How to Split an HDMI Signal to Multiple Displays?

How to Split an HDMI Signal to Multiple Displays
How to Split an HDMI Signal to Multiple Displays

HDCP errors can be solved with HDMI splitters. Learn how to divide an HDMI signal and which HDMI splitters to buy.

HDMI splitters (and graphics cards) can simultaneously provide a single visual stream to two HDMI monitors. But not just any splitter will suffice; you’ll need one that performs effectively while costing as little as possible.

We’ll go over why getting the perfect splitter is so difficult, then recommend the three best HDMI splitters, as well as an alternate HDMI splitter and HDMI cable.

What Is an HDMI Splitter and How Does It Work?

An HDMI splitter splits a device’s HDMI video output, such as a Roku, into two distinct audio and video streams. After splitting the video, you can send it to two distinct monitors from a single source.

Unfortunately, the majority of splitters are terrible. Because to a built-in anti-piracy feature called High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection, many don’t work (HDCP).

The Issue With HDMI Splitters Is HDCP

HDCP is an anti-piracy feature found in streaming devices, televisions, cables, and even web browsers such as Chrome and Safari. All of these components and apps employ HDCP, which employs a verification procedure between the video-playing device and the screen to prevent unlawful copying.

HDCP encrypts the signal after establishing a confirmed connection to prevent unlawful recording of the content. Split video is unwatchable due to HDCP’s encryption. Unfortunately, this setup occasionally hinders content creators from viewing their own work.

The video won’t play if it’s HDCP-protected yet one aspect of your setup isn’t HDCP-compliant (sometimes with an error message). As a result, many users with older equipment will be unable to view legally purchased content.

Fallback Mode for HDMI Splitters That Bypass HDCP

If the equipment isn’t HDCP-compliant, HDCP-compliant content can “fall back” to a lower resolution (typically 720p) if the equipment isn’t HDCP-compliant. Devices other than a splitter rarely cause fallback mode, which is why splitters are such a good solution to this problem.

By accident, some low-cost splitters completely avoid HDCP. They shouldn’t be able to play protected video at all because cheap splitter makers didn’t bother paying for an HDCP license. Because they activate Fallback mode, however, the content is lowered to a lesser resolution and continues to play normally. At least most of the time.

Here’s a video that shows how to use an HDMI splitter to mirror content from almost any streaming device, such as an Amazon Fire or Roku:

If you’re looking for a splitter on your own, look for the following features:

  1. Self-contained (meaning it comes with a power adapter)
  2. Splitters for HDMI 1.3a, 1.3b, and 1.4 are known to work.
  3. Costs no more than $40

Continue reading if you simply want a splitter that is said to function for mirroring your video and has a good likelihood of working.

HDMI splitters are divided into two types: 1×2 and 1×4. There are two outputs and one input on a 1×2 splitter. One input and four outputs make up a 1×4 splitter.

Orei HD-102 or ViewHD VHD-1X2MN3D are the best 1×2 HDMI splitters.

Both of these splitters contain the same features, indicating that they were built by the same company. Each has a power adaptor and supports and strips HDCP. They both have excellent reviews on Amazon. The Orei receives a 4.4-star rating on a scale of one to five.
The ViewHD receives a 4.3-star rating on a scale of one to five. Does this imply that the Orei is a superior device? They’re practically identical, based on the reviews.

The majority of 1×2 HDMI splitters are rebranded versions of the same product. A cheaper HDMI splitter, for example, sells for less than $14 at Walmart and looks identical to the Orei and ViewHD gadgets. According to Walmart reviews, it performs the same purpose as the other two splitters.

Ikkegol 1×4 HDMI Splitter is the best 1×4 HDMI Splitter.

The Ikkegol 1×4 should suffice if you need a 1×4 splitter that works with non-HDCP-compliant gear. A 1×4 HDMI splitter, unlike the 1×2 alternatives, can accommodate up to four screens.

Using a Graphics Card and a Computer to Split HDMI

You can split an HDMI signal using a graphics card with dual video outputs if you have a desktop (or a laptop with an external graphics card). It functions similarly to a splitter, with the exception that it does not strip HDCP. All you have to do is connect a GPU and configure your operating system to mirror the screens. This method is perfect for desktop users, and it has the added benefit of splitting the audio stream between two HDMI screens.

While gaming graphics cards are way too expensive, you can still find good substitutes on used marketplaces like eBay. Non-gaming cards are still available from online stores at reasonable costs.

PNY NVS 310 Graphics Card is the best graphics card with dual HDMI outputs.

We don’t recommend spending a lot of money on a graphics card if you’re only going to watch videos on two displays. The low-profile PNY NVS 310 is the cheapest twin HDMI card.

Low-end gaming and 4K Netflix streaming are not supported by the NVS 310. However, it will allow you to simultaneously split a PC visual output between two screens. It uses HDCP version 1.3, thus it could activate HDCP Fallback mode, but I can’t say for sure.

It should feature a modular, full-sized bracket for larger systems, much like all low-profile graphics cards.

Consider delaying your graphics card purchase if you plan on undertaking serious gaming, virtual reality, or any other GPU-intensive work. The supply bottleneck will not endure indefinitely, and when it does, prices should plummet. However, until that time comes, consider purchasing a secondhand card, as most stores charge much too much for this card.

If you already have a GPU, you can use a converter to split your video output between two HDMI-equipped monitors. DVI is the most common video display port. Any DVI port can be converted to an HDMI video output with a DVI-to-HDMI adaptor. Unfortunately, audio cannot be transmitted using a DVI connector. As a result, it’s best used if you have a backup sound source, such as an auxiliary audio cord.

The Message “HDCP Unauthorized Content Disabled”

The HDCP Unauthorized Content Disabled warning is a typical issue on set-top boxes and gaming machines, especially on the Roku.

Consider yourself fortunate if you receive the mistake. The majority of individuals get nothing but a blank screen and wrath. In this case, one of your setup’s components does not support HDCP. Normally, either the splitter or the cable is to blame.

Consider obtaining an HDCP-compliant HDMI cable if you know your display and video source are HDCP-compliant.

HDMI Cable with HDCP 2.3 Compatibility: 8K HDMI Cable with HDCP 2.3 Compatibility
You won’t need any appropriate equipment if you’re removing HDCP. If you wish to play high-definition HDCP-protected content in the future, you’ll need an HDCP-certified HDMI cable.

This is the cheapest cable we could find that supports the current version of HDCP as well as HDMI 2.0, allowing for up to 8K resolutions at 60Hz frame rates.

Is it Illegal to Split an HDMI Signal?

Yes, it’s probably illegal if you plan on illegally duplicating and distributing the content. It is not, however, illegal to record oneself playing video games, make legal backups of stuff you own, and other fair-use uses.

Mark Funk
Mark Funk is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.