HDMI distribution

HDMI is quickly becoming the defacto standard for connecting things to displays. When I had some re-plastering done in the back room of my house, rather than trying to run a long HDMI cable hidden in the wall I ran a pair of Cat5e cables back to the corner of the room where the Sky satellite box sits. I’m currently on version 2.0..

Version 1 – HDMI over twin Cat5e and a Magic Eye

My first idea was to run the HDMI over Cat5e using cheap and cheerful HDMI over twin Cat5e dongles that a friend recommended. These were about 30 quid for a transmitter and a receiver. I wasn’t overly impressed as there was a complete loss of signal from time to time. Also I had to run a magic eye over a separate coax run to send the IR signal around the room. I don’t know if it was my magic eye or a fundamental flaw in the way that magic eyes work but it wasn’t snappy. So I cut my losses and moved onto Version 2.0.

Version 2 – HDMI over twin Cat5e with built in IR

A little more research this time led me to the HD Anywhere HDMI over TwinWire with IR dongle set. At £89.00 it was a lot more expensive but it avoided the need for a magic eye. It works perfectly with my only gripe being the need for an additional IR Control Extender Pack mainly because it didn’t come with the dainty IR TX end, instead coming with a TX that looks like the RX in the diagram. That is currently stuck to the front of my Sky box with a big moulded blob of Blu Tack. Blu Tack to the rescue again! The blob was added after I found the IR RX on the Sky+ HD box that I’ve got. The picture halfway down this page was helpful. It wasn’t obvious! So what’s next?

Version 3 – HDMI distribution over single Cat5e

About three years ago I looked at HDMI distribution systems and came to a number of conclusions:

  1. HDMI distribution is expensive
  2. HDMI distribution over Cat5e needs two cables from the middle out to each end point
  3. IR back from the end points didn’t exist; you had to find your own solution. The distribution systems were for offices and the like where the same thing was broadcast out to many endpoints. There was no expected interaction.

Looking around last week, things have changed… HD Anywhere (impressed with their dongle above!) have got a 4×4 matrix over single Cat5e that is £1,500. Still too expensive for me to run out and buy it but that covers all four end points (you don’t need to buy more dongles) and has IR return. A similar product 3-4 years ago would have been about £3,000 for the matrix, £300 per end point and wouldn’t have IR return. It’s still too expensive for me but I’m starting to get interested. All I need to do now is to find a way of keeping my Sky box cool in the Summer up in my loft where my Cat5e patch panel lives.


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