How to Connect Your Projector to Multiple Devices

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It’s easy to connect only one device to your home theater projector. But what if you need to connect multiple devices? What is the best way?

I’ve spent years setting up projectors for theater shows and AV installations, so I’ve learned a few ways to tackle this problem.

From buying a projector with multiple HDMI inputs to using an HDMI switch or an AV receiver, you will learn the pros and cons of each option. Here are some ideas you can consider.

1. Buy a Projector With Multiple HDMI Inputs

Many modern AV devices use HDMI to send pictures and sound, so it’s a good idea to look for a projector with multiple HDMI inputs.

A projector with two or three HDMI inputs allows you to connect all your external devices at the same time, making it a simple solution for the whole family.

The benefits of choosing a projector with multiple HDMI inputs are:

  • Easy to use: All you have to do is connect your devices to the projector, and you’re ready to go. No extra equipment is required.
  • No adapters required: If all your devices use HDMI, you don’t have to worry about buying additional connectors.

A couple of recent home theater projectors with 3 HDMI inputs are:

  1. Optoma UHZ50
  2. BenQ GP500

However, you must check the specifications of any projector before buying because they come with a wide range of connection types.

Some projectors also have older connections, like VGA, DVI and S-Video, so if you have any older equipment that you want to wire into your projector, you should look for a projector with a few older inputs in addition to HDMI.

projector with old connection types - DVI, VGA, S-Video and Composite
Projector with older video connection types – DVI, VGA, S-Video and Composite

Do you already have a projector with limited inputs?

In that case, there are several adapters and converters you can buy to convert one connection type to another. This can be invaluable if you don’t have the correct connection types for your devices.

For example, you can get a DVI to HDMI cable or adapter for connecting the DVI output of one device to an HDMI input on the projector.

Although this will only work for the picture, you would need a separate sound connection.

So as you can imagine, this can start to get complicated, so I wouldn’t recommend this unless you have no choice.

But buying a projector with multiple inputs is probably the best solution for the whole family without spending too much on additional equipment – assuming you haven’t already purchased your projector.

2. Use an HDMI Switch

An HDMI switch allows you to connect several devices to one input.

So if your projector doesn’t have enough HDMI inputs, buy a switch, and you can connect everything you need.

All you need to do is run a single HDMI cable from the output of the switch to the projector. Then, wire your external devices to the switch’s input connectors.

Like this:

Connecting multiple devices to a projector using an HDMI switch
Connecting multiple devices to a projector using an HDMI switch

Switches come with 2 to 8 inputs, so you shouldn’t have any problem wiring all your devices – just make sure you buy one with all you need.

It might be an idea to have a couple of spare inputs for future purchases, but if money is tight, just buy what you need right now.

Some switches come with a remote control, which you can use to select which device you want to see on the screen. But cheaper models may only have a manual selection button on top of the switch, which could prove troublesome if the switch isn’t within easy reach.

There is another alternative to switching inputs.

You may be able to rely on HDMI CEC control to automatically switch to whichever input has a live signal, and many switches support this.

However, in my experience, this can be unreliable, so I wouldn’t count on this working flawlessly.

Automatic HDMI switching can prove more trouble than it is worth, especially if you have several devices. An IR remote will probably prove a more reliable option for all the family.

Using a switch is more complex for family use, although once it’s all set up and working, it can be a good option – especially if you have a remote to select the device you want to use.

3. Use an AV Receiver

This solution is more expensive because you need to buy an AV receiver, which isn’t cheap.

However, it is an excellent way of connecting several devices to your projector, plus it will also allow you to get better sound by connecting a speaker system.

Using an external speaker system will sound much better than using the projector’s speakers to hear what is going on.

With an AV receiver, you wire all your devices into the receiver’s inputs, and then you only need to have a single HDMI cable running to your projector.

Connecting a projector with an AV receiver diagram
Connecting a projector with an AV receiver

If you like, you can think of the AV receiver as a glorified HDMI switch – with the added benefit of powering your sound system too.

An AV receiver is an excellent option for any home theater and is easy for all the family to use, and it would be my choice for the best solution to this problem.

However, the biggest downside is the expense of buying the receiver and speakers, plus it will take up more space in your room.

Having said that, you can get a budget AV receiver and home theater speaker package for around $500, which might not be out of the question for some, and you will make a great system together with your projector.

4. Use a Projector with Wireless Features

Some projectors have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity allowing you to send content from a mobile device to your projector.

Common ways of casting wirelessly to a projector are with AirPlay, Google Cast/Chromecast and Miracast.

So this can be a great option for the family to watch content from a phone, tablet or computer on the big screen.

A home theater projector with a notebook computer
Wirelessly send content to your projector from a computer or mobile device

Once you have paired your devices with the projector, you might find this an ideal option to easily play different types of content on the screen.

The kids can easily watch content from their phones – in fact, they’ll probably be able to set it all up quicker than you!

Here’s a short video from BenQ explaining how to wirelessly display content from a computer on their projectors:

YouTube video

The main downside is it can be fiddly to get everything connected and re-connected.

Plus, the content quality won’t be as good for watching movies as using a cable box, Blu-ray player or game console connected via HDMI, and the connection is more likely to be unstable.

However, if you have a fast and reliable Wi-Fi connection, you should be able to watch movies without buffering.

5. Re-connect Devices When You Need Them

This is the last resort, but if you want the cheapest method, just plug in your devices each time you want to use them.

It’s not a good choice for the family, as wires can get damaged when repeatedly plugging and re-plugging.

Plus, it can get complicated, with cables and devices lying around waiting to be used.

It’s generally much better to wire everything together once, and then all you need to worry about is switching on the correct device when it’s time to watch something.

However, if your projector only has one HDMI input, and you don’t want to spend more money on extra gear, this can be an option to think about.

If all your boxes support HDMI, you can leave a single cable connected to the projector and simply plug the other end into the device you want rather than using a different cable for each device.

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About The Author

Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has been a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment. You can find out more here.

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