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How do I get HD from one source to multiple TVs? (Morrison's Mailbag)

Want to add cable/satellite to a second room without a second box? So does CNET reader Will. Geoff Morrison helps him out.

CNET reader Will asks:

When considering acquiring a second HDTV, I discovered that my satellite box cannot send such a signal over the house cable system. In fact, the box has only one HDMI port, so a new distribution system is required to get the HD signal throughout the house.

What are the best options for distributing HD signal from a provider's receiver? Should we just rent multiple boxes or buy a new system?

A complex question, but multiple easy answers.

If you plan on watching different channels in different rooms, generally you'll need a second box. (There are a few exceptions, mentioned at the end).

If you don't think you'll ever have the two TVs on at the same time, then there are a few options. Depending on the size/layout of your house, you could run HDMI cables. These max out at 100 feet or so, and at that length, I've had spotty results. It depends a lot on the cable. You'll also need an HDMI distribution amplifier, which doubles one signal into two. These can be found fairly cheap, though.

If you go this route, Monoprice.com has cables and DAs, and for everything will likely run you around $150. You'll need some sort of RF remote to control the box from the second room. There are many of these.

An easier, though slightly more expensive, option is wireless.

I've tested a few wireless HDMI systems, and the best so far is the IoGear. I reviewed it over at HDGuru. It's $279, but works through walls, has two inputs (plus a pass-through in the transmitter), and can even send IR signals, so you don't need a separate RF remote.

Other options

Monoprice 1x2 HDMI Amplifier/Splitter Monoprice.com

If you've got a big house, or the layout doesn't allow one of these options, you can also check out HDMI over Cat5. You'll still need to run the cables, but Cat5 is cheaper than HDMI. I haven't tried this method, and reading user reviews of various products shows it may not be as easy as it sounds. If you've done this, please post in the comments below how far and how much it cost you.

Another option, HDMI over optical, can be fairly price prohibitive. If that's the route you're considering, I recommend talking to a professional.

If you've got Dish Network, there are a few options (Will didn't specify in his e-mail). Dish DVRs like the ViP622 and 722 can split their dual tuners to send a second channel/recorded program to a second TV. This is SD only, mind you, but possible. You'll need to run a long composite cable, or do like David did in his review, and use an RF transmitter/receiver. Their Hopper/Joey
combo will also do the job, wirelessly and in HD, though there's the cost of the new box and a monthly fee, which brings us back to your original question.

So yes, the simplest option is to pay for the second receiver. In many cases, it might also be the cheapest.

Got a question for Geoff? Click "Geoffrey Morrison" below then click the "E-mail" link in the upper right to e-mail, wait for it...Geoffrey Morrison! If it's witty, amusing, and/or a good question, you may just see it in a post just like this one. No, I won't tell you what TV to buy. Yes, I'll probably truncate and/or clean up your e-mail. You can also send me a message on Twitter: @TechWriterGeoff.