Aten VanCryst VM0404H HDMI Matrix Switch Review

ajmatson - 2010-07-22 17:13:02 in Monitors
Category: Monitors
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: September 14, 2010
Price: $525

Introduction:

How many times have you had to get up and switch around cables for your TV or other devices? It seems no matter how many connections a vendor makes on a media device or television you never have enough. I have done it time and time again: forgot what device is plugged in after getting comfortable only to have to get up and jumble cables to get the right setup. On my HDTV I have two HDMI inputs and four media devices which I use to view content. Having to constantly switch cables around each time my family or I want to watch something gets really annoying.

Aten has designed an intuitive device to battle these problems with the VanCryst VM0404H HDMI Matrix Switch. The HDMI switch simplifies life by allowing you to connect not only multiple input devices but to also transfer the video and audio sound to multiple televisions and monitors. The VM0404H provides a simple operation that is so easy a child can select the correct devices with little effort. If you have ever suffered from lack of high def connectivity this review will open your eyes to a whole new world. Without further delay how about we dig into the Aten HDMI Matrix Switch.

Closer Look:

The Aten VanCryst VM0404H HDMI Matrix Switch comes packaged in a plain looking box with the Aten logo on the front and rear. On the side of the packaging there is a product label which identifies the contents and lists what is included. There is also a diagram of the type and voltage of the power plug that is used for the unit depending on the country and requirements. In this case (for the US) there is a standard vertical prong type plug rated at 120v/220v.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you open the packaging it shows how well Aten wanted to keep your product protected. The company encased the ends in foam to prevent damage from movement and wrapped it in a protective sleeve to keep it from being scratched or dented from the accessories. Included with the Aten HDMI Matrix Switch is an IR remote control, four rubber feet, manuals, rackmout kit and the power adapter in the white box. Below is a diagram showing how the device can be configured for use according to Aten.

 

 

Now that everything is unpacked we can get a better look at the switch itself.

Closer Look:

The Aten HDMI switch looks almost like any other switch such as one for Ethernet in terms of form factor. The similarities stop there though. This is designed for combining and splitting HDMI signals. In case you do not know what HDMI is, it stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface, which is an interface used to carry high-definition video and audio from a high-definition device to an HDMI capable television or monitor. The Aten Matrix Switch provides the ability to carry signals from four input devices and output them to four displays. The input can come from any number of HDMI capable devices including HD camcorders, satellite boxes, HD-DVD player, Hi-Def Blu-Ray player, home theater PC, stand-alone streaming media player or gaming consoles. The Aten VM0404H supports up to 1080p for full high-definition video and audio, up to WUXGA 1920 x 1200 resolution for HD capable computer monitors, Dolby TrueHD, Blu-Ray support, and also supports the PlayStation 3 gaming console. It is HDMI 1.3b and HDCP 1.1 compliant as well as HDMI CEC compliant. The VM0404H supports 12-bit deep color for HDMI format giving you rich, colorful video. The Aten Matrix Switch also features Power On Detection where if one HDMI source is powered off it will automatically switch to the next powered-on source.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the front of the switch there are the four selection switches that designate the input for each output port. If you flip the unit around you will find the eight HDMI ports. The ones on the left of the device are labeled HDMI out for connection to a display device 1 through 4. The four on the right are labeled HDMI in and are designated with the letters A, B, C, and D. To the far right there is a two way RS-232 serial port used for high-end system control.

 

 

Operating the switch is as easy as can be. There are four buttons labeled 1 through 4 that stand for the four HDMI output ports on the back of the switch. Surrounding each output there are the four letters designated for the four input ports on the rear as well. If you want to have, for instance, monitor one to display the device on input “A” then you push the button until the LED next to the letter “A” is lit for output 1. If you want to have input “B” set to the number 2 display then you do the same for that output as well. One great thing with the switch is you can mirror the same input device on two different displays by selecting the same input letter, in this case input “B,” to the wanted output ports. Notice that output 1 and 2 both have input device “B” selected.

 

 

To get a better look at what makes the device run I had to crack it open and get inside. The Aten Matrix Switch is designed very simply. There is the main board which is powered by an Xlinx Spartan processor and CAT video processing chips. The controls are connected to a daughter board, which provides the selections to the mainboard through a serial cable.

