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Hardware

KVM Recommendations for 2002? 47

oolon asks: "I am in the market for a KVM switch, as my desk at home is really cluttered. Having never bought one before its hard to know which brands are best. Until recently it seems that most KVM switches didn't support 'large' resolutions, however there are new models that now claim such support: Belkin claims they support up to 2048x1536@85Hz @ 400MHz bandwidth on their SOHO range, for example. I only require output to one monitor, and a 4 host switch. The hosts under control will be a mix of PS2 and USB. Thought I don't require the hosts to share USB peripherals other than the keyboard and mouse. Naturally I want a switch that works with my 3 button Logitect mouse under Linux/XFree86, however most importantly I want the switch to support high resolutions, without ghosting, at a minimal resolution of 1600x1280 32bpp @ 85Hz. I am also interested in what cables I should use, brands etc, each host will need a run of 6 feet (preferably 10 feet is that possible at high resolutions?). The switch to monitor needs a minimal 3 feet run. As to price, I don't really want to spend more than 500UKP (750USD). Ideally I would prefer to a price all in of 2/3 that amount."
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KVM Recommendations for 2002?

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  • I never had much luck with Belkin - I found it was very easy to destroy a port by moving cables at the wrong time or turning the unit on or off at the wrong time.

    Also their emulation of devices is not good, so when you're booting you have to have the kvm-box switched to the booting computer or it complains about missing devices.
  • Will buy you a heck of a switch. Any 4 port switch you buy for that much should meet all of your requirements.

    I have a bunch of old-school mechanical switchs - 1 4-way AT and 1 4-way ps/2, and they both work great @ 1600x1200 under leenucks.
    I picked em up for $15 at a computer show. Try the cheap ones first, then move up if they don't work. :)
  • by Zeio ( 325157 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @02:26PM (#2920446)
    I like Outlook/Avocent/Apex KVMs. Cheap sucks. These ones can hot plug. Check out KVM switches here [teamexcess.com] (4 and 8 port models there).

    I have an older Belkin omniview pro, sucks. The newer ones that Belkin sells whith user upgradeable firmware look pretty nice, be sure to check those out.

    Old adage that bodes well in any time: you get what you pay for, and KISS, keep it simple stupid, that Belkin SOHO looks like a deformed JU JU fruit. I like them old fashioned, boxy, sqaure.

    I also thought that the Cybex branded KVMs were very crappy. The Avocent/Outlook ones are hot plug-able.

    Monday and Tuesday mornings suck ;-).

    • I have an old Apex AT style switch - VGA, serial mouse, AT keyboard. 6 ports - bought it off a guy on Ebay for $50.00 (!!). I love it.

      I am not sure what res it goes up to (high enough for my eyes, though). The serial mouse makes it a bit of a pain, because the mouse has to be a TRUE serial mouse - you can't hang a PS/2 mouse with an adaptor off the thing. Large, square, heavy gauge steel box - in a lovely beige powdercoat...

      May not be the latest or greatest, but it was DAMN CHEAP - I dare you to find a 6 port switch anywhere for less than $50.00 (and don't point me to one of those "mechanical" switches - been there and done that, won't go back!)...
  • I looked forever... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by HRbnjR ( 12398 )

    With DVI (Digital Visual Interface) becoming more and more popular, and myself owning a LCD flat screen, I wanted a KVM that did DVI and USB. I looked forever!

    I finally found one from Gefen [gefen.com]. They charge $499 USD.

    They also carry a lot of other unique and hard to find DVI products, such as splitters and long cables.

    • Dr. Bott has the $199.00 MoniSwitch DVI [drbott.com]. It's a 'manual' switch box, just like the Gefen one, but you can connect up to 4 computers.
      I have no personal experience with either boxes, but this one seems like a better value.
      • but limited to 15" displays, according to dr. bott. i remember looking at the moniswitch when i was thinking of getting the apple cinema display. no dice. i'm not sure i understand what the technical limitation is on the dr. bott switch. even a single link dvi can drive the typical 17" sxga displays.

        gefen's doesn't mention any limitations (which isn't to say that it would work with high-res lcd's like the samsung 240t).
  • I used a no-name ps/2 two port switch for years. It worked flawlessly; it did not need outside power or anything. It came with a couple of short molded cables. I only switched when I needed more ports.

