If you’ve ever worked with multiple computers at the same time, you know how annoying or frustrating it can get switching back and forth between displays, keyboard, and mouse devices. Some positions call for multi-tasking for various applications on different systems on a regular basis, but you just don’t have desktop space for multiple keyboards and displays.
KVM switches are the answer to that problem. KVM stands for “keyboard, video, mouse” and allows the use of these devices on multiple computers. So with one set off peripherals, you can move with ease from one computer to another.
KVM switches are offered by many manufacturers, with a broad array of features and configurations to meet your needs. These switches will save you money and desktop clutter, through the capabilities they provide in sharing devices not only for you, but among other computer users, as well.
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KVM Switch Types
KVM switches are available in several distinct categories:
Single-user KVM switch – small and inexpensive, these devices are typically utilized by an individual such as a technician or testing resource who needs to access multiple computers from a single site. You can access and manage as many devices and computers as supported by the KVM switch you install.
Multi-user KVM switch – when there are multiple users who need to access a number of computers, multi-user KVM switches will provide the functionality that allows technical teams, support personnel, or managers to access many computers or servers. These are more common in large technical environments and data centers.
Analog KVM switches – using older (but proven) technology, these switches connect via physical cables, using coax, Cat5, or other connections, depending on the switch design.
Digital KVM switches – with digital technology and internet access, digital switches utilize IP connections to allow communication and sharing through your local network (LAN) or via remote connection in a KVM-over-IP configuration.
5 Best KVM Switches
Certainly what you consider “best” will be the one that most cost-effectively and reliably suits your individual requirements, but these contenders will provide some guidelines for KVM switches that have features and quality that you can count on.
IOGEAR 4-Port DVI KVMP GCS1104
Amazon price: $150.69
Our rating – 5 stars – loaded with connectivity options
Vertiv Avocent 2-Port DisplayPort 4K Ultra HD SV220D
Amazon price: $289.99
Our rating – 3.5 stars – solid product, but limited port capability
ConnectPRO UD-14+KIT 4-Port KVM
Amazon price: $289.00
Our rating – 5 stars – high-performance and versatility
Rosewill 2-Port USB RKV-1UC
Amazon price: $16.99
Our rating – 3.5 stars – works well for its intended base, but very limited function
Tripp Lite B006-VU4-R 4-Port Switch
Amazon price: $62.86
Our rating – 4.5 stars – good performer, sturdy construction, reliable vendor
How to Pick the Best KVM Switch for You
Several factors go into the purchase decision when it comes to selecting your KVM switch:
Power Supply – KVM switches may contain their own internal power supply, or be powered by the computer they’re connected to. Those with internal power supplies typically are more reliable and capable of switching among computers more quickly and seamlessly.
Compatibility – not all KVM switches are compatible with every operating system. Some are designed specifically for Windows, others for Mac, and still others can manage both without hesitation. Be sure the KVM switch you purchase meets the needs of all users and systems that will interact with it.
This includes not only operating systems, but also peripherals such as keyboard and mouse interfaces, video interfaces such as VGA and HDMI, and attached equipment such as USB storage drives.
Capacity – select the switch that will handle the number of computers and peripherals you expect to manage with it. Once you have the switch in place, you will likely find additional users and devices you would like to connect. Plan accordingly with buying the KVM switch with the number of ports that allows for future growth.
Performance – lower-quality KVM switches can impact the display resolution and image quality on your displays. Be sure the switch you select has the performance and quality to provide clear monitor images to avoid pixelated or grainy appearance.
Support – this is critical for nearly every technical device from computer to application software. Always check your prospective vendor for support availability and method (online chat, phone, email).
As technology has advanced over the years, manufacturers have kept pace in providing the best KVM switches with advanced functionality and communications capabilities.
Implementing a KVM switch makes controlling computers and peripheral devices much easier, and sharing devices among KVM-attached users can save a significant amount of time and money. Making your choice for the best KVM switch that’s right for you can take some thought, but the rewards will be worth your time and effort.