Slowly but surely, the number of 4K source devices is growing. As I type this, I’ve got two in my test system (the Sony FMP-X10 and the Nvidia Shield), one that just arrived on my doorstep (the Roku 4), and one en route (the second-gen Amazon Fire TV). And of course, Ultra HD Blu-ray players are just around the corner.
Switching through those sources to view on one or two display devices is easy enough, given the plethora of new 4K-capable AV receivers and preamps. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a way to send multiple 4K/60, HDCP 2.2-protected sources to multiple displays around your home, office, or commercial space, the options are more limited…but growing.
Atlona offers new 4K/60-capable HDMI-to-HDMI and HDMI-to-HDBaseT matrix switchers that go all the way up to 16×16. This review focuses on the 4×4 UHD HDMI-to-HDMI Matrix Switcher (AT-UHD-H2H-44M, $2,099.99) that allows you to display four different AV sources on four different display devices simultaneously. All four HDMI inputs and outputs on this product are HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 compliance.
The unit itself is of the basic black-box variety, measuring 2.17 by 17.31 by 10 inches and weighing 6.55 pounds. It’s one rack unit high and comes with rack ears for mounting in an equipment rack. The back panel sports the four HDMI inputs and four HDMI outputs, along with a control input for IR/RS-232, a (currently inactive) USB port for firmware updates, and a LAN port for IP control and access to a Web GUI.
You can perform all the basic setup and usage functions from the front panel if desired, using eight buttons: power, enter, function, cancel, and four buttons that are used for input, output, and navigation duties. A two-line LCD screen gives you the product name and instructions for selecting input/output combinations, accessing firmware/IP info, and performing various setup functions.
The supplied IR remote is clearly a generic model that Atlona uses with a lot of its switchers. The small, non-backlit remote has 16 input buttons and 16 output buttons; obviously, with this particular switcher, you’ll only use the first four of each to assign a certain input to a certain output. There’s also power on/off, as well as volume up/down and mute buttons that are inactive for this particular switcher.
The AT-UHD-H2H-44M uses the 10.2-Gbps HDMI chipset and not the 18-Gbps chipset–which means that you can pass 4K signals at 60 frames per second, but only with a maximum bit rate of 8-bit and a maximum sampling rate of 4:2:0. However, you can still pass a 4K signal at 24 frames per second with up to 12-bit color and 4:4:4 sampling. This wasn’t an issue for any of the current UHD source devices with which I tested the Atlona, since 8-bit 4:2:0 is how the content is encoded right now. However, it will become more of an issue as the Ultra HD Blu-ray format arrives and evolves, as that format supports higher bit and sampling rates. More so, the AT-UHD-H2H-44M does not support HDMI 2.0a to pass High Dynamic Range (HDR) content, and it can’t be firmware-upgraded to do so. From what I’ve seen in my research, none of the new 4K matrix switchers can pass HDR.
On the audio side, the Atlona can pass all the major audio formats, from two-channel PCM up to Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD-MA, and Dolby Atmos. It supports the passage of audio signals up to 24-bit/192 kHz.
For my tests, I used three 4K UHD display devices: the Samsung UN65HU8550 TV, the Samsung UN65JS8500 TV, and the Sony VPL-VW350ES projector. I also added the older 1080p Samsung LN-T4681F TV to the mix at times. My sources were the aforementioned Nvidia Shield and Sony FMP-X10 4K players, as well as the Oppo BDP-103 4K-upconverting Blu-ray player and a 1080p Dish Network Hopper DVR. Both the Nvidia and Sony devices support 4K/60 output, and that’s what I fed through the Atlona on to the displays. Both also use HDCP 2.2 copy protection, and the Atlona switcher had no trouble with that.
Atlona devices are meant to be sold through specialty dealers who have been trained to set them up. I am not one of those dealers, and setup proved to be a little trickier than simply connecting everything and turning on the switcher–due to my mixture of 4K and 1080p sources. By default, this Atlona switcher is set up to output everything at the highest common native resolution that all the connected sources can output. Because my Hopper DVR maxes out at 1080p and my Oppo Blu-ray player was set for 1080p output when I first connected it, the Atlona downgraded the Nvidia and Sony 4K devices to 1080p to match them. I tried simply taking the Hopper and Oppo out of the equation and repowering everything to see if I’d get a 4K signal from the Nvidia and Sony, but I didn’t.
The Atlona owner’s manual gives you two ways to remedy this issue. The first is to manually “copy and load” EDID information from a particular display and assign it to a particular source input. EDID stands for Extended Display Identification, and it is the information that two HDMI devices use to identify each other, determine compatibility, and establish the all-important handshake to get a picture. I tried to follow the instructions for this approach, and I still didn’t get 4K from the Nvidia.
