HDMI Cable Splitters vs. HDMI Switches: What to Know

They seem similar, yet could hardly be more different

Are you looking to share one HDMI signal among multiple displays? If so, you'll need to compare HDMI cable splitters vs. HDMI switches.

We've tested both HDMI cable splitters and HDMI switches to understand the difference between them. It's easy to confuse one for the other, but you can quickly and easily compare any HDMI cable splitter against an HDMI switch once you understand the basics.

Overall Findings

HDMI cable splitter
  • Can mirror an HDMI signal on multiple devices at once

  • May require external power

  • Usually affordable (under $20)

HDMI switch
  • Can switch between HDMI signals, but only displays one at a time

  • May require external power

  • Pricing depends on number of inputs supported

Comparing an HDMI cable splitter to an HDMI switch is not about deciding which is better. It's about determining which will help you accomplish your goal.

An HDMI cable splitter can split one HDMI signal input into multiple signal outputs. In other words, the cable splitter will mirror an HDMI signal across more than one display. Every connected display will show the same image at all times. They also receive identical audio if the splitter is capable of handling audio.

An HDMI switch switches between multiple HDMI signal inputs, but it outputs just one HDMI signal. This technology lets you switch between devices connected to one display. Most HDMI switches have a physical button you must use to switch between HDMI inputs. Most switches also pass through any audio carried by HDMI inputs.

An HDMI cable splitter


Video quality

HDMI cable splitter
  • Typically supports up to 4K

  • Typically supports up to 60Hz

  • Quality splitters will not reduce video quality

HDMI switch
  • Typically supports up to 4K

  • Typically supports up to 120Hz

  • Quality switches will not reduce video quality

There's technically no difference in the capabilities of HDMI cable splitters and switches. Both are HDMI devices, and manufacturers can design them to support all HDMI features. However, most cut back specifications to keep the price low.

A typical quality HDMI cable splitter or switch will support a resolution of up to 4K at a refresh rate of up to 60Hz. We do not recommend buying splitters or switches that lack these specifications.

It's more common to find HDMI switches that support up to 8K resolution at 60Hz and 4K at 120Hz. Demand for these HDMI switches is driven by new 4K and 8K televisions. Switches that support these features are relatively expensive, however.


HDMI cable splitter
  • Pricing starts around $10

  • Quality splitters are typically $20

  • Expensive splitters are uncommon

HDMI switch
  • Pricing starts around $10

  • Quality models are $20 to $40

  • Expensive switches are common

Basic HDMI cable splitters and HDMI switches start at low prices. The specifications of inexpensive models tend to be limited, though, with most supporting only 1080p resolution.

Quality HDMI cable splitters tend to be a bit less expensive than HDMI switches. It's partially because most cable splitters only mirror two or three displays, while better switches may switch between four to eight displays.

At the high end, expensive switches designed to handle numerous devices at 8K resolution can run into hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

An HDMI cable switch with eight outputs.

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How to Understand HDMI Cable Splitter and HDMI Switch Shorthand

There's another way to compare HDMI cable splitters against HDMI switches.

The specifications for both will state the number of inputs and outputs. An HDMI cable splitter will typically have one input and multiple outputs, while a switch will be the opposite.

For example, a two-way HDMI cable splitter will be listed as a "1x2" or a "one to two-way" device. It has one input and two outputs. A switch would be listed as a "2x1" or "two to one" device, meaning it has two inputs but one output.

An HDMI cable splitter can also be an HDMI switch, meaning it can split or mirror multiple HDMI inputs to your choice of two outputs. It's a relatively rare device but does exist. An example of shorthand for this would be "4x2," meaning you can switch between four HDMI inputs, all of which will be mirrored to two HDMI outputs.

Do HDMI Splitters Really Work?

Yes, HDMI splitters work. They can mirror an HDMI input to multiple HDMI displays. HDMI splitters vary in quality and specifications, however. Most problems are caused by a fault with the HDMI splitter or a lack of support for the video resolution you're attempting to send.

Can You Split HDMI to Two Monitors?

Yes. Any HDMI splitter can split HDMI into two displays. You will even find models that can split HDMI into three, four, or more displays.

Does an HDMI Splitter or Switch Reduce Quality?

An HDMI splitter does not need to reduce video quality, but users often encounter video quality issues when using them. Many problems are caused by a fault in the quality of the HDMI splitter. Issues may also be due to limitations of the HDMI splitter's specifications. Purchasing a more capable device will usually fix the problem.

These problems can also occur in HDMI switches.

Final Verdict

Your choice between an HDMI cable splitter and an HDMI switch comes down to your needs. You should choose an HDMI cable splitter to mirror one HDMI input to multiple displays at once. If you want to switch between multiple HDMI inputs, displaying only one at a time, a switch is for you.

  • How do I hook up an HDMI cable to a splitter box?

    First, connect your splitter box to your primary device using the HDMI input port. Connect the devices you'd like to split the HDMI signal to via the HDMI out ports using additional HDMI cables. You can use this basic process to connect a Fire Stick to a laptop or PC.

  • How do I use an HDMI splitter cable to extend my desktop?

    An HDMI splitter will only mirror your primary display rather than extend your desktop. If your device supports several external displays, you can connect multiple monitors to your computer by connecting the displays separately using the available outputs and inputs. You can also daisy-chain the monitors together if you have limited ports but access to USB-C or DisplayPort connections.

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