HDMI cables can only be so long before you start to run into problems of signal attenuation, which isn’t ideal if you need to transmit a video signal from a source to a display a long distance away. Active HDMI cables can reach pretty far, but the best way to connect up two or more very distant devices for video transmission, is with an HDMI extender.
HDMI extenders, sometimes referred to as HDMI splitters, convert the HDMI connection to Ethernet, and then back again at the other end. That lets you run a connection to one or even multiple displays hundreds of feet away – resolution and frame rate depending.
What is an HDMI extender? It’s the answer to your long-distance HDMI problems.
What do HDMI Extenders Do?
An HDMI extender takes the HDMI connection from a source in one end, and converts it into an Ethernet connection using a balun, or balanced to unbalanced transformer. You can then run single, or multiple Cat 5e or Cat 6 Ethernet cables over much greater distances, and connect them to receivers on the other end. The receivers convert the signal back into an HDMI connection for connecting to the display(s).
These HDMI extenders can be connected directly using Ethernet cables, or connected through a simple unmanaged network switch. They can also be further expanded with additional extenders and splitters to reach additional displays, although there are HDMI extenders that can output directly to four different displays from a single splitter.
HDMI extenders can also give you immediate control over the video source image. They come with infrared cables which can transmit IR remote signals to the video source, letting you use the displays as if the source content was connected directly to them with a standard HDMI connection.
HDMI Extender vs. Active HDMI Cable
Most HDMI cables used to connect people’s TVs to Blu-ray players, games consoles, or laptops, will be passive cables. Those can stretch a few feet without any risk of the signal degrading, but if you want to stretch that connection by 10 or more feet, especially with a newer-generation standard like HDMI 2.1, you need an active HDMI cable.
Active HDMI cables use signal boosters to enhance the HDMI signal along its length, allowing it to travel further down longer cables without issue. But even then, HDMI 2.0 cables can hit a maximum range of around 100ft, while an active HDMI 2.1 cable is limited to just 25ft.
HDMI extenders, on the other hand, can handle ultra high definition 4K video at well over 100ft, and a more standard 1080p video transmission at over 300ft, without any concern for the signal quality. They also support Dolby True HD Audio, and DTS-HD Master lossless audio across those distances, too, with no need for additional audio cables.
They can even split that signal between multiple displays, making HDMI extenders not only a great solution for transmitting to TVs a long distance from the source, they’re great for duplicating that content across multiple displays.
This can be super handy for digital signage, classrooms, boardrooms, showcasing gaming footage on a larger communal screen, or for mirroring sports footage in a bar.
If you want to expand your HDMI extender connection to more displays in the future, most splitters also support the ability to add more displays with additional receivers, too. Do note, however, that the greater the number of displays and the greater the distance and conversions between the source and the display, the greater chance of signal attenuation.
How Long Can an HDMI Extender Be?
The maximum range of your connection is dependent on the HDMI extender you use, the resolution and frame rate you need, how many displays you’re connecting to, and the category of Ethernet cable you use to make the connection. Some HDMI extenders offer 4k 30Hz connections to around 130 feet, and 1080p connections at up to 230 feet, while others can manage almost 330 feet for a single 1080p display.
1x2 2-Port 4K HDMI Extender Splitter
HDMI Over Cat6 Extender
Wall Mounted HDMI 2.0 Extender Balun
You’ll want to use the best cabling possible to guarantee a strong signal across the most extreme of distances, with Cat 6 cables offering the best connection with most commercial HDMI extenders. It’s also important to buy cables that are foil-wrapped and properly shielded. If you plan to run the cable through the wall, make sure to opt for cables rated for such routing, otherwise there is an increased risk of fire.