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Buy Kvm

The first step to finding the right KVM switch is taking inventory of what you'll use it with: specifically, the number of computers, monitors, and additional peripherals, such as a keyboard and mouse. You may also want to hook up a direct-connected printer, webcam, speakers, or external microphone (for all the streamers and podcasters out there). Most mainstream KVM switches support between two to four computers, one to three monitors, and two to four peripherals.

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Next, check what ports your computers have. Different KVMs work with different cables (HDMI, VGA, DisplayPort, USB-A, USB-C, and so on). The biggest matchup to make is between the KVM's video output and that of your monitor or monitors. It's best to get a KVM that matches one of the native inputs on your panel. (These days, that's usually HDMI or DisplayPort.)

You'll also want to make sure the KVM supports at least the native resolution of the display at the refresh rate you'll run at. For most folks, that will be 1080p (1,920 by 1,080 pixels) at 60Hz, but if you have a 4K (3,840 by 2,160) or 1440p (2,560 by 1,440) monitor, you will want to look for specific support for that resolution. Gaming monitors these days, meanwhile, often run at refresh rates above 60Hz, and you'll likely want to direct-connect one of those rather than run it through a basic KVM.

Port matching is also a primary concern if one or more of your PCs is a thin laptop. These typically won't have a VGA video output or, sometimes, even a USB Type-A port. Most KVMs come with the required cables for a "most common" installation scheme, but you want to make sure, especially in the case of the display cables, that you can plug them in to your PCs without the need for awkward converters or having to buy adapter cables with different ends.

Once you've assessed ports and peripherals, consider your home setup. Where will you put the KVM box? How long do the cables need to be to keep your space de-cluttered? Will you be able to press a button on the KVM to switch PCs, or do you need a remote? If you need a remote, do you want a wireless one, or will a wired unit do (connected to the KVM switch by a cable)? To help walk you through it, we tested six basic KVMs for ease of use and setup.

Start shopping for a KVM switch, and you will see a staggering number available online from a variety of brands. Some of them are familiar, while many others are reboxed and rebranded imports sold on large etailers' sites. Some, as you'll see, feature the strange, made-up-sounding names of generic low-cost tech that's common on Amazon and other big online retailers.

Our approach to this project: Seeing as many shoppers will buy based on price alone, we selected and purchased six of the top-selling, low-cost KVM switches on Amazon. Our price ceiling was $100, with most of the models coming in much lower.

Each here works with one monitor (see below for some dual-monitor suggestions) and allows you to switch among two or four PCs using one set of peripherals. They all use HDMI cables (instead of VGA or DisplayPort, although you can definitely find KVM switches that use those). Most newer computers and monitors connect via HDMI for superior sound and image quality. For the least hassle, you'll want to choose a KVM that works natively with the video outputs of all connected PCs (assuming they all support one in common!) to avoid having to deal with clumsy adapters.

Our testing gear comprised a Viotek GNV27DB(Opens in a new window) curved gaming monitor, two Windows 10-based desktop mini-PCs we recently reviewed (the Geekom IT8, and the Beelink GK Mini), and a standard wired gaming keyboard and mouse(Opens in a new window) from Logitech. In turn, we set up each KVM device and switched between or among PCs 10 times, using a stopwatch to measure the switchover time and then averaging the results. To test the audio and video quality, we played a 4K HD movie (our old testing stalwart, Tears of Steel(Opens in a new window)) on each PC through each KVM switch in turn to our Viotek monitor. We also watched the same video with the PCs direct-connected to the monitor to see if any perceptible difference.

The result? We found that all the KVMs were a cinch to set up, and all worked flawlessly, which was surprising for this often finicky hardware (and considering that most models were well under $50). All six instantly detected when a PC was connected, in most cases showing by lighting up "PC 1" or "PC 2" on the KVM itself. The video playback showed no blurriness or lag, and the switch times were similar, differing only by half-seconds at the most.

So, in the end, in our brief survey of low-cost KVM switches, the main differentiators come down to the number of PCs supported, the number of USB ports for peripherals, the cables/ports required, and the physical switching method. Here's a breakdown of the six models we looked at.

