Component Reviews

PureLink HS-42A Digital Extender

A HDMI switcher for HT fans running out of inputs

Published on January 19, 2007

PureLink HS-42A Digital Extender
PureLink HS-42A Digital Extender (HDMI Switcher)
SRP: $699

Specs:
Input: 4 HDMI ports
Output signal: Digital AV – 2 ports of single link HDMI
”            ”         Digital Audio – Optical and Coaxial ports
Resolution: VGA/SVGA/XGA/UXGA/WUXGA for PCs
   ”      ”        480i/p, 720i/p & 1080i/p for HDTV
Receptacle: +5V input for DC power supply adapter; HDMI
    for AV and optical (Toslink) and coaxial for audio (1 each)
Fully compliant HDCP support
Power consumption: DC +5V, 3.4W Max
Dimensions: 430 x 165 x 48 mm
Supplied with remote and user manual

Dtrovision LLC
131 Main St., Suite 150
Hackensack, NJ 07601
201-488-3232
support@dtrovision.com
www.dtrovision.com


It’s hard to believe that HDMI technology has been out for such a short time and already there are a host of accessories and different types of cables for it.  Of course part of the reason is that the technology is still going thru development, with the latest iteration just specified – v. 1.3. V1.1 and v1.2 are able to support multi-channel audio, but the problem has been no software and no decoder.  The first discs to support it are Blue-ray and now HD-DVD.  The decoder is built into the player so you have to have a new HD disc player to hear it.
The idea behind HDMI was an attempt to cut thru the multi-cable chaos visited on anyone trying to hook up a home theater system. It is designed to carry all the varieties of both digital video and digital audio on the same small cable. (Some of us feel it is too small a cable.)  Even electronics dealers are running into problems with some HDMI connections.  Some demonstrate the latest DVD players by hooking them up instead with the next-highest-image-quality cable – the three-wire component cable – because the HDMI sometimes fails to maintain a reliable connection. The movie studio and major record label demanded Digital Rights Management (DRM) coding – known as HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection)  – is probably the major cause of the unreliability. This will hopefully be solved as tech people get accustomed to working with the challenges imposed by HDCP.
 
HDMI is now up to its third version: v1.3 – which was brought out as a specification so the industry could begin work on the next generation of HD display technology: 1440p. However, the currently available v1.1 and v1.2 are fine for the latest 1080p displays, and can transmit the highest-quality lossless Dolby True HD and DTS Master HD audio – available only from Blu-ray and HD DVD discs which offer those options. Standard DVD players cannot decode thess codecs; they pass only a PCM stereo signal. See this link for more info on this subject.
 
In the meantime, since HDMI is new, many video displays offer only one or two inputs and some users already have several  different components with HDMI outputs capable  (in the best of all possible worlds) of offering the highest-quality images. DVD players, satellite receivers, DVD recorders, TiVos, AV preamps and receivers, computers and computer gaming gear are all beginning to have HDMI connections. They may be forced to manually unplug and plug in their various components to their video display. This can be a major hassle, especially with wall-mounted flat screens, and the constant wear on the delicate mini-connectors can eventually cause breakdowns.

Thus the need for a simple HDMI switcher, which the HS-42A is. It switches only four different HDMI sources’ video (another PureLink model switches six), but also switches at the same time the HD digital audio content to your AV preamp or receiver. (If you are using six-channel analog surround too, you will have to run that directly into your preamp or receiver.)   Single longer HDMI cables can cause problems over ten feet or so due to the technology’s sensitivity to length, resulting in blinking images or even blackouts. Naturally, adding both an HDMI cable from a component to the switcher plus another from the switcher to your display is going to lengthen the total run. Therefore, the HS-42A features amplification of all the signals going thru it. In fact, using special fiber optical HDMI cables the video display could be extended up to 330 ft. from the switcher.

Other special features of the HS-42A is the RS-232 Control, which allows connecting to a PC to automatically switch the sources on a timer arrangement. The manual has the comment set so you can set up your PC to interface with the switcher in various ways. A tiny remote control is also provided. It has four simple buttons for each of the four inputs, plus an on/off button. (Don’t lose it down the seat cushions.) It should be easy to find the command to cycle thru the four inputs to add that to a universal remote control so you don’t need to add yet another remote to your stable. No software has to be installed to use the switcher, and it has full HDCP support on every output.

So how does it switch? It works fine. The four LEDs light up so you can clearly see which input is feeding your video display. The only problem is the song and dance the video signal went thru – at least with my Samsung DLP display – before it finally “shook hands” and furnished a steady picture. It didn’t matter what the source was (I only had a couple of DVD players at hand) or whether I used HMDI 1 or HDMI 2 on the back of the Samsung. What I got was a few seconds each of various color fields, a screen of video noise, a black screen, and a warning notice that “signal is weak or intermittent.” Sometimes it took nearly a minute to settle down. And I was using six foot cables.  Results may be different with other HDMI displays but I didn’t have them available. Any such hassles are clearly a result of the iffy HDMI technology rather than the design of the HS-42A.  I’m sure results would be similar with the other HDMI switchers.

 - John Sunier

 




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