Thanks in advance for your help.
I purchased a new Dell Inspiron Zino HD with HDMI output for my mother that lives in another state, which will be used for internet browsing and media streaming (Netflix). I want her to be able to watch movies on the TV and when she uses the computer be able to use the monitor that came with the computer therefore my question is should I purchase an HDMI splitter or HDMI switcher? If so why is one better than the other?
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Knowing her requirement of viewing the desktop on both the monitor and the TV you should have got a system with dual hdmi out and no additional hardware would be needed.
Splitter, passive (simple Y cable) or active (powered) splits the same signal in two directions. Haven't heard too many successes with passive. Usually too large a decrease in the signal in anything but very short cable lenghts.
A switch takes the signal and sends to one (maybe multiple, depends on how complicated a swictch you want) of the desired outputs. Some are intelligent enough to know which output is currently powered on or you can set a priority. Being powered, there's almost no loss of signal and you can actually get a boost for longer cable runs.
If you're Mom isn't very technically savy I'd look for one with a manual swtich. It might make her feel more comfortable in this situation. Switch to position A for monitor, to position B for TV.
Also, for simplicity - and to make it actually work - I'd make sure that both the monitor and TV are set to the same resolution.
Personally, I'd return the Zino and find something with dual monitor out so she could use her TV as an extended desktop. Once setup, all she has to do is drag the media player to the TV.
Thank you very much for the detail response. This has help a lot, I believe that your suggestion of getting another computer with two HDMI output provides the best solution and it's one that I will look into doing.
You're welcome. And, welcome to videohelp.com!!
I'm using both a powered splitter and a powered HDMI switch from Monoprice with no problems with either at the moment. http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=101&cp_id=10113&cs_id=1011301&p_id=...seq=1&format=2 They also have good prices on HDMI cables.
But I would agree, the simpler the better. HDMI can be a pain to setup and use at times. It requires a 'handshake' between the units to be HDCP compliant, mostly that the resolution is set properly for all devices. With a TV, it would probably also require switching the input over to HDMI to view the PC output. My display setup is a VGA/HDMI monitor and a HDMI video projector.
The splitter gives me the same video on both devices. It's down-line of the switcher that I use to choose my video source. With the splitter, I still have to switch my monitor over to HDMI. It switches automatically back to VGA once the signal source is removed. I have five HDMI sources, (2 DVD changers, WDTV Live, and two PCs with HDMI outputs) and the splitter works well with all of them.