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A few months ago I looked at a couple of HDMI switcher boxes, one of which was supplied to me by AV Tool. Although that particular four port switcher was well built and worked flawlessly, it was part of AV Tool's professional TV One range, which meant that the price was very high. Now I'm looking at the AV Tool branded four port switcher, which carries a price tag that's far easier to swallow.
The AVT-5941 switcher certainly doesn't look as industrial as the professional TV One device that I reviewed previously, but it does look more substantial than the three port HDMI switcher from Belkin. It also has one major advantage over the Belkin - a power switch. I still can't understand why Belkin decided to not have a power switch on its device, thus resulting in two green lights glowing constantly, even when all your equipment is switched off, but at least AV Tool hasn't made the same mistake.
It is however slightly disappointing to see that there is no HDMI cable in the box, while Belkin supplies a cable with its unit, even though it's considerably cheaper - albeit only a three port device. In AV Tool's defence, any serious home cinema enthusiast will probably have specific cables that they use with their equipment, and would want to use exactly the same HDMI output cable as the inputs. But it's also fair to say that HDMI switchers will be particularly attractive to consumers with low-end TVs that only sport one HDMI port, and they would definitely welcome a cable in the box.
The unit itself is constructed mainly from extruded aluminium, with curved top edges. The silver finish will please user with silver AV components, but those who opted for black components may be less pleased. That said, I currently have the switcher sitting on top of a Panasonic DMP-BD10A Blu-ray player and it's far from offensive. The front of the unit has LEDs to indicate which input is currently active. There's also a button which cycles through each input, while holding the button down will switch the device off. Obviously pressing this same button while the device is off will bring it back to life.
At the rear you'll find a total of five HDMI ports - four for input devices and one output that links to your TV. There's also a power socket for the bundled power adapter. Also in the box is a credit card size infrared remote control. The remote can switch the unit on and off, while buttons numbered one to four will switch directly to your desired input. The range of the remote is very respectable considering its size, so you shouldn't have any problems even if your living room is huge.
Although the HDMI ports in this switcher are referred to as version 1.2 on the box, the guys at AV Tool assured me that it will happily pass through an HDMI 1.3 signal without losing any data. This should mean that if you have an HDMI 1.3 source and TV with this switcher in between, the signal will reach the TV unsullied. Unfortunately, there's still no software available that makes use of the Deep Colour feature that HDMI 1.3 brings, so I couldn't test this for sure. But considering that a switcher is basically a pin-to-pin extender, there really shouldn't be any problems.
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