AV over IP vs. HDBaseT Distribution

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion regarding AV over IP becoming the predominant method for moving audiovisual content around conference rooms and classrooms, as well as entire enterprises. While AV over IP is the latest thing in our industry, the most appropriate solution is really going to depend on the specific requirements of the application. The purpose of this article to highlight the nature and configuration of AV over IP alongside that of more traditional HDBaseT distribution, in order to help narrow down the choice. But first, lets get started with some descriptions.

AV over IP

AV over IP refers to the transmission of video, audio, and related signals over standard Ethernet network infrastructure. Components include encoders that convert AV content to a format that can travel on the network, decoders for converting back to AV, and network switches in between to handle the routing. In some cases, adding encoders and decoders to an existing network may be possible to leverage existing infrastructure investments. However, bit rate, latency, and security requirements, as well as special network configurations to support them, usually mean AV over IP is handled on its own physical or virtual network. As far as applications go, AV over IP is ideal for projects that require a great deal of flexibility and/or scalability for inputs and outputs and have lengthy transmission distances. Visit the Atlona OmniStream™ page for information on our complete line of AV over IP products.


HDBaseT is a recognized standard for transmission of video, audio, and related signals over a single Category 6/6A cable. While this type of cable is also common in network infrastructure applications, it is important to note that HDBaseT equipment is not compatible with standard network switches and should never be connected to them. Like AV over IP, HDBaseT systems have transmitters and receiver endpoints that help connect source inputs and output devices to the system. However, at their core is a dedicated switch that will ultimately determine how many inputs and outputs are supported. HDBaseT is ideal for applications where input and output requirements are reasonably well known, and transmission distances are below 330 feet (100 meters). Visit our CLSO, Omega™, and Avance™ pages for information on Atlona HDBaseT solutions.


Simple Conference Room

This room has a table in the center housing a room PC, a few connections for personal laptops, and a display at the far end. Since the input and output capabilities are well known and the distance is most likely less than 330 feet, HDBaseT will probably be the best fit for this application. Increasingly, IT departments want to manage and evaluate metrics related to these spaces. This fact may lead one to think AV over IP is better suited when this capability is required. However, it is important to note that many HDBaseT switchers and control systems include LAN ports which allow monitoring and management, without having to put the AV content on the network.


Lecture Hall with Overflow

This larger space has multiple locations for sources including the lectern, equipment rack, control room, and possibly some for students or visitors. The front of the space has multiple large format projectors displaying content for the majority of attendees. Supplemental displays are installed in the room for those who are too far away or have an obstructed view of the projected images. Displays are also installed in other rooms in case attendance for an event exceeds the capacity of the lecture hall. The instructor or operator has full control over which sources are routed to the individual projectors and displays. Since the quantities and locations of sources and displays are numerous, distances are expected to be longer, and routing highly complex, AV over IP is better suited for this application. The key here is that with AV over IP, a virtual matrix can be easily supported by placing encoders and decoders at the various end points and routing them through a network switch. It will also be easy to reconfigure the system as needs change.


Divisible Room

This room can either function as a “combined” large presentation space, or “divided” into smaller ones via moveable partitions. Divisible rooms usually have multiple locations for sources as well as multiple displays. AV routing functionality can take a number of different forms. When in combined mode, displays could be mirrored, displaying the same content, or matrixed, displaying independent content. When divided, the AV in each smaller room needs to act independently. Divisible rooms can use either AV over IP or HDBaseT, and the best choice is going to come down to the specific input, output, and routing functionality required by the space. Below are a couple of examples:

Two-way divisible

This room has two presentation lectern locations, two projectors, and a central equipment rack. When in combined mode, both projectors display the same content from either of the lecterns or a common source. When divided, each projector displays only sources associated with the room. An HDBaseT matrix switcher such as our AT-UHD-CLSO-824 is an ideal solution for this application. When installed in an equipment rack, it supports five inputs from local sources. Multiple HDBaseT inputs handle sources coming from switching transmitters installed in the two lecterns. Two HDBaseT outputs extend video signals to the projectors. These outputs can either show the same content when the room is combined or independent content when divided.


Three-way divisible

This room has three presentation lectern locations, one projector, and two large format flat panel displays. The space can be configured in several different ways including a single large room, three smaller rooms, or one medium and one small room. In addition, full matrix capability is required in combined mode, meaning that each display could have independent content. Due to the routing complexity of this application, AV over IP is going to be a good fit. OmniStream encoders at input locations and decoders at the projector and displays will be connected to an Ethernet network switch with Category cable. A control system such as Atlona Velocity™ handles the routing of inputs to outputs depending on the room configuration selected. 


Realistically, AV over IP and HDBaseT can be used in many of the same applications. Hopefully, the material presented here will help in making the best choice for your next project.

About the Author

Roger Takacs is a 24 year veteran of the audiovisual industry.  Roger is Atlona’s Strategic Account Manager, a diverse role focused on education end user programs, partner engagement, and management of key accounts across North America.  He has worked with audiovisual manufacturers Crestron, Atlona and Custom Display Solutions.  Previous to the manufacturing side of AV he worked for with a few integration companies including CompView, MCSi and The Intellisys Group/EIS/EISI. Roger has a passion for technology and enjoys the solutions that technology can enable.  Surprisingly, Roger is not an early adopter of technology, but when he adopts new technology he’ll push it to the limit.  In his spare time he enjoys watching his son play baseball, where he plays DJ, and building the occasional wood working project or designing something to 3D print. Roger holds an MBA from Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management, and a double BA in Economics and Politics from UC Santa Cruz.