Many manufacturers promote that their extenders support 4K or 60fps or 4:4;4 or 12bit color, but those numbers sometimes don’t tell the true story. At times companies use fancy numbers to mask the fact that their product bandwidth capabilities are limited. Resolution, frame rate, color bit depth, and color subsampling all increase the amount of data traveling thru an HDMI cable. The true spec that matters is 18Gbps which ensures the highest quality picture available from HDMI 2.0 content. You need this level of bandwidth if you want to enjoy 4K HDR content at higher frame rates with great color reproduction.
Theoretically, HDBaseT can only support up to 10Gpbs via a signal Cat5/6 cable. While this is enough bandwidth to support 4KHDR@24fps movie found on a Blu-ray disc or stream service. However, most 4K HDR players up-sample the color bit depth and subsampling, so more 10Gpbs of bandwidth is usually required.
Many lower-end solutions are also limited to HDCP 1.4 copy protection and don’t support features like ARC (Audio Return Channel). This means that when you update to an HDR display, you will probably need to replace your older HDBaseT HDMI extender as well.
Better HDMI extenders like the EXeARC1 utilize lossless compression to send 18gpbs of information through a 10gbps HDBaseT pipe. Plug a signal generator into the transmitter and use a signal analyzer to read the signal coming out of the receiver located 50 meters away. The signal will appear to be identical.
To verify the Simplified EXeARC1 claimed bandwidth capability, I used my Murideo Fox test generator to feed the transmitter and my Murideo Hound analyzer to measure the output. The receiver and transmitter were connected through a single 50-foot (15.24 meter) Cat6 cable. When measured, the output signal was identical to the input.
The EXeARC1 system had no problem passing HDCP 2.2 and multi-channel audio from the generator to the analyzer. While you can utilize a Cat5e cable for maximum distance a CAT6 cable is recommended. Using an EXeARC1 to retrofit an older system is easy because you can use an existing CAT5e/6 cable already ran in the wall and just replace the receiver and transmitter.
In addition to supporting HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2, the EXeARC1 supports the major HDR formats including HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision. Broadcasters will most likely utilize HLG for live HDR broadcasts and HDR10 and Dolby Vision are the two ways that most prerecorded HDR content is delivered via disc or streaming services. I didn’t have the opportunity to test HDR10+ compatibility but all that content is backward compatible so it will playback on any HDR10 display. Since no HDR projector utilized dynamic metadata, it is not something any current projector owner should be concerned about anyway.
eARC (ENHANCED AUDIO RETURN CHANNEL) SUPPORT
A couple of years ago, HDMI extenders, even some very expensive ones, didn’t support ARC (audio return channel). The ARC can transfer the multi-channel surround formats like Dolby Digital and DTS.
HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) supports multi-channel audio, which includes Dolby Atmos. Due to bandwidth limitations, it delivers a compressed audio signal, for example, Dolby Digital Plus.
The latest version of HDMI audio return is eARC which can transfer a much higher bandwidth and also supports uncompressed audio surround formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio. This ensures the A/V receiver or soundbar receives the maximum quality audio signal from the projector's internal apps or any directly connected source.
If you don't use ARC or eARC, the only other option would be to connect the optical audio output. Like most TVs/FPJs, the optical output is not able to pass the latest immersive surround formats to an external sound system. If you use an optical output, all you are going to provide to your soundbar, or receiver is stereo or Dolby Pro Logic information.
This was one of the reasons I choose an expensive active optical HDMI cable to connect my TV on my wall to my A/V rack located on the other side of the room. As a test, I replaced the cable with the EXeARC1 and as advertised, the EXeARC1 delivered Dolby Atmos from my TV’s Netflix app to my Marantz AVR.
I also connected my Murideo Seven Generator to the EXeARC1 to verify it ability to send eARC from a compatible source to a compatible AVR.
In the past, audio return channel wasn’t a deal-breaker when an HDMI Extender was utilized in most projector applications. However, eARC/ ARC is becoming important as most smart projectors are being introduced. For example, the AU810PB is the first projector that I have encountered that offers eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel).
Many smart projector owners will want to utilize their unit’s internal streaming service and send high-quality multi-channel audio from their projector to an AV receiver or soundbar.
POE (Power Over Ethernet)
HDMI extenders require power. Many units required that both the transmitter and receiver are connected to a power outlet. Since the EXeARC1 features POE, only the transmitter or receiver needs to be connected to a power outlet, and the other unit is powered via the Ethernet cable. This feature simplifies installation.
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Bidirectional IR and RS232
Not only can the EXeARC1 handle 18Gbps video, it can also send control commands. While many networked devices are IP controllable, there are many devices and control systems that rely on IR or RS232. This greatly simplifies installation since everything can be sent through one CAT6 cable. The included IR receiver is designed to work on the “Rx” receiver side of the extender system. You can just point the remote at the display and send commands back to the A/V rack.
If you need set IR command from the “Tx” transmitter to the “Rx” receiver, you can use a third-party IR target such as Xantech / Niles which for convenience can be powered directly from “Tx” transmitter phoenix block.
Since the EXeARC1 is an HDMI 2.0b device it has a maximum bandwidth of 18Gbps which is enough to support 4K HDR at 60FPS. I tested the Simplified EXeARC1 in my demo room and in my lab with a variety 4K@60P HDR sources, video displays, receivers, and soundbars. As advertised, the EXeARC1 transmitter had no problem broadcasting 4K@60P HDR signals long distances. It will also easily support 1080P at 120FPS which is available on several gaming projectors like the Optoma UHD50X or Optoma UHD35.
While the EXeARC1 costs about $800 it is still a good value when you compare it to a 50 meter active HDMI cable. While there are less expensive 18Gbps HDMI extender solutions available the EXeARC1 but you will have sacrifice features such as POE, Bi-Directional RS232, and eARC. If you are looking for a well-built, full-featured HDMI extender that will offer reliable performance for years to come the EXeARC1 is a great option.