MuxLab's HDMI over IP Extender with PoE (Power over Ethernet) Review
- Environment: HDMI 1.3a, Ethernet, IGMP
- Transmission: Transparent to the user
- Bandwidth: 225 MHz
- Compression Method: MJPEG
- Bit Rate: 60 Mbps
- Latency: One (1) frame. At 30fps there is 33msec latency
- Network Requirements: Point to Point: 100BaseT Multipoint: 1000BaseT
- IR Frequency: 38 KHz
- Configurations: Point-to-Point, Point-to-Multipoint, Multipoint-to-Multipoint*.
*For multipoint-to-multipoint configuration the gigabit Ethernet switch must support the IGMP communications protocol.
- Connectors: One (1) HDMI receptacle.
Note: HDMI cables not included.
One (1) RJ45S for Cat 5e/6 unshielded or shielded twisted pair via 10/100BaseT
One (1) 3.5mm jacks for IR emitter/sensor.
- DIP Switch: 4-position DIP to set Device ID
- Maximum Distance: Based on a maximum length of 6.6 ft (2 m) of HDMI cable per end.
Cat5e/6: 330 ft (100 m) up to 1080P*
*Gigabit Ethernet required for 1080p
For many of us A/V nuts, HDMI was a godsend: what’s not to like about a single cable that can deliver high definition audio and video? Unfortunately, there are a few practical issues that have made HDMI less than ideal. For starters, the connector doesn’t lock in place, which can be a minor inconvenience. The second issue is a bit more serious: range can be a limiting factor. For example, glancing over at Blue Jeans Cable’s HDMI page, you can find their Series-1 cables in lengths up to 100 feet. Of course, there are a couple caveats: under “Series-1 Facts”, you might notice that it’s technically HDMI certified high speed out to 25 feet, and standard out to 45 feet. In addition, a 100’ HDMI cable doesn’t come cheap at $315.
So where do folks turn if they need a reliable run that can go the distance? One possibility is MuxLab’s HDMI over IP Extender with PoE kit. With an MSRP of $700, the MuxLab kit converts an HDMI signal into IP packets for transmission over your home network. If you’ve got a gigabit switch, you can transmit 1080p content up to 100 meters per leg, i.e. 100m from the transmitter to the switch, and another 100m from the switch to the receiver. You can also technically use multiple switches to extend the signal further, though we’d expect this not to be necessary for home A/V applications.
What’s In the Box?
The HDMI Extender kit comes with everything you need to get started. The contents, split into two separate boxes, include the transmitter/encoder and the receiver/decoder, a pair of wall wart power supplies, and an IR receiver plus an IR flasher for passing remote commands to a distant device. The transmitter and receiver themselves are fairly compact devices, not much larger than a deck of cards. Build quality is good, with the units utilizing metal cases as opposed to cheap plastic. The sides of the case also include a flange with a pair of eyelets, which allow the units to be mounted anywhere, a useful addition if you’ll be using this with a ceiling mounted projector.
Sadly, the Sherlock Blu-ray is not included, though it's a handy size reference for the transmitter and receiver.
Setting Up & Use
Before we delve into the setup, it’s important to understand just what the MuxLab kit can do. It’s much more than a simple HDMI extender; in fact, it’s possible for a single network to support up to 16 transmitters and 200 receivers, sufficient for a fairly large-scale commercial media distribution system. Consequently, setup is a little more complex than simple plug and play, albeit not by much. The first thing you’ll want to do is set a matching system ID on both the transmitting and receiving units via the dip switches seen below.
The device ID will need to match on the sending and receiving units so they can talk with each other.
As you might gather, keeping track of system IDs is fairly important for a large media distribution system. If you’re just looking to extend a single HDMI cable, it shouldn’t present much of a challenge. After setting the system ID, attach the transmitting unit to your source device with an HDMI cable, and then connect the transmitter to your network switch. Optionally, you can hook up the IR flasher to the labeled output on the transmitter, placing the flasher itself over the source device’s IR sensor to enable remote control.
Then there’s the matter of power: if your switch provides PoE, you’re all set; otherwise, you’ll need the wall wart power supply. Moving on to the receiver side, setup is largely identical. Attach the receiver to your network switch, and then to your display with an HDMI cable. After that, plug in IR sensor into the receiver and place it somewhere that’s convenient to aim your remote, attend to the question of power, and you’re all set.
Now for the million-dollar question: does it work? Indeed it does!
The MuxLab HDMI Extender kit was inserted into my system for the period of a week, sited between an Emotiva UMC-200 pre/pro and a Samsung UN46EH6000F LCD TV. During that time, I went about business as usual, watching my fair share of TV and movies (both Blu-rays and streamed from an Apple TV); the only indication something was different was the mess of wire and boxes behind my center speaker. Signals up to 1080p/60Hz were passed without issue. No artifacts were noticed, nor were there any handshake/compatibility issues. IR functionality was also tested, again with nothing to report beyond “it works.”
Frankly, Sherlock looks the same to my eye whether he’s passed through MuxLab’s HDMI extender kit (bottom right) or just an 8’ Blue Jeans Series-FE HDMI cable.
In short, the MuxLab HDMI Extender does everything it claims to. However, if you take a close look at the specifications, you’ll note an important caveat: the system is currently limited to HDMI 1.3a. Consequently, the kit is not compatible with 3D, 4K resolution, audio return channel, or (ironically) Ethernet over HDMI. We’re told that HDMI 2.0 is on MuxLab’s roadmap, something their joining the HDBaseT Alliance will surely assist with. However, if these features are an important part of your purchasing decision, you’ll want to look elsewhere for now.
There are two important questions potential customers of the MuxLab HDMI Extender kit will need to ask. First and foremost, can you live with the system’s limitations? If you’re a big fan of 3D content or looking forward to 4K resolution, the answer is probably “no;” in that case you’ll want to wait for the next iteration of the kit. For everyone else, being limited to HDMI 1.3a isn’t likely to present a major issue.
Then there’s the question of value. $700 isn’t a paltry sum by any means, especially for what we’d qualify as an accessory as opposed to a primary component like a loudspeaker or A/V receiver. At the same time, the MuxLab kit can deliver a full 1080p signal to a point over 600’ away from the source; compared with the aforementioned $300+ Blue Jeans 100’ HDMI cable (which will likely be reduced to 1080i/720p), that’s not such an outrageous proposition. Frankly, if you need to deliver a signal over those kinds of distances, your options are pretty limited in any case. In addition, while the large scale A/V distribution capability is gross overkill for home use, the kit with an additional receiver/decoder or two could still be leveraged to good effect for multi-zone setups where your A/V receiver or pre/pro doesn’t have multiple HDMI outputs.
If you’ve cleared those hurdles, there’s not a lot left to say. My time with MuxLab’s HDMI Extender was pretty uneventful; it performed seamlessly as advertised, with no quirks to mention. All of the included components appear to be well made, with practical touches to aid installation and use. Overall, if the MuxLab HDMI Extender kit fits your needs, I have no qualms recommending it.
Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.