    Then I picked up an older Belkin 4 port ps/2 model on ebay. I had trouble getting it working-- it needed outside power not just keyboard power. Another poster mentioned it needed to be switched to the booting computer. This has only happened to me on first boot-- if no computers are booted then the first computer up needs to be "on".

    But... three months later, my ebay Belkin special died. But hey-- it was cheap and well-used. My last job bought me a brand new Belkin professional four-port model and it was great. No problems, even keyboard hot-keys for switching.

    I think that generally you get what you pay for (especially with ebay items)-- and Belkin are fine. There is no way I'd pay as much as you say you are willing. No way. That would buy a heck of a gaming card or a nice raid system... or even a Nice Sun SPARC to play with.

  • the Hitachi CM823F monitor has 2 monitor inputs on the back and a button right on the front that lets you switch between the two.

    not only that, but it has a higher refresh rate and a smaller dot pitch of any other monitor and only a fraction of the price. plus a 5-year warranty.
    • But for four systems that doesn't work too well... not to mention the extra KM part or KVM. The monitor may well be top notch, but it doesn't come close to fitting the needs presented.
    • I already have a dual input monitor, they keyboards are the main problem for me not the screen, a kvm would be Nice, infact my dual input monitor is my "ace in the hole", if they kvnm does not work well for my primary machine at the highest resolution, I will use the switch in the monitor to do the work.

      James
  • Don't get a Linksys (Score:3, Informative)

    by PD ( 9577 ) <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @03:24PM (#2920802) Homepage Journal
    Their network stuff is great, but their 4 port switch at least doesn't work with Linux well at all. The software switching (through the keyboard) requires some kind of X key configuration which they helpfully did not document at all.

    Also, the switch doesn't accept a key repeat modification. You'll be stuck at a repeat of 10.2 CPS with a .5 second delay. I tried forever to get the thing to do 30 CPS with a .25 second delay, but it won't work.

    The switch works well with Windows however. I wrote them a couple e-mails for support, but they never responded to them.
    • by rgraham ( 199829 )
      I don't want to just pile on here but I've had the same experience with Linksys as well. Their products are usually very good but if you're using an OS other than Windows then you generally seem to be by yourself.
      • I've got a 2-port Linksys KVM that came with cables. I used it between 2 Red Hat Linux systems, and currently use it between a Red Hat Linux system and a Win2K system. No issues whatsoever. The darn thing just works and cost me about $75 or so from buy.com.
  • It's a little pricey (though well within your range -- about $200 US), but they make one that handles the high resolutions as well as both USB and PS2 keyboard and mouse. It even switches audio if you want it.

    I use one at home and at work, and I have only tried it up to 1920x1440, but it handles it with a bare minimum of ghosting. The most important thing is the cables. Belkin also sells those, some good gold plated ones, for not a ridiculous amount. That's critical to preventing ghosting.
  • I first tried the linksys and the belkin omniview but each had difficulty with my logitech mouse. The mouse would jump all over the screen when switching computers which would force me to shutdown x-windows. So after doing a little research I found that raritan performed extremely well with various types of mice (logitech, microsoft, etc) on all types of computers (PC, Mac, Sun, Digital Alpha, SGI). This is because each mouse type is specifically emulated by a dedicated microprocessor on each port.
    The firmware can be upgraded as well.
    For more info, check out their website: www.raritan.com
  • Cybex SwitchView (Score:4, Informative)

    by dschuetz ( 10924 ) <<gro.tensad> <ta> <divad>> on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @04:04PM (#2921102)
    I've always liked Cybex SwitchView, though at least one person here doesn't like the Cybex-branded ones (they're now all Avocent, I think). I've used a bunch of them, all at relatively high (regularly 1600x1200, I once tried something like 1920xIForgetButItWasTooTinyToReadOnA19"Monitor, and it came through crisp (but tiny).

