If, like me, you have a TV setup that includes Sky+ HD, Apple TV, PlayStation 3, Xbox and more, you’ll probably want to share those devices with all the televisions in your house. This can be tricky to achieve, especially if you want to watch 1080p high-definition 3D pictures on every compatible set as well as selecting the feed for each one. Not only does this require the ability to send a High-Speed HDMI signal and an IR signal, but with the advent of Smart TV’s you’ll also want everything hooked up to a fast Ethernet network and Internet connection for streaming on-demand TV and using apps on each TV.
There are many ways to distribute TV signals throughout your home, from low-cost video senders to super expensive bespoke installations. Gadgets like the Marmitek GigaView, for example, offer one-to-one HD wireless transmission but from my previous experience, this can be flaky and restricts you to sending your signal to just one TV. Therefore, I prefer a hard-wired system, especially if it’s relatively affordable.
Basic hard-wired setups include more traditional RF distribution systems, which is what I inherited in a house I recently bought – but, do you really want to spend good money on HD/3D TVs only to then feed them with a low quality RF picture signal? No, neither do I, so if you're looking for a well-priced option that solves all of the above and more, the HDanywhere Multiroom+ 4x4 HDBaseT system might well be for you.
Installation and set-up
The HKHA414SW system, to give its full model number, comprises a central distribution hub, four "HDBaseT receiver/HDMI extender" units, four IR receivers and a mini remote control.
By taking advantage of the HDBaseT standard, which enables uncompressed full HD/3D video, audio, Ethernet, power and control signals to be carried over 100m long Cat 6 cables, you are free to connect four source devices (Sky+ HD, PS3, Xbox, Apple TV) to four TVs, in an arrangement that suits your home's layout. For example, you could stream Sky TV to the kitchen and Apple TV the bedroom, or any other configuration you can think of on a '4x4 matrix'.
Installing it does take some planning and investment in cabling. Retrospective cabling in any home may seem like a daunting task but you don't need to pay for an expensive electrician in order to do it. In fact, a TV aerial installer or specialist audio installer can lay Cat 6 cabling just as easily and usually for a lower fee. Alternatively, you could take the DIY option…
Something to keep in mind, though, is that you don’t have to run ugly cable ducting all around the house or cut out walls to hide the cables. Instead, you can run the Cat 6 cable outside, which my fitter did perfectly by matching the brick colour with the cable ducting. In my view this method was tidier, faster, more flexible and in the end a lot cheaper.
Once you've planned where the central hub is to be positioned and have mapped out your source and TV locations, setting up the HDanywhere Multiroom+ is relatively simple.
As illustrated above, it's just a case of hooking up the central hub to your router for Internet access; connecting your source devices to the central hub's four HDMI inputs; running Cat 6 cables from the hub's four HDBaseT outputs into each receiver/extender's HDBaseT input; then connecting these to each television via HDMI. Finally, each source device has a corresponding IR transmitter that is plugged into the hub. IR receivers plugged into each receiver/extender unit then control any source device upon selection.
If you have a smart TV or a device that requires Internet access, the receiver/extender units each have an extra Ethernet port to cater for that. However, if you don't have a wired Internet connection handy where you keep these devices, you could easily connect them to your router using a Devolo or Solwise Ethernet over power adapters - a reliable and inexpensive way to send Internet around a home. However, you'll struggle to use these instead of the HDBaseT-compliant Cat 6 cabling to connect the HDanywhere hub to your TVs - it defeats the object of the task. Not only will you be reliant on the quality of your home's ring main wiring, but the bandwidth will be limited, so I’m reasonably confident that it just won’t work.
When setting the system up, I bought some additional HDanywhere HDMI splitters to first send signals to my Onkyo amplifier in the lounge, which means I can switch 5.1 audio and HD video together easily in my main viewing room using the Onkyo’s video pass-through system. This also meant that I still had four extra feeds left to send around the house from the HDanywhere Multiroom+ hub. In my case, I chose to run Cat 6 cables to bedroom 1, bedroom 2, the kids' play room and the kitchen.
