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How-To-Choose-the-Right-KVM-Switch

The decision to buy the best KVM switch should be based on more than the number of ports you need. Learn how to choose the best KVM switch for your network.

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IOGEAR GCS22U 2-Port USB VGA KVM Switch

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ieGeek USB KVM Switch Box

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IOGEAR GCS1104 4-Port DVI KVMP Switch

IOGEAR-4-Port-kvm-switch

JideTech KVM Switch HDMI 4 Port

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Rosewill RKV-2UC KVM Switch

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Sea Wit 4 Port HDMI KVM Switch

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6 of the Best KVM Switches

Truth told, there are dozens of KVM switches on the market. While following the advice laid out above should get you to the best switch for your setup, we have a few recommendations to get you started:

IOGEAR GCS22U 2-Port USB VGA KVM Switch

IOGear-GCS22U-kvm-switch

This is a solid, affordable first option for any simple setup.

If you are connecting two computers, the two-port switch provides all the foundational features you need to establish a reliable network.

The kit includes all the necessary cables, so no additional purchase is necessary. Additionally, the switch is lightweight, portable and comes with a built-in wired remote for simple switching between computers. It is powered via USB port from the computer.

The majority of online customer reviews for this KVM model give it five our four stars. They note its durability and overall construction and praise its simple “get it done” functionality.

Those who didn’t like the product noted its lack of certain functions, such as an EDID feature.

Pros

Cons

  • A solid piece of computer equipment that you can use for a long time
  • It has only one USB cord to each computer so it merges the keyboard and mouse inputs like a hub before sending to the computer

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ieGeek USB KVM Switch Box

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Affordable connectivity is the keyword here.

 ieGeek’s switch provides four ports at a two-port price.

Like others on this list, the kit comes with cables and is power-driven by the network via USB port.

Signal LEDs let you know which computer you are operating from. 

Customers who bought this product lauded its affordability and performance.

The switch transitions well, though for some, other wireless devices interfered with the switch’s overall performance. 

Pros

Cons

  • Performance is flawless
  • Not controllable from the keyboard like some more expensive models

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IOGEAR GCS1104 4-Port DVI KVMP Switch

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When your network demands an upgrade, this switch should fit the bill.

The four-port connect extends shareability to hard drives, printers and other technology.

It allows for asynchronous switching, so that you can print from one computer while working on another and similar tasks. 

Delays between switches are nearly nonexistent, and an LED display helps you monitor your network. 

With a higher price point than many, you might think this switch would have to handle its fair share of criticisms.

Instead, customers reviewing the product felt the price was worth the product’s overall performance. 

Detractors worried about its reliability, with more than one customer having to return the switch for replacement or repairs.

Pros

Cons

  • Good value to get the job done well
  • Some reliability issues

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JideTech KVM Switch HDMI 4 Port

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A nice feature of this model is the ability to select from three available switch modes, or two, depending on your operating system.

You can opt to use the right port selection switch or use keyboard hotkeys.

The mouse provides the third option for switching.

Note that the hotkey option and mouse options are not available for Mac users. 

Those who have reviewed the JideTech switch praise its easy set up and its ability to render video.

Though not heavily reviewed, the switch enjoys mostly positive reviews with few or any detractors. 

Pros

Cons

  • Switching between computers only takes about a second
  • Doesn't reliably work with Linux

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Rosewill RKV-2UC KVM Switch

Rosewill-kvm-switch

Here’s another switch for those looking for good performance and low complexity.

You get basic functionality at a low price.

The switch offers DVI functionality, which is a bit of a bonus.

It allows you to control two computers via USB.

In addition, it gives you desktop switchability, so you don’t have to position your KVM switch within arm’s reach to make the change from computer to computer.

 Customer reviews for this switch are hard to come by, so consider that as well. 

Pros

Cons

  • Works alright with an older AT keyboard using the right adapters
  •  It uses an external button to "switch" the computer it's connected to

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Sea Wit 4 Port HDMI KVM Switch

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If visions of server farms are dancing through your head, remember that there are plenty of places where a rugged KVM switch is needed.

Sea Wit’s offering is just that. It is covered in anti-oxidation metal and enjoys solid shockproof base stickers. 

Beyond confirming its reputation for reliability, customers who reviewed this product enjoyed its easily accessible and helpful tech support service.

They also liked that it came with all the necessary accessories, including a basic mouse to help you get started. 

Most detractors found the product would not work for them, no matter how hard they tried or after engaging tech support. 

Pros

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  • Perfect items, easy to use and premium quality
  • The cable retention is really light so cables come out if bumped or lightly pulled

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What Is A KVM Switch?

If you do not work in Information Technology (IT), there is a good chance you have never heard of a KVM switch. Even though you have probably benefited from one at some time or another. 

A KVM switch is a hardware device that allows a single set of computer peripherals, like a keyboard, monitor or mouse, to control or switch between multiple computers. 