    Also has MS Intellimouse support. Plus, the keyboard switching is easy and generally doesn't intrude into the computer -- while at least one brand (Belkin?) regularly leaked the display number (scroll-scroll-3, switches to display 3) into the current window.

    Of course, as someone else points out, try getting something with USB support (if you wanna hook up your cool Dual-1G G4, for example), or DVI, you're mostly out of luck. And I have yet to find any name-brand normal-source (CDW or MicroWarehouse catalog) multi-head switch. I've even taken apart a Cybex, but the circuitry wasn't terribly obvious as far as tapping in to slave a second unit...if anyone's done *that*, that'd make for a quickly slashdotted website.
    • I own (and currently use) a Cybex 4-port Switchview... I have trouble with ghosting starting at 1280x1024, and things are fairly unreadable above that... of course, only my Matrox can drive my monitor well at those resolutions - the TNT and GF2MX support the higher resolutions but don't come through as bright or clear.

      I've heard good things about the IOGEAR GCS124U (4 port, USB, 1920x1440), but I haven't ever used one.
      • I've got the IOGEAR GCS124U and I would NOT recommend it. I'm using it to split between a Powerbook Titanium, G4 Desktop, and a Red Hat 7.2 (2.4.9-20) box. The problem is that the Red Hat box does not see the USB stuff, making the KVM useless for that machine.

        I contacted IOGEAR about it and was told that there would be a chip upgrade I could send the unit in for. 3 months later I contacted them again to find out what was up and was told that the problem was the kernel used in Red Hat 7.2. I've upgraded the kernel to the latest RPM release from Red Hat (2.4.9-20) and still no luck. I contacted IOGEAR again and was told that the chip upgrade was coming, but they didn't know when.

        The good thing about IOGEAR is that they include really nice cables, but I found they were too short (two each 4' & 6'). They sell 10 footers on their web site for $40.

        • Thanks for the heads up on that - I've got a W2k workstation, Mandrake box, Celeron test box, and a RH on Alpha system (all running through ps2 connections)... I'm probably not going to use USB for the KM stuff, anyway, but it is good to hear from someone who actually used the stuff...
    • Also has MS Intellimouse support. Plus, the keyboard switching is easy and generally doesn't intrude into the computer -- while at least one brand (Belkin?) regularly leaked the display number (scroll-scroll-3, switches to display 3) into the current window.

      I have an OmniView 4 port which I adore, but it does have one fatal flaw. I never had it leak the display number, but I often end up leaving scroll lock on a console. Ever have a line like this in syslog.conf:

      *.* /dev/tty8

      ...and hit scroll lock? Stuff starts to hang after a while, anything that uses syslog in fact! Control or Num Lock would have been a better choice.
    • I just bought one of the Avocent branded, 4 port SwitchView boxes. Seems to work pretty well. I had no end of trouble with a Belkin OmniCube 4 port (switching away from my FreeBSD box or my Windows laptop mean a guaranteed reboot when I switched back if I wanted to use the mouse). The only odd thing with the SwitchView is I see a little ghosting under Windows @ 1024x768 but the FreeBSD box is tack sharp at 1280x1024. Might need to turn down the refresh on the Windows side...
  • I have used several differnet brands.
    I have an older aten 4 port at home and I love it.

    The Cybex with longview Rocks.
    I have a powerreach KVM by compuCable and it sux because I need to be on the port I am booting to have the mouse work properly, The other brands do not have a problem with this.
    If possible get a 2x or a 4x kvm, these allow you to use multiple KV+M's to access the switched computers.

    And ALWAYS get more ports then you think you need.
    Get A bunch of cables, of different lengths N+ 2 is nice incase a cable get's borked.

    --Tim
  • A number of years ago I spent a long time researching KVMs and came to the conclusion that they're really not that much of a solution in reducing clutter.

    I went with another solution VNC [att.com] it reduced cables etc and allowed me to locate all my hardware except one PC in a machine room.

