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 Oppo HM-31 offers switching for three inputs and is priced about average at $99.
The Oppo HM-31 is the best-looking HDMI switcher we've tested. The top of the switcher is black brushed metal, and the front and sides have a glossy black look. There are three LED lights to indicate which source is selected, plus an additional LED to indicate power. To the right is a Select button, so you can toggle through the inputs if the remote goes missing. It's tough to make something as utilitarian as an HDMI switcher look good, but Oppo pulls it off. The included remote is a weakness, as it has the slim, credit-card-style design, although we appreciate the separate buttons for each input. We definitely prefer full-size remotes, such as the one provided by the Monoprice 5x1 HDMI switcher.
With only three HDMI inputs, the HM-31 was the least endowed switcher we tested. The three inputs and one output will allow you to switch between three connected devices. As mentioned above, there are discrete remote codes for each input, which make it easier to program with a
|Long cable run
|Discrete input remote codes
|Average switch time
|Passes multichannel LPCM
|Average switch time (with receiver)
|Passes Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master in bitstream format
In our tests, The Oppo performed as advertised. The HM-31 is one of the few switchers with an HDMI 1.3-certified port, although we found that the HDMI version didn't have a real impact on performance in our tests. Like all the other switchers, we had no problem passing 1080p/24 video along with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks in bitstream format. The speed of switches was pretty quick at 4.4 seconds, which is just a tad slower than the fastest switches we tested. We tested the HM-31 with a 65-foot HDMI cable and were not able to reliably get a signal--it would work for a period of time, but always wound up crapping out.
A caveat to all HDMI switchers--and products with HDMI ports in general--is that we've found frustrating compatibility issues in a variety of scenarios. An HDMI switcher may work perfectly well in one setup, then not work in another because of a different combination of home theater components. (Indeed, the problems often lay with the components themselves--cable boxes are somewhat notorious--rather than the switchers.) Because of this, we recommend buying a switcher from a retailer with a solid return policy, as it's impossible to know if it will work flawlessly in your setup ahead of time.
In all, the Oppo HM-31 probably won't be your first choice for an HDMI switcher. With only three HDMI inputs and a $100 price tag, you can get a much better bang for your buck with the $50 Monoprice 5x1 HDMI switcher. On the other hand, the Oppo HM-31 has a couple of features that will appeal to custom installers, such as the RS-232 port and the IR-in--which will give it in the edge if that's a priority for you.