HDMI Switcher Review: Octava HDMX42 4x2 Matrix Switcher
May 2009 - Art Feierman
Octava HDMX42 HDMI Switcher - Overview
Not everyone is using an AV Receiver to switch their HDMI sources. For those that don't have switching built into such a device, the solution is to purchase a separate HDMI switcher. Personally, I have been using various HDMI switchers in both my main theater, and my testing room (and 2nd theater). There are a number of issues to be considered with choosing a switcher, and they include:
How many hdmi devices can be hooked up (switched).
How many hdmi outputs are needed (do you have just one display device, or perhaps more, that you want to switch between?
Handling of digital audio
Level of HDMI 1.3 compatibility or compliance
The digital audio aspect of switching is particularly important for us projector folks. The reason, of course is that projectors, unlike, say LCDTVs, lack any speakers. That means a separate audio system, and the need to route video to the projector while sending audio someplace else (receiver). The fact that HDMI does carry the audio signal doesn't really help in such a case, and, if anything, makes it harder to find what we need, as the vast majority of displays going into homes do have built in audio, and therefore no need for things like a separate Toslink optical digital output. Few switchers even offer that audio output.
The Octava HDMX42 supports four input HDMI sources, and has two HDMI outputs, in addition it has a separate output for digital audio in the form of a TOSLINK fibre-optic output.
It is a long, thin box, and comes with a small credit card remote to switch inputs, outputs and other features. Pricing for an HDMI switcher with its capabilities seems to be well below a lot of commercial competition, but still more than some entry level brands.
Of extreme importance, the Octava HDMX42 is fully HDMI 1.3 compliant and compatible. Many of the other units I considered bringing in for review are "compatible" with HDMI 1.3, but not fully compatible. OK, let me explain. Those others are often HDMI 1.2 compliant. If an HDMI 1.3 signal is sent to those boxes, the switchers reponds to the source, basically, with a "no thanks - I can't deal with HDMI 1.3 features, so send me HDMI 1.2. The source device will normally be able to do that. An old Gefen switcher I have here works that way, but it means that it doesn't support CEC, Deep Color, and other HDMI 1.3 features, which can include the newest audio standards.
To best describe these issues, it is easiest to describe my own main theater and how the Octave HDMX42 switcher handles my requirements.
At the moment I have three "permanent" HDMI sources: My PS3, my Motorola DVR/cable box for my Cox cable, and an Oppo standard upscaling DVD player. On occasion, I sometimes have a fourth HDMI device - my MacBook Pro, so having a 4x2 switcher makes more sense to me, than a 3x2.
Unlike most folks in my situation, though, I need two HDMI outputs. One for my own home theater projector (JVC RS20), and one for the projector that I am watching/reviewing. For those just wanting to support a single hdmi display, a 3x1 or perhaps 4x1 switcher should do the job.
All considered, though, the Octava HDMX42 provides me the flexibility I need in my main theater, and should meet the needs of most folks requiring an hdmi switcher in their home theater setup.
The HDMX42, however, because of its second hdmi output, is rather interesting. Not only can you select between any of four sources and feed the output to one display, but this switcher allows you to select one source to output via HDMI output 1, and a second source to output over the HDMI output 2. That means you could control two rooms - watching a sporting event off of cable/satellite in one room, while watching a movie in another. (There's a certain trade-off, tied to that, which I'll discuss in the performance section.
The Octava switcher works extremely well. There are some usual issues - how long it takes to switch sources, etc. worth considering, but, overall, the Octava switcher performed as advertised. I should note, however that the manual is very basic and needs some enhancement, which I've already suggested to the company.
Octava HDMX42 4x2 HDMI Switcher Highlights
- Easy enough to setup
- Fully HDMI 1.3 compliant - supporting Deep Color, CEC and advanced audio
- Four HDMI inputs
- Two HDMI outputs, plus a Digital Audio output - TOSLINK
- Source scanning - SmartScan
- Includes small "credit card" sized remote control.
- Can route a single hdmi source to both outputs, or can send two sources to two different outputs (that also means if your display device supports Picture in Picture, Picture by Picture, etc., the switcher can provide two sources simultaneously to a single device with two inputs
- Weak manual, but good tech support experience
- Allows the bright front panel LED lights to be turned off so as not to distract viewers
- Available with or without HDMI (or DVI - HDMI) cables
- Very good price performance
Specs for Octava HDMX42 Switcher
MSRP: $349 (without cables)
Technology: HDMI 1.3 switcher with HDCP, backward compatible with DVI
Native Resolution: Supports from 480i up to 1080p/60, including 1080p/24
Inputs: 4 HDMI 1.3 compliant inputs
Outputs: 2 HDMI 1.3 compliant outputs, 1 Optical (Toslink) digital audio output
Weight: 1.4 lbs
Size: 13.2" wide x 5.33" deep x 1.19" high
Warranty: 1 Year Parts and Labor
Website: Octava, Inc.
HDMX42 Special Features
Full HDMI 1.3 Compliant
This is a big one in my book. Many of the switchers I have looked at do not fully support HDMI 1.3, including the current Gefen 4x2 that I own. Many in fact, are only "compatible" not compliant.
There's a big difference. An HDMI 1.3 compatible only box typically only supports HDMI 1.2 features (no deep color...), but is smart enough to tell an HDMI 1.3 device that, and, essentially instruct an hdmi 1.3 source to send it's data using HDMI 1.2. Not so the Octava HDMX42. It claims full HDMI 1.3 compliance, including CEC, Deep Color, and the newest audio formats such as True-HD Dolby, and DTS-HD. In other words, this Octava box seems about as current and compatible as one can get.
Digital Audio Output
This is an important feature if you are not using an AV receiver for your switching of the video and audio. (If you are using a newer AV receiver with HDMI switching built in, you likely wouldn't need an HDMI switcher.) Without the digital audio output (Toslink - fibre-optic), one would have to run separate digital audio from each source, to multiple digital audio inputs on an AV receiver. With the digital audio output included on this Octava switcher, this becomes a non-issue. More in the Performance section.
The HDMX42 uses a small, credit card type remote to control source switching, output switching, and some configuration. Because the remote is infra-red, it is easy to replace the remote with a programmable remote purchased to control all your devices. Alternately, you can use the remote, and additionally, there is a jack for an IR extension in the event that the unit cannot be placed where it can directly receive an IR signal from the remote control.
The Octava matrix switcher will automatically lock onto a live HDMI source. If you have two sources hooked up, for example, and both are on, and you have #1 selected, when you shut off source 1, the switcher will automatically switch to source #2. There are more capabilities depending on the number of powered up or down sources you have. If you power down all your HDMI sources, the Octava switcher will switch to standby mode, but will power back up automatically as soon as it senses a live source.