ZIGEN ZIG-POEPRO-70A HDMI EXTENDER REVIEW

The Zigen ZIG-POEPRO-70A is a 18Gpbs HDMI extender that is a great solution for any project requiring extension of 4K/60Hz 4:4:4 HDMI signal over long distances. The system can also extend IR, RS232, and ARC from source to display which can be beneficial in cinema, medical, classroom and conference room applications.

HDMI can deliver great picture and sound from a single cable while providing the copyright protection demanded by content creators. When the HDMI was developed, the creators assumed that the display would be near the source. In most homes this assumption was correct because the video display, which is usually a TV, is located only a few feet away from the cable box, video game, or Blu-ray player. 

However, with the growth of both the custom integration and the projector markets, the demand for longer and longer HDMI cables continues to grow as well. 4K HDR video, which is part of the HDMI 2.0 standard, also demands much higher bandwidth capability than 1080P due to increase in resolution, and color depth. In addition, a HDMI cable must also transfer additional data like HDCP copyright protection and HDR metadata and high-resolution multi-channel audio. 

The ability for a HDMI cable to deliver high bandwidth drops as the distance gets longer. High quality passive HDMI cables can reliability deliver 18Gbps which is the maximum bandwidth of HDMI 2.0 content for about 10 to 15 meters. Over the years, different solutions have been developed for applications requiring longer HDMI lengths and each solution has its pros and cons. 

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One solution is active HDMI cables where the signal is amplified to ensure maximum bandwidth. These cables can be extremely expensive and you would also have to run a new cable through the wall, so the labor cost is another factor. Also, many active HDMI cables are powered by the 5V supplied by the display’s HDMI input. This voltage can drift causing sporadic video drop out and sync issues.

Another solution is HDMI extenders where the video information is transferred from a transmitter to a receiver via an inexpensive ethernet cable. HDMI extenders vary widely in price and performance. Lower end solutions don’t support important feature like 18Gbps, HDCP 2.2 and ARC

ZIGEN offers several HDBaseT HDMI extenders to fit just about any application but in this review we are going to focus on the  Zigen ZIG-POEPRO-70A which is can deliver a 1080P signal up to 70 meters/230 feet and a 4K@60P up to 40 meters/ 130 feet away which should be more than enough distance for most home/business applications. If more distance is required, Zigen also offers the ZIG-POEPRO-100A which is good up to 100meters/328 feet for 1080P and 70meters/230 feet for 4K@60P via a single CAT6a. In addition to 18Gbps, the ZIG-POEPRO-70A supports all the HDR formats including Dolby Vision, HLG, and HDR10 as well as well as other features like Bi-directional IR/RS232. 

HDMI extenders require power and sometimes you must connect both the transmitter and receiver to a power outlet. Since the ZIG-POEPRO-70A features POE, only the transmitter needs to be connected to a power outlet and the receiver is powered via the Ethernet cable. This feature simplifies installation since you don’t have worry about hiding a large power adapter behind a video display.  

In the box there is a “Tx” transmitter and a “Rx” receiver along with a power adapter and an IR receiver. On the transmitter there is a HDMI input to connect to the source along with a RS232 port, IR in/outs, and a power connection. A single HDBT port is used to send the video, power and control information to the receiver. The receiver has the identical connections, minus the power connection, since the unit is powered by POE.  Both units are fairly compact so they can be easily hidden in a rack or behind a display.

Highlights

  • HDBaseT technology.
  • Extend HDMI signals up to 70 meters/230 feet by using Cat-6A
  • Supports HDR-10 
  • Supports Dolby Vision 4K@ 30Hz
  • Supports HDMI 2.0
  • HDCP 2.2 compliant 
  • Supports ARC
  • Supports CEC pass-through
  • Supports RS-232 (Bi-direction transfer)
  • Supports all frequency band IR control (Bi-direction transfer)
  • POE Technology  
  • Supports 12V or 5V IR Receiver/Emitter
  • Supports digital video formats in 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p, 2K and 4K.
  • Supports uncompressed PCM 2- Ch., 5.1, 7.1, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD-Master Audio and more.
  • Cable distance and limitations. 70-meter for 1080p and 40-meter for 4K/60Hz
  • Cat-6A is recommended

HDMI 2.0 (18 Gbps)

Many manufacturers promote that their extenders support 4K, 60fps, 4:4:4, or 12bit color but those numbers sometimes don’t tell the true story. At times companies use the fancy numbers to mask the fact that their product’s bandwidth capabilities are limited. Resolution, frame rate, color bit depth, and color subsampling all increase the amount of data travelling thru a HDMI cable. The true spec that matters is 18Gbps which ensures the highest quality picture available from HDMI 2.0 content. 

