Its name may be a convoluted mouthful, but the PureAV HDMI Interface 3-to-1 Video Switch by Belkin is designed to perform just one task: toggle between three HDMI audio/video sources. It may sound like a somewhat mundane mission for a $200 device, but it's also a critical function that's missing from many A/V receivers and HDTVs that cost hundreds of dollars more.
Before examining the specifics of the Belkin switcher, it's worth considering why you'd want--or need--an HDMI switcher. Most video devices have been transitioning to HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) over the past couple of years--you'll find it on virtually all new HDTVs, HD cable and satellite boxes, high-def Blu-ray and HD-DVD players, and even most new DVD players and recorders. But many HDTVs offer only a single HDMI input, which poses a problem for anyone who owns--or is planning to buy--more than one of the aforementioned devices: if you want to watch your HD cable box via HDMI, you can't watch your upscaling DVD player, or vice versa. As more HDMI devices appear on the market--such as the much ballyhooed PlayStation 3--the need to switch easily between HDMI sources becomes ever more important. And while a wider selection of affordable HDMI-switching receivers from the likes of Denon, Yamaha, Onkyo, Pioneer, JVC, and Sony are finally making their way to store shelves, all but the most expensive models--such as the $2,000 Denon AVR-4306--feature a mere two HDMI inputs.
It's precisely that void that the Belkin HDMI switcher is designed to fill. The silver box is a mere 7.19 inches wide by 3.13 deep and just an inch high, but the metal (rather than plastic) housing gives the tiny device a solid feel. It might be mistaken for a small networking hub, and, indeed, it's essentially the A/V equivalent of one. Its back side sports three HDMI inputs and one output, while the spartan front panel readout offers four green LEDs, two of which are on at any given time: the power indicator, and one to indicate which of the three inputs is active. There's no power button, so the device is always on, though the 6-volt wall-wart power supply is one of the most diminutive we've seen.
Setup is strictly plug-and-play--plug in as many as three HDMI sources and run a single output cable to your HD monitor. (DVI cables and devices work just as well as HDMI, provided you use the appropriate adapters.) You cycle through the inputs using the included tiny remote control. The best thing about the remote is that it offers discrete input access--individual buttons for each of the three sources. That means you can use any decent universal remote control to "learn" the Belkin's input toggle commands, then program macros that jump directly to any of your three HDMI sources. (If you misplace the remote, you can use the single button on the face of the Belkin switcher to cycle through the inputs instead.)