Hands On: IOGEAR Wireless 5 X 2 Matrix Switch
For when the only way is the wireless way
Let’s say you’ve got an impressive audio/video system in your main media room, home theater, living room… whatever. Some of the source components probably cost a decent amount, such as a Kaleidescape Cinema One or an Oppo Blu-ray player. Or maybe you’re like me and only want to pay one monthly DVR rental fee. Now what do you do when you want to watch a movie or TV show in another room where those components aren’t located?
You could call in a professional who could set up a multiroom A/V distribution system, run wires through your walls, install balluns and matrix switchers and end up with an awesome connected system. However, if that’s out of your budget (because you put it all into that Cinema One) IOGEAR has a pretty smart solution, the Wireless 5x2 HD Matrix.
A couple of years ago IOGEAR came out with a wireless HDMI device that could, as you’ve probably guessed, send full HDMI signals (even 3D) wirelessly across your home from one A/V system to another. The system worked well, was reliable and a good solution for people who wanted to connect their components to more than one TV or wanted to hide their gear out of site (in a cabinet for example) and wirelessly send the video to the TV.
The company has one-upped, actually five-upped that system with a wireless 5x2 HD matrix system. The new wireless kit will let you connect five source components and wirelessly send the signal to a remote receiver. The system uses the 5GHz band (WHDI).
There are two main parts to the system. The first is a transmitter/switcher. It looks a lot like a standard HDMI switch, but a little bigger. The port panel includes four HDMI inputs plus one single-pin input that accepts a component adapter (the adapter includes component video and stereo audio). There’s a USB port for connecting a keyboard or a computer, an IR blaster port, and an HDMI out.
A smaller receiver features a single HDMI output plus a port for an IR extender.
Set up for me was as simple as hooking up any piece of AV gear. I plugged in a couple of HDMI cables from a Blu-ray player, Roku and DVR in my living room into the transmitter then attached the IR extenders to each one. The IR extenders are all mounted on a long wire, but you need to have your components pretty close to each other or stacked to make sure the wire reaches everything.
After that I went to the basement theater system where I took the HDMI output from the IOGEAR receiver and connected it to an HDMI input in my home theater receiver. I plugged the IR extender into the IOGEAR transmitter and attached the business end to a wall (double-sided tape is already attached). The wireless receiver is small and light enough to mount to a wall or tuck in behind a mounted TV.
We’re not sure what the VCR is doing here, since they don’t include HDMI ports, but otherwise this is essentially how the system is connected (kudos to reader Larry for spotting the VCR).
Both the transmitter and receiver blinked green for a half minute or so then linked up. Setup complete. The only other thing you might want to do is rename the inputs through the onscreen menu.
With everything plugged in, I powered up my home theater system and selected the HDMI input that the IOGEAR receiver was connected to. Right away I saw the content from the upstairs Verizon DVR. Pressing the source button on the IOGEAR receiver brought me to the Roku and Blu-ray player, also from upstairs. With the IOGEAR remote you can also press the arrow buttons to switch sources. The display connected to the receiver and the display connected to the transmitter can be viewing two different sources.
The picture and surround sound came through perfectly. Since I’m cheap and only have one DVR in the house, I was able to watch my recorded episodes of The Walking Dead in my basement theater, rather than on the living room TV, using the IOGEAR system.
IOGEAR states that the range is about 100 feet, inclusive of walls. In house I only had it reaching about 20 feet, through a hardwood floor and Sheetrock ceiling.
Another neat trick the system offers is the ability to use multiple transmitters. Say you have an Apple TV in one room and a Blu-ray player in another. You can put transmitters in both those rooms to feed the receiver in another room. You can have multiple transmitters, but only one receiver may be running at a given time.
While the system also transmits IR control commands—so you can use the remote from another room, I found that system a little buggy. Sometimes the remote was able to control the upstairs components, and sometimes not. That may be more an issue of how I placed the IR blasters than the device performance itself. In any case, I found it just as easy to use my iPhone apps to control my upstairs components, so the IR blasters weren’t really necessary anyway. You can change the IR system’s frequency to match your remote.
If wireless connectivity is something you want, the question to ask yourself is whether you need a 5-input switcher or a single input wireless system. That will all depend on how your components are currently connected. If you have all your components connected to an AV receiver that has two HDMI outputs, then you can just connect the transmitter to one of those HDMI outputs and use your AV receiver to do the source switching (assuming you can use an app or other solution to switch your AV receiver’s sources remotely).
The system worked as promised. Both audio and video came through as if I had physical wires attached. Pressing the info button on my A/V receiver verified that I was getting full resolution, and the Dolby Digital audio sounded perfect. If you need a wireless answer to your hookup problems, this one works.
IOGEAR Wireless 5x2 HD Matrix
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