If the average American household has 2-3 TVs in the home and set-top box cost $10-$20 per month from your television provider, that’s a cost of between $20 to $60 per month ($240 to $720 annually!!!) just to watch TV in multiple rooms! If you’re feeling the burn in your wallet from your TV bill, try using a video matrix to share a single cable box between multiple TVs and save on unnecessary expenses.
A video matrix is a cheap and easy way to share video sources. It allows you to take one or more video sources and sends them to two or more television sets. This technique effectively lets you use the same video equipment in separate rooms. This setup is particularly effective in condos and smaller houses where a bedroom and living room share the same common wall where your TVs are on each side back to back. Longer distances are possible but oftentimes with digital video cables you’ll need to be careful with signal loss over longer runs (many experts recommend keeping it under 30 feet). You can also keep your video equipment in a central location and distribute the wires around the house. Think of it as a poor man’s integrated video distribution system.
To control the system you'll need to upgrade your remote controls with wireless RF capability that can send signals through your walls. You can find universal remotes with built-in RF or buy a cheap RF adapter for an existing remote. Putting together a new home setup with an HDMI matrix is a good time to get a proper universal remote control or two for your home. Check out our comparison guide for the Logitech Harmony remotes for some helpful tips on choosing the right remote.
There are many additional additional benefits to using a video matrix other than the simple cost savings. Having access to the same set of DVR shows is handy, although many providers are offering multi-room DVRs, this feature generally comes as a pricey expense. You also get to share and use your Bluray/DVD player and video game systems in multiple rooms as well. Minimizing the number of equipment in the home helps keep down the clutter, energy use, and generated heat. For those of us sports lovers with multiple TVs in the same room, it lets us toggle which game goes to the big screen at any given time.
Discount sites such as Monoprice sell a fair number of decent HDMI matrixes, starting under $40. Expensive switches can run into the thousands of dollars, but are quite overkill in terms of what we are doing here. We went with a 4x2 matrix at $75 which allows us to send four different inputs (Verizon FIOS, Bluray, PS3, computer) to two different TVs (living room, bedroom). Moving up to a 4x4 matrix where you can send video to four different TV sets would double the cost, but at $150 is still not too expensive. For an initial outlay of only $40 to $150, that’s quite a bit cheaper than renting your cable box from your provider!