For those of us who bought HDMI products early, it is likely we have an HDTV or projector with only one HDMI input, and our receivers probably don't have any HDMI switching capability. So, for the several HDMI sources that we own (DVD player and satellite box), we need an HDMI switcher.
Comects, a company in Hong Kong, makes an HDMI switcher called the Neptune. It is inexpensive ($222 USA), has a remote control, and also is switchable by pressing a button on the front panel.
Not all HDMI switchers have the ability to switch the input from the front panel, and what makes this important is that the remote controls that come with HDMI switchers are usually quite small, and therefore, are easy to misplace. They sometimes use very small batteries too, so if the battery goes dead, you are out of luck when you want to switch the input on a unit with no button on the front panel.
That does not mean they aren't good products, but since I am always misplacing remote controls in the lab even if I do change the batteries, I want a front panel button backup to change inputs, and the Neptune has it.
Besides the front panel button, there are three small LEDs to indicate which input is active, plus a power LED to show that it is on.
The rear panel has a 6 volt input jack for the included wall-wart DC supply, three HDMI input jacks, and one HDMI output jack.
The remote control has a power-on button and buttons for each of the inputs. There are other buttons that are not used with the Neptune, but I suspect, they are for other Comects products.
Comects also sent us a sample of their new SL (Flat) HDMI cable, shown on the right. They are 4 mm (0.16") thick and 15 mm (0.6") wide.
A flat HDMI cable has several advantages. One is that it can go under wall molding along the floor (you could put it under a rug too, but I don't know how well the 19 conductors would respond to foot traffic).
Secondly, flat cables have the conductors separated from one another more than when they are all bundled together in a round cable. This will lower the inductance, and this is important, especially so with the high frequencies in digital signals. The result is that you can use longer cables, which is very often needed when running an HDMI cable from a receiver or switcher to the projector.
The Comects SL HDMI cables are priced at $113 USA for the 2 meter (6.6 feet) cable, and $139 USA for the 3 meter (9.8 feet) cable, based on HKD to USD conversion 11/11/06.
They do not list longer cables in the SL model, but I suspect they will offer them at some point.
I connected the SL HDMI (2 meter) cable from my Toshiba HD-A1 High Definition DVD Player to one of the HDMI inputs on the Neptune, the output of the Neptune to one of the HDMI inputs on a Halcro SSP100 Surround Sound Processor, and the HDMI output of the SSP100 to a Panasonic PT-DW5000U 720p projector (using the long Comects and Wireworld HDMI cables that were reviewed a while back).
The Neptune automatically selected the input that I used for the connection. If there are no other source components connected to the Neptune, you cannot accidentally set it to some other input. If you have two or three HDMI sources, then you can select the input from the button on the front panel or the remote control.
The result was a piece of cake. There were no problems whatsoever, even though I had numerous HDMI cables in the signal path. The HD picture was perfect, and so was the sound. Again, I really like having a button on the Neptune panel, although it is a simple matter just to add the Neptune input selection number to a macro on any universal remote control, to set that input automatically for whatever source one is using.
The only thing missing on the Neptune is a Toslink optical out so that one could switch several HDMI sources to deliver HDMI video to a projector, but use the Toslink optical out from the Neptune to deliver 5.1 digital audio to a receiver that does not have HDMI in. But, it won't be long before HDMI is on every source, every SSP, every receiver, and every digital TV display. In fact, I would think next year's crop of receivers could just eliminate composite video and S-Video connections, and put HDMI and component video jacks in their place, along with more Toslink optical jacks. And, even if you have an SSP or receiver with HDMI inputs, there might not be enough inputs, so a switcher like the Neptune could come in very handy.
The Comects Neptune HDMI Switcher and SL (Flat) HDMI cables are fine products. They are relatively inexpensive, and work as advertised, so they are a no-brainer to purchase for use in any home theater.