This KVM has just the right amount of heft to make it feel high-quality without being heavy, and a sturdy metal case. It also comes with four circular gel pads to stick underneath, providing a no-mar, no-slip base. It can switch between two PCs, and it includes four USBs for peripherals, making it the most USB-heavy of the two-PC KVMs we tested.

The major con is the lack of remote, meaning you can switch between PCs only through a button on the device. (As a result, you would need to have the KVM chassis situated somewhere easy to access.) That might create some clutter in your work area, especially factoring in the two input cables per computer (HDMI, USB-B). After you add in four peripherals cords and a monitor, this little box could have up to nine cords jutting out on both sides for you to wrangle. Also, the USB 2.0 nature of the USB ports is fine for connected peripherals like a keyboard, mouse, or printer, but we wouldn't use these ports for external storage (especially portable drives that need USB 3.0 speeds, and power over the USB port).

This affordable KVM offers a bit more value than the Greathtek since it comes with a wired remote. That means you can put the KVM out of sight, as long as it's still close enough for the remote's cable run. But it has only three USBs for peripherals, in case you needed the Greathtek's fourth.

The included computer-to-KVM cords are multi-headed, with an HDMI on one side that plugs into the KVM. With just one cord per PC, this keeps the KVM area less cluttered. The other end of that same cord breaks into two parts to plug into the PC: an HDMI for the PC's video-out, with an additional USB cord attached. That's more elegant than many KVM solutions.

For an extra $35, this KVM has a more attractive look and feel, with input cables that are permanently fixed to the KVM. This makes setup easier, and in the long run it should reduce the chance of a loose or accidentally detached connection that impedes audio or visual quality or breaks the switching scheme. (Who wants to dig in wires behind a desk to diagnose that?) It also had the fastest switching time of any KVM we tested, at just over 2 seconds.

On the downside, the IOGear has just two USB ports, whereas the other KVMs we tested all had three or more. If you plan on connecting only a keyboard and mouse, this is fine. Another con is the lack of physical switching options. It comes with just a wired remote (no wireless remote, button on the chassis, or hotkey option), which feels a little limiting given the price.

This KVM from IOGear has the same core features as the previous one: wired remote, two USB ports, and permanently attached input cables. Beyond that, the standout feature is superior video and sound quality, hence the higher price. For video, it provides support for up to 4,096 by 2,160 at 60Hz, whereas the previous IOGear KVM supports 1,920 by 1,080 at 60Hz.

This model has audio- and microphone-specific input cabling, and it was the only KVM we tested that had them. While the computer audio came through in our testing without attaching the audio-specific cable (with the audio signal traveling over the HDMI, like all the other KVMs), if you have particular line-level audio or microphone needs this would be the kind of KVM to go with. Just make sure to check your PCs have the ports necessary to plug in. (The desktop mini-PCs we tested with, for example, did not have discrete audio jacks, expecting the audio signal to travel over HDMI!)

This KVM is a high-value budget option that supports four PCs and even comes with a wired remote. Interestingly, it came in the very same packaging as the Dgodrt 2-PC KVM. The only difference was the brand name on the package (and the fact that it supports four PCs instead of two). All signs point to the same manufacturer. It even has the same cords as the Dgodrt (blue tips with HDMI on one side and HDMI/USB connectors on the other).

This KVM is also incredibly light, like the Dgodrt, which tends to suggest cheap construction, rather than a beneficial feature. But you get what you pay for, and if these details don't bother you, it's a high-performing basic four-PC option that includes a wired remote.

If you're looking for a four-PC-capable KVM switch and choosing between this one and the Tcnewcl, the biggest difference is that this one has four USB ports for peripherals instead of the Tcnewcl's three. That's a lot of additional value for only a few extra dollars.

Also, this model has a wireless remote compared to the Tcnewcl's wired remote, meaning more flexibility and one less cable to fuss with. Your desk could be completely de-cluttered (KVM out of sight, out of mind) with only the wireless remote in view. Given the price, the remote, the number of supported PCs, and the number of peripheral USB ports, this is the highest-instrinic-value KVM we tested.

Only some KVM switches work with more than one monitor. That's a whole other world of KVM beyond the scope of this article. Here are our top picks for a dual-monitor setup. (Note, we did not test these two; we based our recommendations on aggregated buyer reviews and specs.) 041b061a72


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