A KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) switch allows you to control multiple computers from a single keyboard, monitor, and mouse. This can help save desk space and make switching between devices more convenient.
With so many KVM switches available online, it can be tricky to find the right one for your needs. This article provides expert tips for choosing the perfect KVM switches online for your home office or business setup.
Consider Your Device Setup
The first thing to think about is how many and what type of computers you need to connect. Will you be switching between two PCs, or do you need to control multiple PCs, Macs, and other devices?
The number and types of computers you need to connect will determine how many ports your KVM switch requires. For example, if you need to connect two PCs and two Macs, look for a 4-port KVM switch that supports both USB and PS/2 connections. Pay attention to the specs to ensure the switch will work with your hardware.
Wired vs Wireless Capabilities
KVM switches come in wired and wireless versions. Wired models use cables to connect to your devices, while wireless ones use radio frequency or infrared signals. Wired KVMs generally provide lower latency and faster switching speeds compared to wireless models.
However, wireless KVMs offer more flexibility and eliminate cable clutter. Consider your needs – if you’ll be using the KVM at a single desk, a wired option may suffice.
But if you need to control devices further away or in different rooms, go wireless. Wireless KVMs may also cost more than wired ones.
Video and Audio Support
Check that the KVM switch supports the video outputs and resolutions of all your devices. For example, if you’re connecting both 1080p and 4K displays, ensure the KVM can handle 4K signals.
Many KVMs also support audio switching, allowing you to switch between audio sources or listen to audio from multiple computers. However, some budget KVM models are video-only.
If you need audio, look for a switch with audio support that includes 3.5mm audio jacks or built-in speakers and microphone. Prioritize low latency audio for video conferencing or music production uses.
USB Hub and Port Features
Higher-end KVM switches often include built-in USB hubs to connect additional peripherals. Having USB ports on your KVM lets you connect devices like flash drives, external hard drives, and printers, then access them from any connected computer.
Some models provide super speed USB 3.0 or USB-C ports for fast data transfers. Extra ports on the switch box also minimize cable clutter. Other useful features include push buttons or hotkeys to easily switch between computers and indicator lights showing the active port.
If quick switching and shared peripherals are important, look for a KVM with abundant USB connectivity.
Cables Included or BYO?
Some KVM switches come as a complete package with all the cables you need, while more affordable options are bring-your-own-cables (BYOC). Cable bundles allow for simple plug-and-play connectivity out of the box.
However, cables purchased separately can maximize compatibility with your existing computers. Verify what cables are included and their lengths. Short cables may limit placement options. Consider economical BYOC models.
If you have compatible spare cables, want longer lengths, or need specialized cables like DisplayPort. Ready-to-go packs with cables suit those who value convenience and aren’t sure what cables they require.
Single vs Dual User Models
Single user KVMs allow one user to control all connected devices. Dual user models let two users access separate ports at the same time. Dual access can raise productivity when two people need to use different computers simultaneously.
If collaborating with a coworker or sharing the setup with family, dual access prevents contention over the same device. However, dual user KVMs cost more than single user models with the same port counts.
Also consider if you really need concurrent access. For many home uses, a single user model offers adequate functionality at an affordable price point. Evaluate if dual access is worth the added cost and complexity for your needs.
Compatibility and Platform Support
Ensure the KVM supports connecting all your intended platforms – whether that’s Windows PCs, Macs, Linux devices, or legacy hardware. Many KVMs advertise broad platform support. However, budget models may be more limited.
Double check spec sheets carefully for the operating systems, computer types, and connection standards (e.g. USB, PS/2) compatible with the switch. Mismatched ports or limited platform support will prevent devices from connecting properly.
For mixed PC and Mac setups, look for switches specifically advertised as supporting both. Getting a switch that works with all your devices avoids headaches down the road as you expand your computer collection.
Additional Smart Features
Higher-end KVM switches include extra features for power users. Look for models with multi-level user access controls and permissions to prevent unwanted access or tampering. Some devices enable remote access over IP to control systems from different locations.
KVMs with built-in cable testing check for faulty cables during operation. Other advanced features include the ability to cascade switches to expand connectivity, video scaling when switching between different resolutions, and integration with AV systems.
Consider splurging on an advanced KVM if you need IT-grade security, robust connectivity options, or seamless integration with complex setups.
Finding the perfect KVM switch involves carefully weighing factors like port count, platform support, connectivity options, and advanced capabilities against budget constraints. Determine your must-have features versus nice-to-haves.
Compiling a list of devices you need to connect along with how they’ll be used helps narrow suitable options. While advanced KVMs enable seamless control of multiple computers, more basic models may suffice for sharing peripherals between two PCs.
Taking the time to identify the right KVM switch for your needs and setup ensures smooth transitions between your computers and a clutter-free workstation.