HDMI connectivity is quickly becoming a must-have connection type for all types of gadgets. But while the list of gadgets with an HDMI output is growing, the number of HDMI inputs on HDTVs and receivers is limited--you'll need to spend a lot of money before you see more than three inputs on either. That's where HDMI switchers come into play, allowing you to add more HDMI-enabled gadgets to your home theater setup without paying the big premium on your HDTV or AV receiver. The Monoprice 5x1 switcher features an extremely affordable price tag of $50 (available at Monoprice.com), and also offers the most ports of any of the HDMI switchers we've reviewed.
The Monoprice switcher is solidly built. The exterior casing is all metal, which makes it seem like it could survive a fall from your AV rack--which occasionally happens with all those HDMI cables hanging off the back. The front panel features five LED lights to indicate which source is connected, and an additional LED to indicate that the switcher is on. There's only one button on the front panel, which is an "input select" button for changing inputs when the remote goes missing. We were glad to see a full-size remote is included, unlike the "credit-card-style" remotes we're used to seeing with most other switchers. There are five buttons available for directly selecting an HDMI input, as well as Backward and Forward buttons to sequentially "flip" through your inputs.
The Monoprice switcher offers the most connectivity options of any of the switchers we tested, with five HDMI inputs and one output--enabling you to switch between five connected devices. As mentioned above, there are discrete remote codes for each input, which make it easier to program with a universal remote, and universal remotes make it much easier to integrate an HDMI switcher into your home theater setup. For example, with an activity-based universal remote like a Logitech Harmony, you can simply select "Watch TV" and it will change the respective inputs on the switcher, the TV, and the AV receiver without you needing to remember which input is which.