The long-awaited new product from Kanex – a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter that supports audio – is finally available for sale. We got our hands on one early and have been giving it a workout for the past week.
If you’re interested in this product, you probably know the story by now. Apple unveiled a new line of MacBooks (which includes the Pro and Air), iMacs, Mac Minis, and Mac Pros in late 2008 and early 2009 that debuted a video standard called Mini DisplayPort. Designed as the successor to VGA and DVI, Mini DisplayPort made it difficult for people to connect their Macs to HDTVs. A Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter was introduced in the first quarter of 2009, which fed 1080p video from the Mac to a high definition television via HDMI. The problem? It was just video – no audio.
Kanex, a brand of Apogee Inc., announced their intentions of resolving this shortcoming a few months ago. Their improved adapter was scheduled to be released in August and support both video & audio. Inevitable delays followed, but they finally delivered on their promise and are processing initial orders now.
A quick peek at the Kanex website will actually reveal two new products. The first is a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter with analog USB audio for $59.99. A USB cable is used to grab sound from the computer, along with Mini DisplayPort for 1080p video. These two cables are funneled into a “converter box,” if you will, which spits out a single HDMI port on the other side. A separately-purchased HDMI cable can then go from the adapter right into the HDTV.
The second product at Kanex’s website is a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter with digital audio for $69.99. So what’s the difference between the two? Well, this one supports full 5.1 channel digital audio (such as Dolby Digital) for higher quality sound and the ultimate home theater experience. Like the analog audio adapter, this product has a Mini DisplayPort cable for video and a USB port. The USB port is only for power here, though. It features a dedicated TOSLINK audio cable that goes from the Mac’s headphone jack (or minijack) to the adapter for sound. All three cables converge into one and, of course, there is an HDMI port on the other end. Note that audio volume is fixed at 100% on the Mac and can only be controlled via the TV.
The nice folks at Kanex set us up with the digital audio version of the adapter and it’s been used extensively for the past week with a mid-2009 15″ MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard and a 32″ 1080p LCD HDTV. The verdict? It just works. Once everything was plugged in, there was literally no setup. The adapter is programmed to output 1920×1080 resolution video out of the box and my Mac automatically switched to digital audio output. Depending on your HDTV (especially if it’s 720p or 1080i) and your Mac model, basic configuration may be required in System Preferences first. All you have to do is select a compatible screen resolution & refresh rate under Displays and then Digital Out under Sound Output. Kanex offers helpful troubleshooting tips and technical advice on their website’s blog.
I can honestly say the Kanex Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter with digital audio is exactly what I have been waiting for. And, judging by MacYourself’s previous articles on this topic consistently topping our most popular posts list, you’ve all been waiting for it too. It’s not the prettiest device to look at, but it’s functional and that’s all that matters in this case. Grabbing stunning 1080p video and digital audio from a Mac and connecting it to a high-def TV with a single HDMI cable is a real treat. No mess and no clutter! The only thing I had to worry about was adjusting my television’s image settings (brightness, contrast, sharpness) to my liking. Once those got squared away, the picture was crisp and the sound was crystal clear. It’s perfect for playing movies, TV shows, games, and other media on a big screen. You just try to stay away from HD movie rentals on iTunes… I dare you! I certainly won’t be able to.
Check out the Kanex website for more details and purchase information. Due to limited availability, their site is the only place to buy both adapters at the moment. This page will be updated if and when retailers like Amazon.com begin stocking these products.
UPDATE – November 20, 2009: The analog USB audio version of the adapter (which is perfect for most users) is now available through Amazon.com. It’s official name is the Kanex iAdapt 20.
UPDATE – February 12, 2010: It took a while, but the digital audio adapter – also known as the Kanex iAdapt 51 – has made its way to Amazon.com as well.