With the arrival of HDTV, , the XBox 360, the PS3 and so on, I am running out of connections at the back of my TV. What do you recommend -- an HDMI or component switching box, or is there a better way to connect all these devices? Is there a particular product I should look out for (especially here in UK)?
With the number of high-definition devices rising this is a common problem -- and one that screen manufacturers have been slow to address.
There are several connections on your TV that can be used to receive high-definition sources such as your DVD player, XBox 360 or PS3. The most common type of high-definition digital inputs are HDMI and DVI. The preferred choice is HDMI, because it carries both high-resolution images and multi-channel sound using a single cable for convenience, whereas DVI is a video-only connection. However, if you don't have compatible connections, you can use the HDMI output from a source to a DVI input on the screen with a suitable adaptor cable (or vice versa). One further complication is that many HDTV services are copy protected and will only work with an HDMI or DVI port that supports HDCP (high-bandwidth digital content protection). For more on HDCP, see our Get Ready for High Definition feature.
Alternatively, you can use either analogue component or VGA inputs with some HD sources. There is a slight drop off in performance using analogue connections, but the difference is negligible.
The problem is that most screens are equipped with only one HDMI and one set of component inputs. This allows you to connect a couple of HD devices -- you can use component with Sky's first-generation HD receivers or the Xbox 360, and reserve HDMI for next-generation DVD players or Sony's PS3.
If you're a high-definition enthusiast with more sources, however, there are several alternative options.
Some screens are starting to arrive equipped with dual HDMI connections. This means that, provided you also use accompanying component inputs, you can connect up to three high-definition sources -- HDTV receiver, DVD player and games console. Take a look at the(£1,000) or the (£1,000) LCD.
Alternatively, you can invest in an HDMI switching device. This is simply a connection box that can channel up to four HD sources en route to the single HDMI input on your display. QED makes a couple of good models priced around £170 for a box with two inputs, or £240 for four inputs.
Finally, if you're also interested in a surround-sound system then you can solve the problem using one of the latest AV receivers with HDMI video switching. Like a switching device, they let you input several HD sources into the receiver, which can then be channelled through the single input on your TV. They are quite expensive but Denon's AVR-2807 (£650) is reasonably priced and you get the audio advantages as well.