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HDMI’s Time Has Come, But Integrators Still Weary

Dealers voice frustration with format, but momentum is building.

Every year, CE Pro polls its readers about the most pressing challenge facing their businesses.

For the past 10 years, all "the usual suspects" have been at the top of the list: lack of manpower/labor, sagging economy, war in Iraq, competition from big-box retailers, etc.

But in 2007, for the first time, a technology topped the list as the biggest challenge: HDMI (high definition multimedia interface).

That response is a testament to the momentum being gained by the format, along with a twinge of a curse.

Why is HDMI on the minds of so many integrators and why does it promise to be one of the Top 5 Tech Trends for 2008? There are several other reasons:

1. It promises to simplify installations with a one-cable solution.
2. It is condoned by Hollywood and thereby avoids possible digital rights management issues regarding multiroom distribution of video.
3. It allows surround sound to be enabled in multiple rooms from the same video source.
4. It offers higher definition than component cabling (although a debate wages about whether that increased definition is visible to the human eye).
5. It allows long runs of high-definition video (over active cable).

Sounds perfect, right? The problem with the format has been the incompatibility of equipment at various phases of HDMI.

The HDMI Licensing Group has finally settled on HDMI 1.3, but opinions among integrators still vary greatly.

Indeed, according to a recent survey of the CE Pro readership, 60 percent of integrators say they prefer component cable distribution to HDMI. However, the fact that HDMI is preferred by 40 percent of integrators in such a short timeframe is encouraging for the format.

"HDMI is flaky," says Mike Oborny of DM Home Entertainment in Carrollton, Texas, complaining about inconsistency.

"My preference is that 1080p will soon run over component, as the transition for whole-house video distribution will be simple and reliable."

Jerry Szycer of XenHome in New York City only uses component distribution. "HDMI is a pain! HDCP causes too many problems. Connectors always come loose and distribution is expensive."

Joe Bartlett of AVA Innovations in Cape Coral, Fla. likes HDMI and uses it, but does not use it solely. He says that many customers who have knowledge of A/V request HDMI because they think it is better than component video.

Sammy Falletta of Interactive Security Technologies in San Marcos, Texas says, "HDMI is much easier, much more costly and higher quality. Two out of three maybe."

He is still using component mainly due to cost and the availability of affordable switching equipment.

Nate Ragones of Onyx Technology and Electric in Southern California is convinced. "HDMI has better quality in picture and sound. I use HDMI in all my HD video installations," he says.

"For long runs, I run HDMI over Cat 5 with converters and I have never had problems. Instead of running three cables, I now only have to run one, with one type of connector."

Jim Majors, president of Audition Home Theater Systems in Andover, Minn., expressed an apprehension that many integrators seem to be feeling with regard to the technology.

He uses HDMI whenever possible, but worries, "When the greedy studios implement the HDCP broadcast flag, we don't want to leave our customers hanging at 540i."

Scott Bourquin of Rustic Creek LLC in Kingwood, Texas, is taking a pragmatic approach. He uses component video over Cat 5 for distributed video applications, and HDMI in dedicated media rooms. His reasons?

"Almost all distributed video systems -- Russound, B&K, Crestron, etc. -- can use component video over Cat 5 with no copy protection errors. Also, our business is about reliability, and HDMI copy protection is still an issue."

He adds that most customers cannot see the difference, and that the audio portion of HDMI for multiroom A/V is still a problem.

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Article Topics

News · Wire and Cable · Wire And Cable · All topics

About the Author

Jason Knott, Editor, CE Pro
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.

1 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Charles  on  01/03  at  02:23 PM

This week’s example…cable company adds several new HD channels. One of them shows only color bars.  Everything works fine as long as you avoid the color bar channel.  If you make the mistake of switching to this channel, all channels will simply turn solid green until you power cycle your cable box.  How many of my customers are experiencing this now, don’t know why it’s happening, and simply think my system is to blame.  I guess if I sell my customer an HDMI connected system, I should make sure they have good channel avoidance skills!  “HDMI is flaky.”—understatement

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