Brad Marcus and company have been offering outstanding cables at very reasonable prices for quite some time (BetterCables was one of the first Internet cable suppliers), and as their company has developed, I've noticed that they've expanded their offerings into new areas such as video switchers.
Recently Brad contacted me about their latest offering, a 5.1 HDMI switcher called the Display Magic. Seeing as how all of my equipment is using HDMI for interconnects, and I've seen lots of problems with HDMI implementations, I was very interested in putting the product through its paces.
What's in a box?
The Display Magic 5x1 switcher is very small and unobtrusive. It stands just above one inch high and is about seven inches long. This makes it easy to install into a system and REALLY easy to conceal if you want.
The box is black and has five LEDs across the front left side. Just to the right of that is an input selector switch and an LED for power.
The back panel is extremely simple. There are five labeled HDMI inputs and a single HDMI output. You'll also find the power input for the supplied wall wart power supply.
The unit comes with a very simple remote control that you can access each input with by number or by using the scroll buttons. The unit will only scroll through inputs with a source connected to them, so don't worry about having to go through inputs that aren't in use.
If I had any complaint at all about the construction of the unit it would be the lack of a dimmer for the input and power LEDs. I am one of those people who likes my room to be dark, and LEDs tend to be a bit intrusive. A dimmer switch would have been nice, but I don't find this to be a deal breaker. Worse case, I could put a piece of black electrical tape over the LEDs if I had to.
Who needs it?
With HDMI becoming more and more prevalent in the marketplace, it is nice to see switching options available. There are a lot of older receivers in consumers' homes out there that offer no HDMI switching, which can become a bit of a hassle as you accrue more products with HDMI outputs.
In my setup alone I have four components that output HDMI (I did have five but I got rid of my cable box recently). My current SSP (the Anthem Statement D2) only has four HDMI inputs so if I got anything new, I would be out of luck. Since HDMI is capable of passing both video and audio, a switcher would allow me to use a single HDMI input on my SSP but have five components connected to it. The Anthem D2 allows you to assign any input to any source. This makes it easy to use the same input for multiple sources and still have different settings for each.
The Display Magic switcher is HDMI 1.2 compliant. That means it will pass video with a resolution up to 1920x1200, Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams, up to eight channels of PCM audio with a resolution of 192/24, and any 1 bit DSD bitstream for SACD applications.
For my testing I used a variety of sources. I connected my Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-Ray player, a Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD player, a Denon DVD-5910, and an Oppo DV-970HD DVD player. This gave me a wide gamut of options to test, including 1080p HD video coupled with multi-channel PCM audio, DVD Audio, DD and DTS soundtracks coupled with SD video, and CD audio.
I figured if there was one area that this product would fail in it would be 1080p video with a multi-channel PCM soundtrack attached. For this test I used the Panasonic Blu-ray player, but I didn't experience a single issue. I also thought that perhaps the Display Magic would have communications issues with my Anthem Statement D2 (it tends to be a bit finicky sometimes), but there were no problems at all!
Switching went smooth as silk with all of the players in fact. I used some of my video test discs for both HD DVD and Blu-ray to see if resolution overall was affected or if any Y/C delay or pixel cropping was added; again, no issues. The Display Magic switcher was completely transparent in the chain and didn't disturb any of the video or audio performance.
BetterCables has always offered outstanding performance and quality in their products regardless of price point. The Display Magic 5.1 HDMI switcher continues that tradition. Regardless of the source I had connected to it, the unit passed the entire signal and didn't tamper with it in any way. That is all you can ask of an A/V switcher. The flexibility this adds to a setup that is limited in HDMI switching is immeasurable. This product gets my highest recommendation.