4-port HDMI switcher, which carries a slightly expensive $150 list price.
The Radiient's outer casing is the largest of all the HDMI switchers we've tested -- coming in around the size of an external hard drive. However, unlike some others we've seen, the body is quite heavy, eliminating the need to anchor the device down when all four ports are occupied. The front panel sports a "cycle-through-input" button in addition to a power toggle. The input labels glow with attractive LED lights to indicate which source is passing through. Along the top of the unit is a groove, where you can stash the remote so it doesn't clutter your coffee table.
The included remote is disappointing. For starters, it does not include discrete buttons for input selection. Instead, you get a single "cycle" button, which means you'll need to press it multiple times to get from input one to input four, for example. Luckily, the unit itself responds to discrete remote codes, so you can still program it with a universal remote. Radiient also offers a "Pro" model remote ($20) via the company's site that includes discrete input buttons. The other disappointing aspect of the included remote is the thin credit-card-style design--we always prefer full-style remote like the one included with the Monoprice 5x1 HDMI switcher.
The Radiient switcher has a built-in auto-sensing mechanism. This will cause the switch to automatically switch to the input that it senses a new connection with. Some people like this feature for the convenience, but others prefer manual control since occasionally the switcher might switch to an active input against your wishes. Your personal preference will ultimately decide if you want autosensing or not.
The Radiient performed well in most of our tests. It had no problem handling 1080p video along with Dolby TrueHD audio in bitstream format. The switch times were a step behind the fastest switcher, but still respectable at about 5 seconds. The only major hiccup we ran into was our long cable run test, as it did not work with our 65-foot HDMI cable. Of course, for the vast majority of home-theater users, this won't be an issue.
A caveat to all HDMI switchers--and products with HDMI ports in general--is that we've found frustrating compatibility issues in a variety of scenarios. An HDMI switcher may work perfectly well in one setup and then not work in another setup because of a different combination of home-theater components. Because of this, we recommend buying a switcher from a retailer with a solid return policy, as it's impossible to know if it will work flawlessly in your setup ahead of time.
In all, the Radiient, while perfectly competent as a switcher and impressive with its sturdy design, simply doesn't offer enough upgrades to justify its price tag. The vast majority of home-theater buyers would be better off with the Monoprice 5x1 HDMI switcher, which offers more inputs, a better remote, and a much lower price. E-mail to a friend
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