We already tried one HDBaseT solution that’s equipped to be an current all-round wonder. But for all intents and purposes the technology remains serious business and Atlona is one of the better-known professional distributors. Such is the case with the 4K/UHD HDMI Over HDBaseT TX/RX Kit, which is one of the first proper Ultra High Definition adapters out of the gate.
A notable asset for obsessed future-proofers already deep in the latest A/V generation, that also happens to work well for anything HDMI-related.
The overall design is a small metal box, primed in black, it’s basic but functional as it can be tucked away without burning itself up. Two status lights and a min-USB port for firmware updates sits in the front, and the respective HDMI 2.0, HDBaseT ports, and a power input arranged like a coaxial RF connector for added security are located in the back. The only real styling is an indent on the top side with the Atlona name.
Whether you do it yourself or hire an installer, it’s really easy to get everything up and running. Just connect your HDMI-capable device or console to the transmitter box, run an Ethernet cable to the receiver box, and from that your HDMI display or projector should flawlessly produce a clean image. For the matter of distance, estimates vary based on the type of Ethernet cable used with a CAT5e working for a 4K signal at 115 feet, and a CAT6a/7 being slightly better up to 130 feet.
The results were exactly as intended with current high definition material and platforms, no matter if it was a few online matchmaking games (sometimes in vain) of Halo: The Master Chief Collection or watching X-Men: Days of Future Past lag and signal sparkles didn’t present themselves during my tests. This means that all other capabilities inherent to HDMI such as stereoscopic 3D, CEC pass through, and audio formats from LPCM, DTS-HD Master Audio, to Dolby TrueHD with Atmos extensions all accounted for.
Admittedly, those conveniences can be had in other HDBaseT extenders no matter the price, so it’s clearly about the 4K resolution being the claim to fame here. Chief among which is the inclusion of HDCP 2.2 (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection), an encryption specification that’s not only stricter in content detection, but implemented on a hardware level separate from HDMI, making backwards-compatibility nearly impossible for all but a few pre-standardized 4K/UHD displays and media devices you may already own.
Our time with the Atlona kit and native 4K material was comparatively brief as we had a Samsung UN65HU7250 UHD TV connected to a desktop PC for stock footage, a couple episodes of Netflix’s House of Cards, and some playtime with Crysis 3. Despite the scarce amount of content on hand, this kit did its job for transferring consumer UHD, Digital Cinema (3840×2160/4096×2160), and VESA (2560×2048) resolutions across the house at 60Hz. Quite impressive considering the use of just a regular CAT5e Ethernet cable and rough distances of 30-35 feet between sources.
However, and even I’m finding some of these somewhat difficult to nitpick, there are a couple of isses. First off, the device’s (and current HDBaseT extenders in general) overall bandwidth is limited to 10.2Gbps which is fine but will irk video purists as a Chroma subsampling of 4:2:0 8-bit is the best you’ll get at 4K/UHD. Of course 4:4:4/4:2:2 at 10/12-bits is more ideal, but compatibility remains limited to lower resolutions. Another issue I personally have is the lack of network connectivity for LAN/100BASE-T, it was an unexpected convenience I took for granted with the more affordable Monoprice HDBaseT Kit and is sorely missed here.
The 4K/UHD HDMI Over HDBaseT TX/RX Kit is a great choice if uncompressed video especially 4K/UHD @ 60Hz over long distances is the main priority. I’m sure that reason alone is more than enough justification for enthusiasts, but the stuff Atlona left out is a little irritating to accept. Regardless, this HDBaseT package is more than ready when you finally do upgrade.