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HDanywhere mHub Distribution System Review

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This is one product that lives up to its name

by Steve Withers Sep 25, 2014

  • Home AV review

    36
    6,001

    Recommended
    HDanywhere mHub Distribution System Review
    SRP: £999.00

    What is the HDanywhere mHub?

    It’s a distribution system designed to allow users to connect up to four separate sources to a central hub and then connect that to up to four separate remote receiver units. The HDanywhere mHub is a wired distribution system that uses HDMI to connect the hub to the sources and the remote receiver units to the TVs; along with either Cat5/6/7 cabling to connect the central hub to the remote receiver units. The mHub retails for £999 (September 2014) which represents a much lower price point when compared to the HDanywhere distribution system we reviewed previously.

    What are the benefits of using mHub?

    The big advantage is that you can put your sources out of the way, perhaps in a cupboard, and still access and watch them from up to four separate locations. So for example your PVR, games console, media player and Blu-ray Player could all be put away with the central hub and all you need at each of the TVs in your home is the small remote receiver unit, which again can be neatly put away. In fact the only thing visible will be the small IR receivers and emitters that use IR passback to relay commands between devices.

    The mHub allows you to access up to four sources simultaneously, thus ensuring you can take full advantage of your existing devices and subscriptions from any room in the house. The included IR magic eyes allow you to continue to use the original remote controls that came with your devices or, if you prefer, you can ditch them all in favour of a universal remote, allowing you to control any device anywhere with a single controller. They also include their Follow-Me-TV feature, allowing you to pause a programme in one room and pick it up seamlessly in another.

    The system allows up to four sources to be connected to four displays simultaneously.

    Who is HDanywhere’s mHub aimed at?

    The mHub is aimed at those who would prefer a tidier wired solution to connecting all their video devices to multiple TVs. It allows you to connect an individual source to multiple displays and control it remotely, thus saving you the cost of adding more sources to different rooms. This approach wouldn’t be an option with either wireless or power line solutions.

    The mHub uses Cat5/6/7, which means that the system will be robust and effective and won’t rely on wireless connections, which can be an issue in certain properties. It is also more reliable than alternative approaches such as power line adapters. The mHub also supports Full HD (1080p) and lossless audio, as well as Audio Return Channel (ARC) where appropriate.

    What do you get in the box?

    When you open the box you will find the central hub, along with a small remote control and DC12V power supply for the central hub. There are also four smaller receiver units and four DC5V power supplies for them. HDanywhere also include five IR magic eye receivers and four IR emitters. Finally there are two 19” rack mounting ears for the central hub and four mounting ears for the receiver units. For the purposes of the review, HDanywhere helpfully provided Cat5 cabling, HDMI cables and a universal remote but you will need to obtain these yourself if you decide to buy the mHub.

    The build quality is very good with a professional and well engineered appearance.

    What does the central mHub unit look like?

    The central hub is well constructed from silver aluminium and measures 440 x 200 x 45mm and weighs 1.82kg. The unit sits on four rubber feet and overall it has a well engineered and professional look to both the design and the build - this is reinforced by the inclusion of 19” rack mounting ears.
    HDanywhere mHub What does the central mHub unit look like?
    HDanywhere mHub What does the central mHub unit look like?


    At the left front there is an LCD display and towards the middle there is an IR receiver window, a power button and a lock button. The latter locks all the controls on the front of the central hub. There are buttons for selecting one of the four displays or all of them, as well as buttons for selecting one of the four source devices or matching them - input 1 to output 1 etc. There are also buttons for controlling the SimplEDID management system but more on that later.
    HDanywhere mHub
    HDanywhere mHub

    At the rear there are control connectors that support IP or RS232 on the the far left and the DC12V power input on the far right, which uses a screw attachment for a better connection. There are also inputs and outputs for the IR receivers and emitters, along with four HDMI inputs for the connected sources. Finally there are CAT and mirrored HDMI outputs for each the four displays.

    What do the mHub receiver units look like?

    The smaller receiver units use the same aluminium finish to match the central hub and are also well made and engineered. They measure 100 x 65mm and include small mounting ears as well, should you need them. On one front panel there is an HDMI output for connection to the display, a digital coaxial output and a switch for turning ARC on or off.
    HDanywhere mHub What do the mHub receiver units look like?
    HDanywhere mHub What do the mHub receiver units look like?


    There are also two blue indicator lights, one shows if there is power and the other when there is a signal lock. At the rear there is the DC5V power input and the CAT input for connecting with the central hub, along with the IR receiver port and the IR transmitter port. Finally on the side there is the short run adjustment dip switch, more on that later.
    HDanywhere mHub
    HDanywhere mHub


    How is the mHub system all connected together?

    For the mHub distribution system to work, you’re going to need to install Cat5/6/7 cable runs around your house. So unless you happen to have Cat5/6/7 already installed, this is an obvious drawback to using the mHub system because it can be costly and messy. However the system supports cable runs of up to 40m (possibly longer if you use Cat7), which should accommodate most homes.

    Once you have the CAT cabling in place you can then connect everything up although, before you do this, make sure any HDMI control or CEC protocol settings are turned off. Then switch off all your HDMI sources and high definition displays and disconnect them from the mains. You are now ready to connect the sources to the central hub via HDMI, with the most commonly watched source connected to input 1.

