New features that are just now starting to be found in KVM units are USB and audio switching. Support for USB can take a couple of different forms. One technology of USB KVM switching allows the user to support USB Keyboard and USB pointing devices. The other technology allows the user to not only support the switching of USB keyboards and USB pointing devices, but also allows the sharing of other USB devices that might be plugged into the USB port. You then have the ability to share your USB scanners, USB cameras, USB storage devices and USB gaming devices between both of your systems. USB support for Apple MAC USB compatible systems was found in several units. We did not test the KVM's ability to be used in an Apple MAC USB setup.
Also, the ability to use one set of speakers and share them between two computers that are being switched is one of the best ideas that I have seen come along in some time. Although this isn't widely supported as of yet, we expect to see more companies adopting this technology in the near future.
Cable management and cable connection is another area that we examine. Some KVM units do this better than others; many have cables running every which direction, which isn't well organized or managed. When using a KVM in a two-port setup, you could have as many as twelve cables that need routing, so efficient cable management can be an important issue. Only one of the companies that we looked at offered any innovative developments in the cable management department.
When looking at the cost of the KVM units in this review, you need to give attention to the information reguarding the included (or lack thereof) cables. Having to purchase additional cables can raise the cost of your KVM unit significantly if all of the required cables are not included. Units that include all of the essential cables will cost a little more. If you have to purchase additional cables, it can raise the cost of the KVM from $30 to $100, depending on which additional cables you must purchase.
In this article we will look at five products that allow you to "hit the switch" and change between systems at the touch of a button. Our focus in this review is on two-port units that provide switching for two systems. (However, we did look at one four-port unit, to provide you with a better idea of the difference between a small office or desktop KVM vs. the bigger guns of a business oriented KVM.) This number of ports are normally more than enough ports for use at a desk at work or in a home environment. (Important note: we do not attempt to address the use of KVMs in the rackmount/server arena in this review!)