It’s hard to believe, but one of the hottest new sets of devices on the market doesn’t even have screens. In fact, they aren’t a tablet, or a new kind of monitor, or even a remote. They are HDMI switchers, splitters, and matrixes, devices that put you in control of all the different signals speeding around the entertainment systems in your home. If you have multiple screens, multiple devices demanding HDMI inputs and outputs, or if you want to be in total control of your entertainment, then these devices may be for you.

Here is a breakdown of HDMI matrix switchers and splitters to help you learn about each one and decide which device you need for a better entertainment experience.

HDMI Switch

HDMI switch essentially turn a single HDMI port into multiple ports, letting you keep more devices plugged into your entertainment system. These are especially useful if your TV has only a couple of HDMI ports, or if you don’t have room for a full receiver; switchers can help you keep devices plugged in and usable with only a single HDMI port. The higher end versions even let you arrange the incoming devices according to priority, so when you want to switch between devices, all you have to do is turn on the one you want and the switcher will swap over automatically.

HDMI Splitters

HDMI splitters, rather than turning multiple ports into a single input, split a single input into multiple devices. Basically, it will split the signal of a device, so it can broadcast simultaneously onto two separate devices. This product is especially handy in professional settings, where you may need to show the exact same screen in two different places. Splitters use digital signals to ensure there is no compromise in the quality of the signal, so each device will get the exact same information, display the exact same images, and play the exact same audio.

HDMI Matrixes

Think of HDMI matrixes as the ultimate control panel for your entertainment systems: they provide you with a combination of switchers and splitters to create something supercharged and entirely different. Instead of turning single ports into multiple ports, or instead of helping broadcast the same information to two places, HDMI matrixes turn all your devices into signals that can be sent anywhere. That means you can send a Blu-Ray signal to one TV, the cable box to another, and have yet another device playing video games. Alternatively, you can make all of the devices play the same movie, or have two display the same video game while another shows a movie.

Essentially, HDMI matrix switchers and splitters are variations on similar devices. Splitters simply copy the signal so that you can play the same thing on two different devices. Switchers let you connect multiple signals to a single television or monitor, letting you plug in more devices. Matrixes help you control multiple inputs and outputs to send different signals to different devices. Each has its own benefits and uses, and that means the best plan is to consider your own system and needs so you can select the right device for you.