Hands On: Can You Mix and Match HDBaseT Products?
Integrator Joe Whitaker shows how you can mix Monoprice HDBaseT devices with higher-priced products, but there are caveats in the HDBaseT 'standards' discussion.
If HDBaseT is a real “standard” as the organization claims, then you should be able to mix and match Cat 5 transmitters and receivers from different vendors. So is it a standard?
I posed this question last week and integrator/CE Pro Blog Mobster Joe Whitaker was quick to respond with a demo of HDBaseT extenders from five different manufacturers (video below): Atlona, Wyrestorm, Monoprice, HydraConnect and a home-grown product from Whitaker’s own company, iElectronics.
Sure enough, the products all worked together over a 330 foot spool of Cat 5e cable (the demo shows a short run of cable, but Whitaker repeated it with a longer spool, with the same results).
“What I have found is that the audio, video, CEC, and IR worked across the board consistently with any of the brands’ transmitters and receivers mixed in any variation,” Whitaker says. “This was true proof that HDBaseT is a true cross manufacturer standard.”
Not so fast. Whitaker’s quick test was in ideal conditions, he concedes. While technically the products could be mixed and matched, how would they fare in real-world applications?
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Whitaker consulted with David Schanin from HydraConnect LLC, who says not all HDBaseT products are the same – as in the case of HDMI cables and virtually every other product that conforms to industry “standards.”
“We have a test methodology for creating electrical noise in the environment, as one would typically see in an installation where there are motors (dish washers, furnaces, fans, hood vents, etc.) and noise sources (microwave ovens, CFLs, etc.),” Schanin says. “Most inexpensive sets would drop video for several seconds when we started the noise source.”
Schanin says HydraConnect has tested multiple HDBaseT products that do not provide electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection on the inputs.
“It will get zapped and die,” he says. “These are the types of issues that are not obvious until you have installed these devices and lived through their failures. That is why cheap extenders are cheap.”
Even so, technically, products bearing the HDBaseT logo should work together.
“HDBaseT alliance announced a while ago its certification program that allows vendor to certify their products and use the HDBaseT logo,” says Micha Risling of Valens Semiconductor, developer of the technology. “This program will enable the interoperability of products from different vendors which will allow products to be mixed and matched.”
One major caveat: HDBaseT allows for power over Cat 5 (POC) but don’t expect POC products from one manufacturer to work with POC products from another.
“So all in all calling HDBaseT a standard is a true safe bet,” Whitaker says. “However cost may hinder perfect deployment of the technology if bad environmental roadblocks show themselves. Just like any technology you may have to spend a little more to overcome issue that you do not immediately foresee.”
VIDEO: mixing and matching HDBaseT devices
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at email@example.com
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