A KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) switch allows you to control multiple computers from a single keyboard, monitor, and mouse. It’s a hardware device that acts as a bridge between your peripherals and computers, letting you switch seamlessly between them.
What is a KVM Switch?
A KVM switch has ports to connect your keyboard, monitor, and mouse on one side, and ports to connect your computers on the other side. Using a button, menus, or hotkeys, you can switch which computer’s video output is sent to the monitor, and which computer receives inputs from the keyboard and mouse.
This allows you to access multiple PCs from the same desk space. KVM switches reduce clutter and make it convenient to alternate between devices as needed without swapping cables back and forth.
What is a Software KVM and Is It Good?
A software KVM performs similar functions as a hardware KVM switch using just software rather than external hardware. This allows controlling multiple computers from one keyboard and mouse without a separate device.
Software KVMs may be adequate for basic needs but can have latency switching between PCs. Hardware KVMs have dedicated internal circuitry optimized for fast, seamless switching. For real-time applications like gaming, a physical KVM switch is better.
Are KVM Switches Great for Gaming?
KVMs are very popular among gamers who want to easily toggle between gaming computers and a separate work PC at the same desk. KVMs allow changing keyboards and mice optimized for gaming between rigs instantly.
For serious gaming, look for fast switch response times under 1 second. Avoid software KVMs as they can lag. Prioritize video quality, and get a KVM that matches monitor resolutions across PCs.
What Should I Look for When Buying a KVM Switch?
Key factors to consider when choosing a KVM include:
- Number of computers – 2, 4, or 8 port KVMs are common. Make sure it has enough ports for all PCs.
- Video support – Match KVM to monitor resolution; some support dual monitors.
- Switching method – Hotkeys, push buttons, menus? Pick what’s convenient.
- Switch speed – Under 1 second is ideal, especially for gaming.
- Cabling – Length and cable thickness affect video quality.
- Platforms – Some KVMs only work with certain operating systems.
- Reviews – Check user reviews on sites like Amazon for real-world feedback.
- Price -Klen items are around $50-100, more advanced models go up to $300+.
Consider your needs – gaming demands fast switching and crisp video. Basic home office needs are often met with an inexpensive 2-port KVM.
Our Test KVM Switches: What We Chose, How We Set Them Up
Unfortunately without hands-on testing of specific KVM switch models, I cannot provide detailed reviews of our experiences evaluating different options in this section.
If I could test specific KVMs designed for various use cases, I would be able to offer in-depth pros and cons of each based on factors like:
- Ease of initial setup and installation
- Video and audio signal quality
- Responsiveness of switching between computers
- Any lag or glitching issues
- Quality and utility of buttons, menus, hotkeys etc
- Available port configurations
- Durability during regular use
This first-hand testing and usage data would allow me to give authoritative recommendations of the top KVM switches online in various categories and use scenarios. Please let me know if you would like me to research this topic more thoroughly and potentially test some KVM switch options to gain knowledge required to write detailed reviews.
Unfortunately without having hands-on experience testing and reviewing specific KVM switch models, I do not have enough background knowledge to provide authoritative recommendations for each category you listed. Writing detailed reviews and naming “best” products requires thoroughly evaluating and comparing different options firsthand to be able to speak to their real-world performance, features, and value.
- Best Basic Two-PC KVM Switch With Four USB Ports:
When searching for the best basic two-PC KVM switch with four USB ports, I would test a variety of budget-friendly models designed for home or office use. I’d evaluate the number and placement of USB ports for easy connectivity of peripherals like flash drives, phones, and external hard drives.
The setup process would need to be quick and straightforward for plug-and-play installation. Video quality would need to be sufficient for basic 1080p monitors without blurring or distortion when toggling between computers.
Responsiveness is critical so I’d measure the lag and delay when switching PCs with a stopwatch. The switch itself should feel sturdy and durable enough for daily use.
Value for money would be assessed by comparing features to competitors in the same price range. Models from reputable brands around $50 would likely provide the best mix of functionality, performance and long-term reliability.
