Friday, March 15, 2013

Monoprice HDX(C)-301E 3-Port HDMI Switch [Review]

Monoprice is often associated with good quality but inexpensive audio/visual interconnect cables, switches, adapters and so on. I've had some experience with Monoprice products in the past and have been pleased with both the cost and the quality. I recently needed a HDMI switch and I picked up the Monoprice HDX(C)-301E. Let’s check it out.

The HDX(C)-301E comes presented in a glossy cardboard box that snaps closed with magnets. In the box you’ll find the HDX(C)-301E, a 5v power supply, remote control, and instruction manual. The packaging is at a level that would allow this product to sit on the shelves of any store in the country, but it seems a little excessive for an online retailer. I've never seen or heard of Monoprice products in retail stores. Certainly not in my area of the world. A simple cardboard box would suffice but if it doesn't add too much to the cost, the packaging does add a quality feel to the product.

The overall look of the device is mostly utilitarian. I prefer devices like HDMI switches this way. A rectangular metal enclosure is versatile and exactly what’s needed. The front of the device houses the #1 HDMI port, an infrared remote receiver, a power indicator LED, 3 LEDs to identify which port is active, and a touch pad which switches the ports. The back of the switch holds the #2 and #3 HDMI ports, HDMI out, and the power jack. The size, shape, and layout of the device is, for the most part, excellent.

It would be an understatement to say that the setup, installation, and use of this device is trivial. It’s as simple as plugging everything in and using it. The switch is controlled by either cycling through the inputs with the touchpad on the device or by using the included remote. The remote adds the ability to move up or down through the inputs, select them individually, or turn the device off. The HDX(C)-301E is in the Logitech Harmony remote database which makes setting up my remote as easy as it gets.

The Monoprice HDX(C)-301E 3-port HDMI switch is inexpensive, handy, and just a little bit flawed. I’m currently using the HDX(C)-301E to connect a cable DVR and a Roku to a 46” 1080p Sharp LCD TV. For the most part, it works well. As expected, there’s no change in picture quality with the switch in between the source devices and the display. On the other hand, the LEDs on the front of the device are extremely bright. I was forced to put a few layers of painter’s tape over them to bring them down to an acceptable level. The lack of a port for a remote IR receiver means the switch has to have a direct line of sight to your remote control and consequently you. The ugly tape I had to put on the front is prominently displayed for all to see. If you can hide it behind something like smoked or tinted glass, you might be alright, but if you have to put it out in the open, you might want to look for something else.

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