    I had ten windoze PCs, a few Linux boxes, A Sparc Solaris and an Apple Imac all accessable from my Linux desktop.

    Of ourse as a software solution the remote machine has to be running but you can login, logout reboot etc
    • I came to a similar solution myself, but remember, remote X is MUCH faster than vnc.

      If you need fast/smooth graphics, kvm
      If you need graphics and its a real OS, remote X
      If its its a mac or windos, vnc.

      So far I really havn't seen much use for running a vnc server on a *nix box, with telnet/ssh being so readily available, and remote x being so much faster than vnc.
  • I hate to disagree with just about everyone out there but I've had a Belkin OmniCube 4-port model. Yes you do have to have it switched to the correct computer when powering one up or it doesn't recognize my mouse (Logitec Track ball, old school 3 button style, wheel mice are for pussies) and that is a minor problem. I do use the Belkin cables. I suggest getting the 3 cables molded together, I have zip ties holding them in sets. Don't forget to color code them. I can't tell you how many times I unplugged/plugged the wrong cable before I did that. Yes they are PS2 only but you can use USB/PS2 convertors to fix that as long as you don't plug more devices into your keyboard. The hot key combos are great for the keyboard, well to switch between computers (linux/win98) that is. The cost wasn't too bad. Cube and 3 sets cost about $250. Well below your cost.
    • I didn't quite understand what you said, does that mean you recommend buying a seperate svga, 2xPS/2 or USB a-b cable then using cable ties or buying an all in one cable they also supply....

      Its hard to tell with Belkin which cables are better! In the cables section, they have gold plated ones, but they also have svga ones, (which are not gold plated) but seem to be better!

      James
      • OK so that may have been a bit confusing. I bought 3 seperate cables, 1 VGA 2xPS/2. Then used cable ties to bundle them. (This was when I was in college and dirt poor so I couldn't afford the nice 3 cables molded into one). I'd reccomend actually the more that I think about it the 3 bundle method b/c if one blows then you only have to replace one cable (PS/2 or VGA) instead of a more expensive 3 cable in one job.

        M
      • I forgot to mention that mine are not the gold plated ones and they appear to work fine. Like I said earlier I had to go with the cheaper cableing so I could get the 4 port model.
  • If you're using a cordless desktop system (I have several Logitech cordless mouses/keyboards, I love them), KVMs often do not sustain power to the keyboard through a switch - thus killing the connection (the reciever is powered off of the keyboard port).

    After several, I've found Belkin seem to play nice with cordless keyboards/mouses. Just something to keep in mind.

    --
    Evan

  • I have had bad luck getting optical mice to work with a number of KVM switches from multiple manufacturers. If you use an optical mouse confirm with the manufacturer that it supports your mouse of choice. Also try to check around with other users of the KVM switch about mouse support. I had one manufacturer that was not quite truthful about a switch supporting optical mice.
  • OK, I'd love to have a KVM capable of handling high resolution and high refresh rates (or, better, DVI).

    But can any of those KVMs run over gigabit ethernet?

    • Avocent makes some which run over IP, and Belkin makes a KVM expander which will run over dark Cat-5e (i.e. no switching stuff in the middle). We use it here, and it works just fine for us so that when we need console access to the servers we don't have to sit in the cold, noisy server room.
  • Belkin Experiences (Score:2, Informative)

    by magician ( 90721 )
    I have an older Belkin OmniCube 4-port. It supports 1600x1200 @ 60hz but ghosted a bit on my 21" monitor. I used higher end Belkin "gold" cables and cheapo keyboard/mouse cables.

    However, I do have it doing Dual PS/2 and USB action. Belkin makes a cute little PS/2 to USB converter box that converts the PS/2 signals into usable USB signals. This way, I have my Sun Blade 100 working with my cordless PS/2 trackball and PS/2 keyboard. This may not be true of all systems, but I needed to do a little xmodmap'ing to properly map some of the buttons on my keyboard to their equivilents on the Sun.

