7 Best KVM Switches | December 2016

7 Best KVM Switches
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Best High-End
Best Inexpensive
These KVM switches allow you to easily connect external control devices, like a mouse, keyboard, joystick, and monitor, to multiple computer systems, thus saving on the hardware costs of kitting out each computer with its own set of gear. Our selection includes affordable models for home use through to monster systems capable of connecting up to eight computers. Skip to the best kvm switch on Amazon.
Assuming you do, in fact, need to control eight separate computers at once, then StarTech.com's SV1631DUSBUK 16 Port USB KVM switch kit is the way to go. This potent piece of hardware lets you rapidly switch back and forth between multiple computers without switching mice.
  • package includes 16 6-ft usb kvm cables
  • only applicable for commercial-grade use
  • very expensive option
Brand StarTech
Model SV1631DUSBUK
Weight 15.1 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0
The COOLEAD 2 Port USB "2.0 Plus KVM Switch Box" is a great choice for home (or dorm) use, ideal for situations where you have a desktop or tower computer at home and a laptop you occasionally want linked to external hardware, like a second monitor.
  • comes with two long cable sets
  • buzzer confirms port switching
  • reduces monitor display quality
Model pending
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0
The StarTech SV431USB Professional VGA USB KVM switch is suitable for use on or under your desk or built into a cabinet thanks to its front panel controls. Its rugged metal chassis makes it a good choice for use in high-traffic areas of an office or computer lab.
  • no software or drivers required
  • backed by 3 year warranty
  • expensive but well made
Brand StarTech
Model SV431USB
Weight 2.9 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
The TRENDnet 2-Port USB KVM switch and cable kit allows you to run a mouse, monitor, and keyboard to a pair of separate computers while also sending the audio each outputs to one speaker system, helping establish greater redundancy and lowering hardware costs.
  • 2048 x 1536 resolution for crisp display
  • hot-key operating features
  • model is growing outdated
Brand TRENDnet
Model TK-209K
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
The ieGeek USB KVM Switch Box comes with all the cables you need to connect as many as four separate computers to one set of control hardware, so even if you're running a plethora of PCs (or Macs) you'll only need one mouse, one keyboard, and one monitor.
  • features 3.0 and 2.0 usb ports
  • good price for 4 system setup
  • works with unix and linux
Brand ieGeek
Model CE1858
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0
The IOGEAR 2-Port USB GCS22U KVM switch is a lean, mean device-switching machine that comes complete with the cables you need to make a connection and a handy remote control that makes the switching all the easier. Just click the button and port your hardware.
  • perfect for internet vs. intranet setups
  • durable molded-in cables
  • great reviews from users
Brand Iogear
Model GCS22U
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0
For the computer and/or console setup with large amounts of hardware in play, the Belkin SOHO 4-Port KVM switch is the way to go. This one sleek, color-coded box can connect your external control devices, like a mouse, keyboard, joystick, and monitor, to four systems.
  • switches easily between macs and pcs
  • clear led indicator lights
  • plug-and-play readiness
Brand Belkin
Model BLKF1DS104L
Weight 6.3 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

Connect And Succeed

The majority of consumers in today's technological world are familiar with a single computer setup. A person using a desktop computer, for example, has a central processing unit (CPU) tower that houses the major internal components of their system, a keyboard, mouse, and a video monitor to complete their work. The same can be said for the laptop user. Everything needed to complete tasks on a laptop is in one place with fully-integrated processing power and connections for peripherals. By contrast, a graphic design artist might require the ability to work seamlessly across two different operating systems with the ability to control them using a single workstation. The KVM switch can make this possible.

KVM is an acronym that stands for keyboard, video, and mouse. The KVM switch is a piece of hardware that allows for the toggled control of multiple computer CPUs or servers from a single keyboard, mouse, and video monitor using either a rotary dial or several independent buttons on the switch itself. Think of the KVM switch as a centralized communication hub (or the parent device) that can be used to take control over other machines and servers (its children devices) without forcing the user to get up, go over to the machines, and control them independently using separate keyboards and mice. A majority of KVM switches can control between two and four computers at a time.

Computers can be connected to a KVM switch in a variety of ways. The most popular connection method is through the use of a specialized KVM cable that combines all of the keyboard, video, and mouse cables into a single extension cable that runs to each machine. This connection method reduces the number of cables required. Other switches may have separate built-in connectors for each machine's keyboard, video, and mouse cables.

KVM switches are either active or passive. Passive switches are typically hardwired internally between their input and output ports. Computers connected to a passive switch are selected manually using a rotary knob on the switch itself. Active switches are more common and they retain the actions performed by the devices (keyboards and mice) that are connected to them. Active switches are either powered by the connected computers' keyboard cables or they may have their own separate power supplies.

The KVM switch offers many benefits. Firstly, the CPUs (or servers) connected to the device are not required to have the same amount of memory or processing power between them. In fact, they don't even have to be from the same manufacturer. The device significantly improves work productivity by decreasing the amount of time required of a user to switch between computers manually. The switch also reduces both energy and hardware costs, given that a worker no longer has to depend on the use of multiple video monitors (or additional peripherals) to complete their work from different workstations. This convenience comes in particularly handy when space is limited, when various tasks need to be completed quickly, and in situations where the user is responsible for controlling many machines at once.

Ditch The Hitch And Get A Switch

Because the KVM switch can be applied to many different circumstances and job profiles, one must really take their time to research and determine the type of switch that works best for their individual needs.

If you're a graphic designer or your job requires you to switch between different operating systems at the push of a button, then a switch with the capability to interface with both Mac and Windows machines will be the way to go. The good news is that many switches can do this as part of their basic functionality.

Consider the number of machines you'll need to connect to your KVM switch. If you are a telecommuter and plan to manage both your work and home machines but no others, then you won't need the fanciest or most expensive device with extra connection ports. By contrast, if you work as a network administrator with a responsibility for many machines and servers, then you'll want to consider a more robust switch with push-button controls and several available ports. You'll also need to make a determination of the cable system. If you anticipate a significant amount of distance between your switch and the connected hardware, then definitely spring for a device that consolidates those cables as much as possible. Extender cables for KVM switches can be several hundred feet long, which can help in situations where your server room might be down the hall.

A Brief History Of KVM Switches

The KVM switch has a history that dates back to the early 1980s, which marked the beginning of the growth of the computer industry in general and the adoption of Microsoft Windows in 1985. Before the mouse became common, and an important part of server switching applications, the original term for the device was a keyboard video switch (or KVS). Server rooms and data centers were faced with the major problem of maintaining huge numbers of keyboards, mice, and video monitors. Back in the 1980s, there was an additional problem caused by all this equipment taking up excessive amounts of server rack space while forcing computer technicians to physically walk to the servers that needed attention. The very first switches were rudimentary in design and featured push-button interfaces.

Remigius Shatas, founder of the Cybex Computer Products Corporation (which manufactured peripheral switches), expanded the functionality of the KVS to include the mouse by 1995, thus bringing about the modern KVM solution still used today. Around the same time, the universal serial bus (USB) would also become the industry standard for connecting the majority of computer peripherals.

Since the mid-1990s, single-user KVM switches have evolved to include intelligent, on-screen firmware for controlling multiple of servers at the same time. The most cutting-edge use for KVM switches today is via remote access over an internet browser.

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Last updated on December 15, 2016 by multiple members of the ezvid wiki editorial staff

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