Defeat the Cable Kraken—5 Tips for a Tidier Home

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By Silverxxx at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,
By Silverxxx at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

We’ve all hit that part of our entertainment life at which we discover that our tech is aged differently, causing major issues with setup and use of our devices. In our home, we have many devices including XBOX, DVD player, Blu-ray, Wii, and Roku. Our TV, sadly, has only a single HDMI input. One. So every time we want to switch devices, we’ve had to reach around the television to unplug one device and plug in another. This has resulted in a horrifying mass of too-long HDMI cables and adapters behind the television, with little-to-no indication as to which cable belongs to which device. Here are the solutions I tried, and lessons I’ve learned. Enjoy these tips, including the good, bad, and ugly of each solution.

Some devices can share a single HDMI cable among them.

Since we’ve never needed the DVD player, XBOX, and/or Blu-ray player at the same time, we use the same cable for all three, saving some of the reaching around.
Good: This reduces the number of cables.
Bad: We’re still plugging and unplugging a cable to switch devices.
Ugly: Awkward and time consuming.

Marking the ends of cables makes it easier to identify which cable you need to use.

This can be done with paper labels, but I find that electrical tape works best. I use a different color for each cable, and I can always spot the one I need.
Good: Reduces confusion and frustration.
Bad: There is still a cable monster residing behind the TV.
Ugly: It’s ugly! Unless you’re very careful right from the beginning, it is easy to goober up the tape and have sticky loose bits.

By Silverxxx at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
By Silverxxx at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Tie up cables.

This may be the fastest, cheapest, and easiest option. When your cables are too long, fold them up and zip-tie them into a more compact unit.
Good: The cable is much less likely to become tangled.
Bad: Too much jostling will eventually cause cables to come loose.
Ugly: Accidentally zipping too tightly can damage cables, which can cause an input failure and a fire risk.

Use shorter cables.

Using shorter cables can reduce clutter, especially if your devices are all very close to each other. A reduction of overall length can be the perfect solution.
Good: Less mass to deal with.
Bad: Doesn’t fix issues of needing to plug and unplug.
Ugly: Short cables just aren’t a solution for some. The cables simply must be long enough to connect the units.

 

Image: Etekcity
Image: Etekcity

Use an HDMI Switch.

This was our game changer. I installed an Etekcity 4×1 switch, and our entertainment center has been permanently changed. It allows us to plug in four units to a single output. I was able to connect everything to this one, with the exception of the Wii. I was previously using a Wii-to-HDMI adapter, but now I’ve reverted back to its standard connection, and everything is plugged in all the time.
Good: No more unplugging and plugging things back in. A simple and small remote replaces all of the fuss, and took seconds to learn to use.
Bad: It didn’t come with its own HDMI cable(s), but I was already planning to order some short ones anyhow, to remove most of the cord-clutter.
Ugly: The PIP (picture-in-picture) feature is mostly a bust because the inset pictures are tiny, and inset pictures display for all connected devices at once, whether you like it or not.

In the end, you may still need to use more than one solution. With the Etekcity switch installed using shorter cables, I’ve been able to tidy things up nicely. A well-placed zip-tie helped tuck away the only too-long cord, running from the switch to the TV. For the first time since we installed our Roku, my son hasn’t asked for help switching from the DVD player to Netflix so he can watch whatever he likes when he’s doing activities in the living room. There’s the aura of silence in the air, and I’m reveling in it to an extraordinary level. Now all I must do is refuse to buy any new devices… Wish me luck? Or, you know, suggest more, and make me eat my words. That works too.

Disclaimer: I received a review unit of Etekcity’s HDMI hub for review purposes.

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