    My setup, way back when, cost me around $300. I'm pleased with it and I think that I can safely say I recommend Belkin KVM's. I'd go for higher end video cables to prevent artifacts and ghosting on your monitor.

    Good luck!
  • interesting timing (Score:3, Informative)

    by spood ( 256582 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @08:45PM (#2922643) Homepage Journal
    My KVM switch just arrived this afternoon. I purchased it for approximately 150 USD including 4 cables (6 ft). It is a Vastech 4-port job I purchased from a company I found on PriceWatch [pricewatch.com] called CableTron. NOTE: I am in no way affiliated with CableTron. The switch claims to support up to 1600x1200 resolution.

    I am using a Logitech wireless iTouch keyboard (PS/2), a KDS VS 21/e monitor, and a Logitech USB optical mouse wheel plugged into a USB-PS/2 converter (the switch does PS/2 only).

    Here are my findings so far: the mouse resolution is OK, not perfect. Not adjustable. The keyboard support is a little flaky. It took a few seconds for me to be able to select kernels in RedHat's custom lilo, but I was able to before the 5 second timeout. One of my PCs does not seem to like the keyboard emulation. It is a pretty cheap motherboard from some bargain basement PC manufacturer. The BIOS of my ABIT KG7-RAID doesn't recognize it, either, but it at least boots. The other system just hangs.

    The beeps it makes when powering on/off are VERY loud. I will probably open up the case to mod the speaker later. Supports keyboard switching or manualy switching, and beeps every time you switch. Standard SCROLL-LOCK SCROLL-LOCK # ENTER combo. The keyboard switching only seems to work when the OS recognizes the keyboard/mouse. It has a 10 second scan feature.

    In some modes, I found that my monitor emits an extremely annoying high-pitched squeal. It seems to be OK in normal operation modes, but squealy when booting.

    The switch looks fine up to about 1024x768 at 85Hz. Bump it up any more and it starts getting fuzzy. This works OK for me as I am too blind to see anything above this resolution anyway! :)

    In summary, it is a pretty good bargain, and seems to work much better with newer systems, but it's definitely not the best switch money can buy. The old adage applies: you get what you pay for.
  • I just bought a Rose MiniVista KVM switch from KVMswitch direct [kvmswitchdirect.com]. It arrived next day, works like a charm, but I'm not running high resolution video over it. Nice touches: it also switches audio, and is controllable from the keyboard. It is very tiny, but that's outweighed to an extent by the hydra of fairly inflexible cables sprouting from it -- I plan on Velcro-ing it to the underneath of the desk.
    • I'm not running high resolution video over it.
      I got the 4 port Vista, it doesn't come with USB or audio, but it does support 1600x1200x24bpp @ 75Hz nicely. I purchased mine from a distributor here in Canada and it came with four high quality KVM cables (3 cables moulded into one) (I think the cables were included by the distributor, and didn't come directly from Rose Electronics). I haven't noticed any ghosting on my 21" monitor at all.

      The keyboard switching is nice (you tap a control key, and then the computer number (1-4) in the next 2 seconds and viola! You're there.) The only place the keyboard switching was annoying was while playing Diablo II: "No, I meant to stop running and drink a potion, not switch over to BSD!". (It'd be nice to have a switch on the unit to disable keyboard switching.)

      Overall, I am very very pleased with the Rose Electronics Vista. Their customer service was exceptional (I had an odd video issue early on).

  • We just purchased a Starview 4-port from StarTech.com. We had been using a couple of Belkin Omniview Pro.


    The Starview lets me select which port by pushbutton. The Omniview has only one button which requires me to run through each port sequentially, whether used or not, to get to what I want to get to.


    These guys don't get a lot of use, they are for working servers. The Starview is new and I like it. We purchased it based on a local distributor's recommendation. I trust him. The Belkin's (which he also sold me) have let me down on too many occasions to be allowed back into the shop. I'd get video, but either the mouse or keyboard would simply give up on a given port. Power cycling the unit was no help whatsoever.

    Hope that helps.

  • Anybody know of a KVM switch that works with the old sun workstations ? the ones with the 13w3 connector ?

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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