The Kinivo 501BN is a great HDMI switch if you're just looking for something to go with your HD TV, and it will do a serviceable job with 4K video but it can't manage 4K content at high frame rates, which makes it unsuitable for high end PC or console gamers. Despite this, it's easily one of the best HDMI switchers out there, especially if you're still using a 1080p setup in your entertainment system.
Kinivo 501BN review: Design
With the Kinivo 501BN, you don't have to wonder about which ports are active, because it has LED indicators to tell you. Better yet, those indicators are on the front of the switcher, so you can see this information at a glance. This is a minor but important feature, as some switchers place their LEDs on the top, which is less useful when you're sitting far away on your couch.
The Kinivo 501BN comes with a remote that uses infrared to communicate. The built-in infrared sensor is OK, but we prefer an external infrared sensor. With an external sensor, you can hide the HDMI switcher and leave only the sensor exposed. Essentially, you have more freedom in device placement with the external sensor. Because the Kinivo 501BN doesn't have an external sensor, you need to leave it in plain sight, where the remote can easily reach the built-in infrared sensor.
Kinivo 501BN review: Features
Some HDMI switchers have a built-in equalizer that makes sure your content's data signal comes through clearly and reliably. The Kinivo 501BN doesn't have an equalizer. However, that's not a terrible thing for most people. Equalizers are most beneficial if your HDMI cable is very long. For short distances, the data signal doesn't need to be boosted or equalized.
Few HDMI switchers support the audio return channel you can get with most HDMI cables. The Kinivo 501BN is among the few switchers that supports an audio return channel. This is important if you want to send an audio signal from your TV to external speakers without using extra cables. Of course, you need to make sure that your HDMI cables, TV and speakers support an audio return channel as well.
Color depth indicates how many colors are available in a data signal. Larger color depth and more colors means more data, which needs larger data pipes – or bandwidth – in order to display on your TV. The Kinivo 501BN can pass up to 36-bit color depth, which equates to billions of shades of colors. This results in better colors overall. Just make sure your TV is capable of the same color depth in order to reap the benefits.
Sometimes, HDMI switchers don't work well. They'll give you a blank screen or even an error message. Most often, this is due to incompatibility between the switch, your source and your TV. All three of these devices need to have compatible versions of both HDMI and HDCP.
HDCP is a digital rights management protocol that's built into every HDMI device. However, there are different versions of HDCP, and they're not all compatible with each other. The result can be that your Blu-ray player sends the image from your Blu-ray to your TV and your TV says, "Nope. You don't have the right version of HDCP, so this content isn't legitimate and I won't display it." With a switcher, the same thing can happen. HDCP is the most common cause of HDMI switchers not working.
The Kinivo 501BN works well with both 1080p HD and 4K content, though it can only support 4K display resolutions at a maximum of 30Hz, so it's not suitable for ultra high frame rates.
The most obvious reason to buy an HDMI switch is because you need more HDMI ports, right? Well, the Kinivo 501BN has five ports for you to plug devices in. It's as simple as plugging everything into the Kinivo 501BN and then using the device's one output to connect it to your TV. From there, you just need to select which device you want to see using the remote, or let auto switching handle it for you.
The Kinivo 501BN comes with a power cord and needs to be plugged into a wall outlet in order to function properly. Some HDMI switches run off of the power they take from HDMI ports, but that is often fickle and unreliable. Plugging your switcher in yields the best results.
Kinivo 501BN review: Price and warranty
The Kinivo 501BN costs $39.99 and comes with a two-year warranty. Should you need to use that warranty, you can contact Kinivo's support team through email or by phone. You can also read through the FAQs section on its website to quickly troubleshoot problems.
There's no guarantee that the Kinivo 501BN, or any HDMI switch, will work with your home theater setup. There are so many different variables that the only way to really know is to buy the device and test it. Make sure that you buy from a reputable source that has a strong return policy. That way, if the HDMI switch doesn't work for you, it will be easy to return and then try another one.
Should you buy the Kinivo 501BN?
The Kinivo 501BN is an excellent HDMI switcher that should work well for most people. It can't support high frame rates at 4K resolution, but this is mainly a concern for people with top-end gaming PCs or new video game consoles - most movies are shot at 24fps. For those who just want more HDMI ports for their 1080p or 3D content, the 501BN is one of the strongest options out there.