HDMI Extenders Review
Jan 4, 2013 3:08 PM, By Patrick Barron
During testing we used the Cat-5 and Cat-6 cables while they were coiled. This is not a recommended practice, and in particular the HDBaseT products do not perform as well when cables are coiled. But for testing purposes, it was not practical to stretch hundreds of feet of cable across an office and leave it that way for the nine to 10 weeks it took to complete the testing. Keep in mind when reading the results that actual results should be slightly better than shown once the cables are straight and not coiled. If there are variances in a manufacturer’s stated measurements compared to our test bear this in mind. In order to test RS-232 passthrough, we used a Crestron processor with an RS-232 port to generate RS-232 signals and a laptop with a terminal program that was reading the data on the RS-232 port. In every instance where the picture was present the RS-232 signal also passed properly.
Many of the units tested were based on the HDBaseT Valens chipset and were advertised as being HDBaseT compliant. This means it conforms to the HDBaseT specifications and is interoperable with other HDBaseT compliant products, but not every product has been through the certification process. As a matter of testing this interoperability, we tested several different HDBaseT transmitters with various HDBaseT receivers. In each instance we found that mixing different manufacturer’s transmitters and receivers that were both HDBaseT produced a result that worked properly. There is no way to predict how using Brand A’s transmitters and Brand B’s receiver would affect overall distance performance, and there might be some unique features that might not work properly, but the basic task of passing HDMI signal and RS-232 data worked in each instance.
We are extremely grateful to the manufacturer’s that participated in this review. In each case they shipped the evaluation units to us at their cost, allowed us to keep the units in some cases up to 120 days, and were helpful by answering myriad questions that arose.
The following is a list of all the products we tested. In addition there is commentary about each individual product with notes and observations made during testing. Overall, most of the extenders exceeded expectations. In giving a recommendation there are many differences in the units even though they are designed to accomplish the same basic task. It is hard to give a single recommendation for best HDMI extender because it is highly dependent on the requirement for a particular job.
The best overall performer at any price was the Aurora DXE CAT-S2. It had a price that was less than many other units and only slightly higher than the average. If there were an award for the unit with the most comprehensive feature set and very good performance, the Zigen ZIG-HAVEX would be the winner. If the extra features that the ZIG-HAVEX offers are needed for the job, the cost of the unit is well justified. If a job requires above average performance at a very affordable price, the Octava HDCATS100 will fit the bill and offers additional features such as a built-in HDMI distribution amp and built-in Ethernet switch at a price much less than others with similar features. I would have never suspected that an extender based on HDBaseT technology with full support for RS-232 passthrough could be obtained for only $359 MSRP, but the Zigen HVX-70 was able to perform admirably with limited performance at a cost that is sure to please the budget for many clients.
The goal of this evaluation was to share information about HDMI extenders and their performance under real-world conditions in a fair, non-biased report. By including the price information in the review, the information presented here should help integration companies make more informed decisions about the selection of HDMI extender products in future jobs.\
THE HDMI EXTENDERS
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