So I moved to option number two, which was much simpler. The switcher has 14 stored EDIDs in its memory, and you can assign any one of these presets to a particular input. In my case, I assigned EDID number 14 (3840×2160 resolution with 7.1 multichannel audio) to the inputs for the Sony and Nvidia players, and that instantly did the trick. From that point on, I was able to pass the 4K sources at 4K, the 1080p sources at 1080p, and even switch the Oppo’s resolution from 1080p to 4K and back again with no issue.
I should mention that I performed the above steps via the Atlona’s front-panel buttons, which worked but certainly wasn’t the fastest or most intuitive way to go about it. If only I had moved over to the Web interface during initial setup instead of afterward, I suspect the above process would have gone much quicker.
To access the AT-UHD-H2H-44M’s Web GUI, all you have to do is make sure the product is connected to your router via Ethernet, go to a Web browser, and type in the IP address that has been assigned to the Atlona (you can get this directly via the switcher’s front-panel screen). The Web GUI has a simple, straightforward layout that’s easy to understand and maneuver. Through it, you can check the device’s status, update firmware (although you have to download the firmware from the company’s site to your computer, then load the file through the Web GUI), adjust network and control settings, and more. You can name all of the connected sources and displays, see exactly which source is being routed to which display at any time, configure and store different input/output combinations in the switcher’s memory presets, and perform all of the EDID adjustments I described above.
Performance-wise, the AT-UHD-H2H-44M proved to be rock-solid in sending a clean, stable signal from source to display. I basically spent several days letting various combinations of 4K/60, 4K/24, 1080p, and 1080i signals play through the connected displays, randomly sending different sources to different displays. I saw no picture dropouts, freezes, or flashes, and the switcher changed inputs very quickly. When I powered any device in the chain on or off, it didn’t affect the signals going to other displays. I was able to pass 3D without issue (provided a 3D-capable EDID was assigned to the Oppo player’s input), and I was even able to successfully add my Actiontec MyWirelessTV wireless HDMI extender to the chain to send 1080i/1080p signals to a 1080p TV in a remote room. The Atlona passed DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and two-channel PCM signals without issue.
• This matrix switcher lets you watch four different 4K/60 sources on four different display devices simultaneously.
• Signal reliability was excellent, and switching between sources was fast.
• IR, RS-232, and IP control options are available.
• The Web interface is easy to access and use.
• You can add Atlona’s UHD-EX Series extenders for long cable runs, which support HDMI over HDBaseT.
• The AT-UHD-H2H-44M offers 4K/60 support only up to 8-bit 4:2:0 sampling, and it cannot pass (or be firmware-upgraded to pass) HDR signals.
• The initial setup process can be a bit confusing if you are mixing 4K and 1080p sources, and Atlona’s literature is written more for the trained installer than it is for the average consumer. Of course, this product is meant to be sold and set up by trained installers, so that makes sense.
• This switcher does not offer optical, coaxial, or analog audio connections to use with non-HDMI audio devices.
Comparison & Competition
Other 4K-friendly 4×4 matrix switchers include Key Digital’s KD-4x4CSK (about $1,200), which adds analog/digital audio support but requires the addition of the KD-HDFIX22 HDMI extender ($350) to incorporate HDCP 2.2 sources. Geffen offers the 4K/60-capable GTB-HD4K2K-444-BLK 4×4 matrix switcher ($899) that lacks HDCP 2.2 support, or you can check out the new EXT-UHD-88 ($3,999), which is an 8×8 matrix switcher that’s 4K/60-capable with HDCP 2.2. The company has not yet introduced a 4×4 version of the newer model with HDCP 2.2. Coming soon is Wyrestorm’s MX-0404-H2 4×4 matrix switcher ($1,998) with HDCP 2.2 support. It’s the only one on the list that will use the 18-Gbps chipset to support 4K/60 at 4:4:4.
Control companies like Crestron and Control4 also offer 4K-friendly matrix switchers, but their products are generally designed for larger systems, beginning with 6×6 or 8×8 configurations and thus carrying higher price points. Control4 offers the 6×6 LU642 for $6,000, and Crestron offers the 8×8 DM-MD8X8 for $4,300.
The Atlona AT-UHD-H2H-44M 4×4 HDMI Matrix Switcher offers fast, rock-solid 4K/60 video switching with support for the newest HDCP 2.2-compliant 4K sources and a nice Web interface. This matrix switcher delivers what you’ll need now for today’s 4K sources and does so very well, but its 10.2-Gbps chipset won’t necessarily be able to follow you far into the future as Ultra HD content evolves to its fullest potential.
• Visit the Atlona website for more product information.