HDanywhere also produces an 8x8 Multiroom+ solution, especially useful for large houses and business environments, such as offices, shops, bars, restaurants, small hotels and B&B’s.
The HDanywhere Multiroom+ system faultlessly distributed full HD 3D pictures to each room. Like most TV cabinet devices, the hub does get warm inside a cupboard, but not alarmingly so. Controlling devices in each room is simple: switch on the receiving TV, select the device you want to watch using the HDanywhere mini remote and then use your usual remote control to watch the source device of your choice.
The ability to watch different source devices in different rooms is very useful, as my children will often stream Apple TV in the kids’ room, while we watch SKY TV streamed to the kitchen. However, with only one mini remote, if you want to change the receiver channel from a room, you’ll need to carry this control around with you. Furthermore, I found it tough to remember what was what on the 4x4 Matrix remote. Ideally, I would like to have had some way of overlaying ID’s for each output on both the mini control and the hub unit.
In my case, I should also note that for the main room/lounge setup, I use a Logitech Harmony Remote control, which enables me to control all my units via one remote control, with very easy to set up macro functions. Using that remote's one-touch screen, I can effortlessly switch on a series of devices, all in the right mode. Here's an example macro: (i) Turn TV on (ii) Set to HDMI 2 (iii) Turn Sky HD on (iv) Turn Amplifier on (v) Set Amplifier to Sky HD input.
Occasionally things will go a bit awry with the HDanywhere Multiroom+ unit when my youngest son enters the cupboard and turns the unit off and on again. This is easily done as the power switch is on the front of the unit and the blue glowing lights on the dashboard are quite attractive to children. Frustratingly, turning the unit off and on resets all the outbound TV signals to channel 1, so if you are in the routine of flicking Sky TV on in the kitchen (which in my case is channel 3), it won’t send the right signal. Initially, I found myself spending 10 minutes trying to find out why this was happening, only to realise that a little monkey has been playing with my gadgets again!
Despite this, the HDanywhere Multiroom+ met all my needs. The TV pictures, Ethernet-based Internet connection and IR remote control communication were all flawless. It's also sensibly priced in comparison with an alternatives quote by one local fitter, and even my local fitter - Simon Nevard (Kent area) - commented positively on its value for money.
My main task was to find a way to distribute full HD material from my centrally located source devices to my smart TVs, while also maintaining the ability to watch 3D content as well as providing Internet access to said TVs. In this respect, the HDanywhere Multiroom+ system passed with flying colours.
There is no doubt that retrospective cabling is a pain and costly, but it's worth doing for this easy to set up home TV distribution system. It has all the functions you could want and it's better value than many other solutions you might find on the market with the same level of sophistication. Apart from the fiddly mini remote (which you do eventually get used to) and the way the hub resets to Channel 1 if it's powered down (the next version should address this), it's certainly worth considering.
Specifications and features
4x HDMI inputs, 4x HDBaseT (RJ45) outputs via 1x Cat5e/6, 4x Source IR Control ports, 1x Hub IR Extension port, 1x RS-232 Hub Control port, 2x Ethernet LAN ports
Dimensions (W x D x H)
44 x 20 x 4.5cm
In-line PSU DC5V/12a
1x HDBaseT (RJ45) input, 1x HDMI output, 2x Ethernet LAN, IR RX port
Dimensions (W x D x H)
11 x 2.3 x 2.3cm
SingleWire HDBaseT technology
720p, 1080i, 1080p/24/50/60 48-bit and future-ready for 4K resolutions
Sky 3D and 3D Blu-ray support
Full IR remote control usability at every display location
High Speed Internet connectivity at every display location
HDMI 1.4 video features supported
Fully HDCP Compliant
Custom Install RS232 drivers bundled free for Control4, Crestron, RTI, AMX (and more)