The HDBaseT system can only support up to 10Gpbs via a signal Cat5/6 cable. While this is theoretically enough bandwidth to support 4K@24 HDR content found on a blu-ray disc or streaming services, most 4K HDR players up-convert color bit depth and/or color subsampling so more bandwidth is usually required. Many lower-end solutions are also limited to HDCP 1.4 copy protection and don’t support features like ARC (Audio Return Channel). This means that when you update to a HDR display you will probably need to replace your older HDBaseT HDMI extender as well.

Better HDMI extenders like the ZIGEN ZIG-POEPRO-70A utilizes lossless compression to send 18gpbs of information through a 10gbps HDBaseT pipe. Plug a signal generator into the transmitter and use a signal analyzer to read the signal coming out of the receiver located 70 meters away and they will appear to be identical.

To verify the ZIG-POEPRO-70A claimed bandwidth capability, I used my Murideo test pattern generator to feed the transmitter and my signal analyzer to measure the output. The receiver and transmitter were connected through a single 75-foot Cat6 cable. When measured the output signal was identical to the input. In many applications you can use an existing CAT5e cable with the ZIG-POEPRO-70A which makes retrofitting a system as easy as just replacing your current HDBaseT receiver and transmitter. I had no problems sending 4K@60P HDR content thru 50 ft of CAT5e cable. While you can utilize a Cat5e cable for maximum distance, a CAT6 cable is recommended. 

In addition to supporting HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2, the ZIG-POEPRO-70A also supports the major HDR formats including HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision. Broadcasters will most likely utilize HLG for live HDR broadcasts and HDR10 and Dolby Vision are the two ways that most prerecorded HDR content will be delivered via disc or streaming services. I didn’t have the opportunity to test HDR10+ compatibility but all that content is backwards compatible so it will play back on any HDR10 display. Since no HDR projector utilized dynamic metadata, it is not something any projector owner should be concerned about.

ARC (Audio Return Channel) support

A couple of years ago, HDMI extenders, even some very expensive ones, didn’t support ARC. While this isn’t a deal breaker when utilized in most projector applications, it could be important especially if you have a flat panel. Most TV customers utilize their flat panels internal streaming service and want to send multi-channel audio from their TV to an AV receiver. The ARC also supports the latest Immersive surround formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS-X. This was one of the reasons I choose an expensive active optical HDMI cable to connect my own TV on my wall to my a/v rack located on the other side of the room.  As a test I replaced the cable with the Zigen and, as advertised, the ZIG-POEPRO70A delivered Dolby Atmos from my TV’s Netflix app to my Marantz AVR. 

Note: I did not get the opportunity to test eARC compatibility which required higher bandwidth but offers even higher quality uncompressed multi-channel audio.

Bidirectional IR and RS232

Not only can the ZIG-POEPRO-70A handle 18Gbps video, it can also send control commands. While many networked devices are IP controllable, there are many devices and control systems that rely on IR or RS232. This greatly simplifies installation since everything can be sent through one CAT6 cable. The included IR receiver is designed to work on the “Rx” receiver side of the extender system. You can just point the remote at the display and send commands back to the A/V rack.

If you need set IR command from the “Tx” transmitter to the “Rx” receiver, Zigen recommend using third party IR targets such as Xantech / Niles which for convenience can be powered directly from “Tx” transmitter phoenix block.

accessory

Value proposition

Just two years ago there were very few HDBaseT extenders that supported ARC and this feature is still only found on the highest end models. I remember running from manufacturer to manufacturer prior to the CEDIA 2017 trying to find a solution that I could highlight in a seminar I was delivering on HDR integration and calibration. At that time the only options were expensive active optical HDMI cable from companies like Celerity or even more expensive fiber-based HDMI extenders. While the Zigen costs about $585 it is still a good value when you compare it to a 75-meter active optical HDMI cable. There are less expensive 18Gbps HDMI extender solutions available like the Zigen ZIG-POC 70 which retails for around $400, but you will have to sacrifice features such a POE and ARC. We plan on using the ZIG-POEPRO-70A to replace the older HDBaseT extender in Art’s home theater because his newest reference projector has full 18Gbps HDMI inputs and supports 4K HDR all the way up 60fps. If you are looking for a well built, full-featured HDMI extender that will offer reliable performance for years to come the Zigen ZIG-POEPRO-70A is a great option. 

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