 

 

 

One great feature of the Aten MV0404H Matrix Switch is that it can be rack mounted if your input devices are as well. This is great for when small media racks are used to house your multimedia devices. The rack ears are secured with several screws on each side and can just be slid into a rack and mounted. The unit is light enough to just be secured with the ears and does not need any rails. Below is a shot of how it can be mounted into a rack (although it was not screwed in because of the running cables) but the idea is the same for a multimedia rack.

 

 

Now that we have everything set up we can move on to the testing.

Specifications:

Display Connections
Direct
4
Maximum
64 (via cascade)
HDMI Input Connections
4
Connectors
Device
HDMI In
4 x HDMI Type A Female (Black)
Display
HDMI Out
4x HDMI Type A Female (Black)
RS-232 Port
1 x DB-9 Female (Black)
Power
1 x DC Jack
Switches
Port Selection
4 x Pushbuttons
LEDs
Selected
16 (Green)
Video Resolution
HDTV resolutions up to 1080p;
computer resolutions up to WUXGA
(1920x1200)
Power Consumption
DC5.3V, 9W (Max.)
Environment
Operating Temp.
0-50°C
Storage Temp.
-20-60°C
Humidity
0-80% RH, Non-condensing
Physical Properties
Housing
Metal
Weight
1.86 kg
Dimensions
( L x W x H )
43.20 x 15.40 x 4.40 cm

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of Aten @ http://www.aten.com/products/productItem.php?pid=20100223101832001&psid=20070130154416002&pcid=20050107104612001&layerid=subClass6

Testing:

Now we get to the part we have been waiting for. To test the switch, I set it up on one of my Hi-def televisions and connected four different inputs to it. Since my HDTV only has two actual HDMI inputs, this allowed me to test having multiple devices without having to switch cables. I used this setup for a week not only for myself but for my wife and kids as well (ages 12 and 7 years old). During that time I gauged on a scale of 1 - 10, with ten being the best, on how easy it was to use, how easy it was to setup, cost and compatibility.

 

Input Devices:

 

Output Devices:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Aten HDMI switch was very efficient at doing what it was designed to do. I broke down the testing into several sections, including ease of use and costs associated with implementing the switch. For ease of use and ease of setup I rated the Aten HDMI Switch a 9 because it is quite simple to setup. It is basically plug and go. Once it is installed and setup, the ability for my 7 year old to operate it without any issues speaks for itself. It is literally push button for what you want, either on the device or with the included remote control. When it came to the costs associated with implementing the switch, I gave it 7 out of 10. The reason the score was not higher is because the switch itself costs over $500 and the HDMI cables are not included. Since there are four input and four output devices, that means you would need a total of 8 HDMI cables. Since most devices come with them you should be ok but for others such as the PlayStation 3, which does not, you would need to purchase additional ones. This brings up the costs even more. Finally was the compatibility rating, for which it received a score of 10 out of 10. Every HDMI device I tried on the switch (all the ones I own) worked perfectly. I saw no video or audio degradation during the testing and watching many Blu-Ray movies and other HD content is crystal clear.

Conclusion:

Let me tell you, having an HDMI switch makes a world of difference. I did not realize on how often I was getting up and switching cables on my HD devices until I no longer had to do it. I still catch myself jumping up to switch the cable from my satellite box to my Patriot Box Office. The Aten HDMI switch really simplified my life. The ease of using it makes it perfect for the wife and kids to operate as well. It does not take rocket science to select the wanted input and output. To make it easier, I used a labeler to place the correct port number on the front of the device so you could just look at what you wanted. For instance, if I wanted to play the PlayStation 3, I would see the letter "C" on it and know that is the selection I needed.

This Aten VanCryst VM0404H HDMI Matrix Switch makes managing your HDMI input devices and displays with little setup and management. This is a must for anyone who has several HD devices including HD satellite, gaming systems or home theater systems. It is quite pricey at about $525 for the unit and whatever extra cables you may need, there are none included with the switch, but if you invest in your home entertainment system this will justify the costs.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: