- Review Price: £74.95
The problem with being a technology enthusiast is that I always seem to have more kit knocking around my house than anyone realistically should have. When it comes to my living room, I’ve yet to find a TV that has enough inputs for me – when you’ve got so many things that use the same connection method, you tend to find yourself fiddling around behind the TV every time you want to watch/play something.
Although many TVs now come equipped with three SCART sockets, that’s of no use to me, since I never use SCART if I can help it. Unless there is an HDMI option on the table I will go for component video every time, since it is far and away the best quality analogue video connection available. The problem with component video is that the majority of TVs only have one component input, which means having to unplug/plug three phono connectors every time I want to use a different bit of kit.
One answer to this problem is to use an AV amplifier that has component video switching, but not everyone has the room for a full surround sound system in their living room, or, as in my case, they may not be in a position to buy an amplifier and speakers right now. With this in mind I had to try to come up with another solution to this problem – with my Xbox 360, DVD player and Sky HD box all vying for the TV’s component video input, I wasn’t prepared to go down the constant cable swapping route.
After a little digging around the web I found myself at the home of AV Tool – a company that specialises in professional audio/video kit. Here I found exactly what I was looking for in the shape of the AVT-5831. This little black box has three component video inputs, and a single monitor output. Each video input is made up of three phono sockets, while both analogue and digital audio switching for each video input is also on offer. The analogue audio connection is via a 3.5mm mini-jack, while the digital audio comes courtesy of a Toslink optical connector.
To get the best out of the AV-5831 I needed some good, matched cables. After a quick call to Belkin, I received four sets of its PureAV Silver component video cables. These are very thick cables and quite stiff, so it wasn’t that easy to get everything plugged in and neatly squared away, but I managed it in the end. Belkin also sent me four of its PureAV Silver range Toslink cables and four PureAV Audio Splitter cables, so that I could test both the analogue and digital audio as well.
The front fascia of the AV-5831 is very minimalist and sleek. There’s no LCD display to clutter things up and add cost, just four buttons – one for power and one for each of the three inputs. Each button glows green when active. Of course you wouldn’t want to have to get up off your sofa and press any of these buttons, so it’s good that you get an infrared remote control in the box.
The remote is one of those slim-line credit card affairs. I’m generally not a fan of this type of remote, but considering that there are only four buttons on it, it would seem a little self defeating to make it any bigger. The range of the remote seems to be pretty good and you can even bounce the signal off your living room wall if you wish.
So, how does the AV-5831 work? In a word – brilliantly. This really is one of those products that does one thing, but does it really well. I could detect absolutely no image quality degradation between watching a signal that was passed through the AV-5831 and one that was connected to the TV directly. Even back to back comparisons watching my Sky HD box through the AV-5831 and directly through an HDMI input left me struggling to see any difference in quality.
Both analogue and digital sound switching worked as seamlessly as the video too, making this an ideal companion for anyone who wants multiple AV sources connected to their TV, but doesn’t want an external audio solution.
Ultimately though, the AV-5831 has made life in my living room far easier – despite the fact that I rarely have time to be in there. Being able to switch between my multiple component video sources without the need to swap cables around saves me a lot of time and frustration.
At £74.95 including VAT, the AV-5831 doesn’t look cheap considering its single function. However, if you really need that single function, as I do, then the price doesn’t seem at all unreasonable.
You can never have too many AV inputs, but all too often you find yourself with too few. The AV-5831 solves this problem, very well indeed. If you’re tired of switching cables every time you want to watch a DVD, play your Xbox 360 or switch on your Sky box, get one of these, it will be money well spent.
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