With more and more media devices looking to connect to the television, I was quickly in need of an HDMI switch that would allow me to bring together my cable box, gaming consoles, Apple TV and Chromecast.  There is no shortage of options when it comes to HDMI switches, but I ultimately settled on the Kinivo 501BN HDMI switch.  For anyone currently looking for an HDMI switch for their own entertainment system, here are some thoughts about the Kinivo 501BN.

4 HDMI inputs along the back of the device and the 5th input on the side.
4 HDMI inputs along the back of the device and the 5th input on the side.

PROS

  • Automatic switching – The Kinivo is able to sense active sources coming into the switch and will toggle to them automatically.  I was initially skeptical of this feature, but for the most part it works well.  It was nice to be able to turn ON my Playstation and have the switch automatically toggle from the cable box to the PS4.  Similarly if I turned OFF the PS4, the Kinivo would toggle back to another active source.  With that said, there is no way to turn OFF this feature and I did find that the Kinivo did not toggle to my Apple TV when I turned it ON.  (Apparently, this is more to do with the way the Apple TV works than the switch itself.)  In these situations, I had to manually switch source to the Apple TV using either the Kinivo remote or by pressing the SWITCH button on the Kinivo itself.
  • Look and build quality – What initially attracted me to the Kinivo was the look of the switch itself.  Browsing through a variety of HDMI switch options, I found a lot of switches were unremarkable plastic boxes.  For me, the Kinivo is a nice blend of glossy black plastic sandwiching a brushed metal edge where it houses 5 HDMI inputs and LED lights that indicate the active ports.
In a darkened room the LEDs do not clearly indicate which input is activated/selected.  I have become better at recognizing patterns of LED lights but I still struggle.
In a darkened room the LEDs do not clearly indicate which input is activated/selected. I have become better at recognizing patterns of LED lights but I still struggle.

CONS

  • Remote has poor range – The included remote control is a critical piece to this hardware if you are wanting to avoid having to manually switch HDMI sources at the Kinivo box itself.  Unfortunately the range on this remote is pretty short and I have found myself having to get closer to the entertainment system in order to ensure that the remote is detected by the Kinivo.  The remote is small and certainly does not take up a lot space sitting on your side table or in remote caddy.  Consequently it is yet another remote to have to deal with and because of its small form factor, you always run into the chance of misplacing it if you are not careful.  You can cycle through the different HDMI inputs using the SWITCH button on the Kinivo but that is definitely a last resort.  Fortunately for those with Harmony remotes, it looks as though the 501BN is supported by programmable, “learning” IR remotes as indicated by a response from Kinivo Support in a posting on Amazon.
  • LED indicators are hard to read – The Kinivo uses blue and red coloured LEDs on its front in an attempt to display which input is currently selected.  Unfortunately due to the addition of other LEDs to indicate the Kinivo’s power and input status, I have still found it hard to determine which input is currently selected by simply glancing at the Kinivo’s indicator lights.  It certainly looks cool, but I still find it difficult to quickly see which input is active from the comfort of my couch.

Admittedly, the Kinivo 501BN is not perfect but it is solid option for people looking for an affordable HDMI switch that works well and looks good.  Although the Kinivo site lists the price at $59.99 (USD),  you should be able to find some deals online.  After 6 months of use, I feel quite comfortable in recommending this device for anyone looking for an HDMI switch.  There have been no weird artefacts or degradation in picture or video quality and the device works as advertised.  The Kinivo 501BN also has a smaller sibling (the 301BN) offering 3 HDMI inputs instead of 5 but if you want to future-proof your entertain system stick with the 501BN.

And don't forget to carve out a space on your power bar for its required AC adapter.
And don’t forget to carve out a space on your power bar for its required AC adapter.

– K. Takahashi

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