    Then you connect the receiver units to the various high definition displays via HDMI and then connect the central hub to all the receiver units using the pre-installed CAT cabling. There are additional connections for digital coaxial, in case you want to connect the audio feed from any of the receiver units directly to an amplifier. You also have the option to turn ARC on or off on each of the receiver units and to set the dip switch for shorter cable runs.

    There is a specific order to first turning everything on because the central hub incorporates a small memory. This memory stores the initial handshake negotiations and authentications between all the connected sources and HDTVs, in order to aid faster switching times between the connected devices from then on. So make sure you follow the order listed in the instruction manual and the same goes for adding or changing sources and displays.

    How is the mHub system controlled?

    The mHub system includes IR receivers and emitters to allow for control of the connected resources remotely. To do this you connect the IR TX emitter to the 3.5mm jack ports labelled IR output 1,2, 3, 4 on the rear panel of the central hub and position the IR emitter bud over the IR receiving window of each of the connected sources. You then just need to connect the IR RX cable receiver eye to each of the receiver units and you can control the sources from the other locations.

    The mHub supports SimplEDID which allows you to fix a specific EDID (Extended Display Indentification Data) profile internally on the central hub. By fixing the EDID you can specify the maximum resolution, 3D functionality and audio output type from the splitter instead of the display dictating what the source should output. You have the option , through the EDID management control panel, to choose how the unit will manage the EDID profiles of the displays and sources.
    HDanywhere mHub How is the mHub system controlled?
    HDanywhere mHub How is the mHub system controlled?

    The central hub can be controlled manually but it also comes with a small remote control, allowing you to select inputs and outputs that way instead. This remote can operate the system from directly in front of the central hub or via the IR RX cables connected to the TV receivers. You can also use a third party universal remote, thus creating a single controller for all the sources and displays in your home.

    The mHub supports third party control via RS232 comms port or over IP and includes control via the mHub software. This can be used with a PC based control application, which allows you to control the matrix as well as change settings. The main reason fir using the control software is so that you can change which source is being watched in each room. It essentially works as a remote control and can be downloaded from the HDanywhere website.

    What’s good about HDanywhere’s mHub?

    The mHub is one of those products that does exactly what it claims to do, offer an effective video distribution system. It is easy to setup, once you've run all the cable, and it delivered a robust and flawless performance. Switching between sources was easy, either manually or via any one of the many remote control options, and there were never any problems with HDMI handshaking. As long as you follow the simple instructions and ensure all the cabling is installed correctly then you should have a very effective distribution system.

    What really impresses is how flexible the system is, allowing to watch the same source or multiple sources via any number of displays. The switching was seamless and there was no degradation of signal, with the system performing exactly as advertised. The Follow-Me-TV feature worked well and the regardless of what source or content we chose the mHub performed without issue. Overall the mHub is an excellent way of creating a distribution system that can provide multiple sources to multiple displays in a tidy and efficient manner.

    HDanywhere mHub Video Review


    What’s not so good about mHub?

    The obvious downside to the mHub is that it requires you to install CAT cabling around your house for it to work. If you already have CAT cabling then that's all well and good but if not, that requires a fairly big job that could be expensive. That's before you take into account the £999 cost, which whilst less than previous HDanywhere distribution systems, is still expensive when compared to much of the competition. The other obvious downside is that it operates on IR repeaters and emitters, so that excludes any device that uses a Bluetooth connection, such as a games console. Finally the mHub doesn't support Ultra HD 4K, which isn't such a big deal right now but could be an issue going forward.

    The system provided a robust and effective connection, with easy control of multiple sources.

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Excellent build quality
    • Easy to setup
    • Robust connections
    • HDMI signal passed with no loss of quality
    • Switching is quick and effective
    • No issues with handshaking

    Cons

    • Need to install CAT cabling
    • Can't use RF remote controls
    • No Ultra HD 4K support
    • Still a bit pricey
    You own this Total 3
    You want this Total 1
    You had this Total 2

    HDanywhere mHub Distribution System Review

    Is it worth buying?



    Well if you have CAT cabling already installed, then the mHub makes for a very effective distribution system. It allows you to connect up to four sources to up to four displays with relative ease and it's effective and robust in operation. The HDMI handshaking is very quick and there is a good degree of flexibility, whilst the control options are extensive. However, if you don't have CAT cabling installed it becomes a much more expensive option, especially when you add the £999 asking price into the equation. The system also only supports IR control, so Bluetooth devices such as games consoles become problematic and there's no support for Ultra HD 4K. However if you're looking for an effective way of distributing Full HD HDMI video and lossless audio around the home, the HD anywhere mHub is one of the best options available.

    What are the alternatives?



    Well there are any number of wireless options available but you obviously don't have the control options the HDMI support and, depending on where you live, you may have problems with signal strength or interference. The more obvious alternative is a power line adapter, which uses the electrical circuit in your home as a distribution network. There are an equally large number of options here but something like Power Ethernet does provide a quick and easy way of connecting devices. However you can't distribute video in the same way or control multiple sources and displays, so if you're looking for a way of connecting and controlling HDMI devices, the HDanywhere mHub remains one of the few games in town.


    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    8

    Connectivity

    8

    Ease of Use

    8

    Video Quality

    9

    Connection Speed

    9

    Value for Money

    7

    Verdict

    8

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