[Update: I've found another possible solution to this issue, one that doesn't require extra hardware. See A fix for Media Center's Black Screen of Death?]
Over the last few years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time hooking up various video devices to my big-screen HDTV. There are lots of different options for doing that, but HDMI is always the best choice, from a standpoint of convenience and audio/video quality.
Right now, I have two full-time HDMI-connected devices in use in my living room: a small-form-factor Media Center PC (dual-booting Windows Vista and Windows 7) and an HP MediaSmart Connect digital media receiver/extender.
One of the biggest problems that I’ve run into with HDMI connections is one I fondly call the “black screen of amnesia.” This occurs when you power up a device and the TV doesn’t recognize it. Sometimes, flipping to a different input on the TV and then back to HDMI is enough to jog the connection into working again. But I’ve occasionally had to power everything down and restart in the right sequence to get things working.
But all those problems went away for good about six months ago when I picked up a tiny HDMI switcher for under $20. This picture shows front and back views:
Although it has a connector for a power adapter and a tiny remote control with an external infrared receiver, you don’t actually need either one in my experience. It does a great job of detecting an HDMI signal and switching to it. On the rare occasion when I have both devices powered on and I want to use the one that isn’t on, I can press the button on top of the switch.
Since getting this little gizmo, I have not had a single failure to sync up properly with an HDMI device. It handles HDCP signals (Blu-ray and CableCARD copy protection) perfectly, and the picture quality is exceptional.