A miracle cure for HDMI problems?

[Update: I’ve found another possible solution to this issue, one that doesn’t require extra hardware. See A fix for Media Center’s Black Screen of Death?]

Over the last few years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time hooking up various video devices to my big-screen HDTV. There are lots of different options for doing that, but HDMI is always the best choice, from a standpoint of convenience and audio/video quality.

Right now, I have two full-time HDMI-connected devices in use in my living room: a small-form-factor Media Center PC (dual-booting Windows Vista and Windows 7) and an HP MediaSmart Connect digital media receiver/extender.

One of the biggest problems that I’ve run into with HDMI connections is one I fondly call the “black screen of amnesia.” This occurs when you power up a device and the TV doesn’t recognize it. Sometimes, flipping to a different input on the TV and then back to HDMI is enough to jog the connection into working again. But I’ve occasionally had to power everything down and restart in the right sequence to get things working.image

But all those problems went away for good about six months ago when I picked up a tiny HDMI switcher for under $20. This picture shows front and back views:

Although it has a connector for a power adapter and a tiny remote control with an external infrared receiver, you don’t actually need either one in my experience. It does a great job of detecting an HDMI signal and switching to it. On the rare occasion when I have both devices powered on and I want to use the one that isn’t on, I can press the button on top of the switch.

Since getting this little gizmo, I have not had a single failure to sync up properly with an HDMI device. It handles HDCP signals (Blu-ray and CableCARD copy protection) perfectly, and the picture quality is exceptional.

Highly recommended.

8 thoughts on “A miracle cure for HDMI problems?

  1. Interesting. With no HDMI inputs on my Yamaha receiver (it is relatively new and I can’t afford replacing at this time), I would need something that is small and compact.

  2. Been thinking about putting in an HDMI switcher as of late just for the added input, but this is reason enough to throw it in tonight. I ran into the exact same problems last week and spent twenty minutes trying to time the computer boot and tv boot precisely to wake the connection back up.

    Slightly off-topic: I am fixing to move cross country and have been considering going satellite for my media fix when I get to my new home. Is there one particular company that meshes with Media Center better than the other? I know that at one time Direct-TV was working on a Media Center box that would have been compatible, but scrapped those plans “because of the long delay of the TV-Pack”. I am considering Satellite instead of cable to make sure that we are able to get our former regional sports games this fall. Any help would be appreciated.


  3. If you connect a cable box to this switcher, it is likely that the HDMI signal from the STB will constantly trigger the switcher to the STB connection, overriding the signal you want to view. I have a Psyclone HDMI switcher with four inputs and one output. It has a sleek design. It is remote-controlled. It is powered, however. Moreover, it is compatible with the Harmony remote. It sells for close to $200. But don’t we deserve the very best? If you can’t afford it, then, Ed’s unit is great for the price.

  4. I might add that I have a Samsung BD-P 1500, a Toshiba HD-DVD, a Dell Studio XPS 435 PC, and a Comcast STB all connected by HDMI to the Psyclone. The HDMI output is connected to a Denon. So, the switcher saves me from using several extra HDMI cables. (I connected my XBOX 360 Elite directly to the second HDMI port on the Denon.) Both the Denon and the Psyclone pass through 1080P/24 signals. But the consumer rightfully has to pay more for this kind of innovation. I consider myself lucky, even at 69 years of age, to be able to enjoy all of my electronic toys. BTW, I watch everything on a wall-mounted Samsung 52″ LCD HDTV with a 50,000:1 contrast ratio.

  5. I have Windows 7 media centre box connected via HDMI and sometimes it wakes with nothing on the screen. I have to Ctrl-Alt-Del (which does display task manager) and then just hit ESC to get an image.

    Would this be the “black screen of amnesia.” you speak of or just a bug with 7 waking up?

  6. Damien, that’s what I’m talking about. I don’t think this is a power management bug, I think it’s an HDMI handshake issue.

  7. I had the “black screen of amnesia” any time I’d switch away from the PC when Windows Media Center was running full screen. (Interestingly, if it was in windowed mode or if otherwise you could see the desktop, it never lost signal.) The only way to recover was to reboot the PC.

    I got one of these boxes and it appears that the issue is resolved. I’ve only had it running for a day now, but all of my tests seem to confirm that the signal stays when it used to disappear. Weird… but hey, a $20 fix is AWESOME.

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