In fact, the name KVM is an acronym for keyboard, video (monitor) and mouse. 

More often than not, you will find KVM switches in data centers. There, the switch allows data center professionals to use a single keyboard, mouse and monitor to access and work within any server in the data stack. 

You may also use them at home, if, for example, you want to switch between your PC and a mobile device, like a laptop or tablet, using the same keyboard and mouse. Professionals sometimes use them to connect a printer to multiple computers as well.

How Do I Set Up a KVM Switch?

Though they may look similar overall, not all KVM switches are made alike. Each is unique, built to manage a specific type of computer or server setup. Knowing which type of KVM switch you need, including the shape of the housing, makes all the difference when it comes to success. 

Start by counting the number of computers you will connect to the switch. Are there only two, or are you networking multiple computers? This tells you how many ports you need to successfully build the network. 

Then map out your network. What will you connect to the switch? Just your keyboard and mouse? What about speakers or headphones? Will you want to switch between those as well? 

Does your keyboard have PS2 or USB connectors? How will your mouse connect? Have you already selected these items? If so, will your KVM switch support their connectors? 

Where will you plug in the KVM switch? While some draw power from the computer, others require an AC adapter. With power requirements for each computer, your monitor and other peripherals, will you have enough options to plug everything in? You want to make sure you can answer all these questions before making a purchase.

Form Follows Function and Other Tips

As you shop, keep in mind that form follows function. This means the product, in this case, the switch should first work well, before designers decide to make it look great, too. After you consider whether the switch is viable for your project, you can then decide if its design fits well with your setup or if design matters to you at all. 

Also, look out for designs that become unwieldy once the cables are plugged in. 

Make sure your KVM supports the kind of computing you are doing. For example, if you are hosting high-resolution programs, you want a switch that can handle the data. It should also adhere to any recommendations provided by your operating system, whether that is Windows, Mac, Linux or something else altogether. 

This extends to the type of mouse you intend to use. Because the industry has not established a standard, some KVMs only support mouses with three buttons or less. If you intend to use a mouse with more buttons, you may be out of luck. 

 Also, do a little product research before you invest in wireless gear, like headphones or a mouse. Some may work, some may not. The manufacturer should indicate whether the product will comply, and the KVM company should have a list of compatible technology. If they do, it makes good sense to use this as a foundation for choosing your switch.

The Right Time and Place

Consider, too, if you are taking on any time-critical activity. Depending on your KVM, you may encounter some lag time while it switches computers. If that lag is too long, it could disrupt time estimates or other work. Check for independent peripheral sharing, too. This allows you to connect some peripherals to the KVM independently, avoiding an automatic connection. 

Determine where you will put the switch. It should be within convenient reach, unless you enlist the aid of hot keys and can switch from your keyboard. Distance between computers will determine cable length, which, depending on your set up, can affect your budget. Some experts suggest that the cost of cables can easily double the price of your KVM setup without proper planning. 

KVM cables are heavier than common cables to ensure strong transmission signals. You may need to buy cables directly from the KVM manufacturer to achieve the best signal possible. Don’t worry too much if your measurements are off. KVM extender cables exist for just such issues.

 How Much Do KVM Switches Cost?

KVM switches range in price, from as little as $10 to nearly $200 or more. Manufacturers base price more on the quality of the switch than on the number of ports provided, though it seems, in some cases, that port number does come into play, at least when comparing brands of equal quality. For example, we have found a four-port KVM switch for about $165 and an eight-port switch for about $130. Further investigation shows that the four-port switch is of higher quality. 

Accessories also play a part in price. Some switches include two to four compatible cables, for example, or cable kits to help get the KVM setup going. Lower-priced switches may not include cables. 

Look for compatibility to have an impact on price, too. Switches that tout “comprehensive operating system support” may cost less than those that give specific detail on compatibility, suggesting that the former switch may not perform to expectations

Final Thoughts On The Best KVM Switch Selection.

For those who work in IT or are tech geek gamers on the weekend, choosing the best KVM switch can be a difficult task. Though it might seem as simple as picking the number of ports you need and finding a price you can afford, there are many other requirements that factor into a final decision. 

Thankfully, with a little forethought and by following many of the tips provided earlier, you can find a wide range of KVM switches that fit your specific needs. 

Further research will help you narrow down to the best switches in the category. 

Read customer reviews to get a good sense of the product’s reliability. Look at each positive and negative reviews with a critical eye. If the product did not work for someone, see if you can tell if the issue was product failure or user error. 

Make sure to follow instructions when building your computer network to help ensure the switch and network work well in tandem. 

A missed step or a shortcut, intentional or otherwise, can lead to frustration. 

Finally, have fun with your new setup. Enjoy the added efficiency the KVM switch imparts to your professional life or the added fun it brings to your gaming days.