The Kanex XD, an exceptional product, works extraordinarily well at a job that shouldn’t even exist. As always, whenever Apple gives something on one hand, it takes something away on other hand so when Apple launched its 27″ iMacs, this time they provided those huge, beautiful screens, but on the other hand the company pushed the video input to the Mini DisplayPort standard.
The Kanex XD is an HDMI adapter specifically for Apple’s 27-inch iMac, which allows for video input via Mini DisplayPort. The Kanex XD is a fairly simple product that takes HD video from HDMI-enabled source, such as an Xbox 360, PS3, or Blu-ray player, and converts it into an iMac-compatible signal.
The design of the Kanex XD is also incredibly simple, consisting of a relatively small aluminium box with an HDMI input and AC adapter on one side, and a Mini DisplayPort port on the other. To set it up, all you have to do is connect your HDMI source, then the AC adapter, and finally the Mini DisplayPort, after which the iMac will recognize the incoming source and users, will be able to swap between their desktop and the incoming video source using the keyboard.
Yet simplicity seems to be the biggest weakness of Kanex XD as the converter does nothing extra than just simply converting the incoming signal. It doesn’t have any auto-scaling functionality or even have an on/off switch, which makes setup and use fairly unintuitive. If you want the iMac to detect the incoming video, the HDMI source and power cable have to be connected to the converter first, and any deviation from the necessary order of connections won’t be recognized. Without any sort of on-board on/off switch, alternating between several HDMI sources becomes difficult, as users needs to go through the initial setup every time.
There are other limitations of the iMac’s Mini DisplayPort as it can only accept 1280×720 resolution video (720p) whereas on the other hand the 27-inch iMac’s display’s native resolution is 2560×1440, 1920×1080 (1080p) video input is which at present is unsupported through Mini DisplayPort. Hence for the Kanex XD or any HDMI source will be scaled to match the display’s massive native resolution. When scaled to that size, any HDMI source we tested had a slight level of pixilation, which can be offset by a viewing distance of three feet or more. But again, the problem lies with the iMac, not the Kanex XD, which the company says will be ready to support full 1080p HDMI conversion as soon as Apple allows the 27-inch iMac’s video card to do so.
While the image isn’t nearly as smooth as would have hoped, any HD source stands to benefit from the iMac’s LED-backlit display, which is bright and boasts a wide and natural colour range. The iMac’s glass screen makes glare a bit of a problem in areas of mixed lighting, but that will vary according to surrounding.
The only other major complaint we have with the Kanex XD is that it is a very expensive, very narrowly focused product as it can only be used with the 27-inch model iMac. If you’ve got the means, interest, and a lack of display alternative for your Xbox 360, PS3, it’s only than that you may want to check out the Kanex XD.