- Number and convenience of USB ports for peripherals
- Ease of installation and setup process
- Video quality for basic monitor resolutions
- Responsiveness and lag time when toggling between PCs
- Durability and longevity for daily home/office use
- Value for money based on price point
- Best Basic Two-PC KVM With a Wired Remote:
For the top basic two-PC KVM with a wired remote, the primary focus is on the remote implementation. I’d test the feel and usefulness of the buttons and interface, along with the length of the connecting cable.
The remote needs to make switching seamless from a distance without line-of-sight requirements or excessive cables. Video output should remain steady when transitioning between PCs via remote.
Extra features like independent switching for the keyboard and mouse outputs would provide flexibility. I’d measure switch times against button-press models.
Top choices will likely be models in the $70-100 range with responsive remotes, quality construction, and value-adding extras like independent device switching.
- Handiness and utility of wired remote
- Range limitations of remote based on cable length
- Smoothness of switching between computers using remote
- Video quality with remote-initiated switching
- Extra features like keyboard/mouse emulation
- Overall convenience compared to toggle button models
- Best Two-PC KVM for Fast Switch Times:
When evaluating two-PC KVMs for the fastest switch times, I’d use fps counter software and high-speed cameras to precisely measure differences in speeds between models. Even millisecond differences could affect performance for gaming and video work.
Fast switch speeds need to be maintained over long-term use without degradation. I’d check for any sync issues, crosstalk, or glitches during rapid switching back and forth.
Buttons and hotkeys need to provide instant response, so I’d test their input lag as well. Premium models designed for speed will likely utilize internal buffering, EDID emulation, and optimized circuitry to deliver seamless control of two PCs for time-sensitive applications. Expect to pay $150-300+ for these high-performance KVMs.
- Measured speed of switching between computers
- Any lag, glitching or sync issues when toggling PCs
- Performance for gaming and video applications
- Responsiveness of buttons/hotkeys used for switching
- Stability of maintaining fast speeds over time
- Avoidance of crosstalk or signal degradation
- Best Two-PC KVM Switch With Extra-Long Cables:
The key metric for two-PC KVMs with extra long cables is the maximum cable length offered. I’d test video output at increasing distances to find the threshold where degradation occurs.
Sturdy construction is essential to avoid cable damage or loosening of ports. Higher-gauge cables may be required for runs over 10-15 feet. Setup needs to be simple with minimal signal interference or artifacts.
Pricing will correlate with cable length – models offering 25-30 feet will cost more than basic 6 foot models but prove worthwhile for positioning PCs farther apart.
Around $150 should provide cables over 15 feet while maintaining strong 1080p video output when toggling between computers.
- Maximum cable length offered
- Video quality over extended cable distances
- Susceptibility to signal interference or artifacts
- Sturdiness of cabling and connectors
- Ability to substitute higher-gauge cables if needed
- Convenience for using PCs further apart physically
- Best Basic Four-PC KVM With Wired Remote:
When selecting a basic four-PC KVM with wired remote, I’d again emphasize remote usability and performance controlling four PCs instead of two. The interface needs to make choosing between four inputs easy without confusion.
Video should display correctly across all ports without distortion or switching lag. A decent number of accessible USB ports is mandatory for peripheral sharing.
Durability is more crucial with the increased complexity versus two-port models. I’d rank price-to-performance considering features, build quality, and brand reputation.
Reliable four-port KVMs with intuitive remotes should be available between $150-200 for home and office multitasking use.
- Ability to conveniently switch between 4 PCs
- Intuitiveness and usefulness of remote control
- Video quality across four video outputs
- Lag or delay when cycling through computers
- Number and accessibility of USB ports
- Value for the price point
- Best Basic Four-PC KVM Switch With Wireless Remote:
For a basic four-PC KVM with wireless remote, the key aspects are responsiveness, range and stability of the wireless implementation. The remote should connect easily to the base station without complicated configuration.
I’d test for any glitches or interference at typical distances in an office environment. Seamless performance is vital when using the remote to cycle through four connected PCs.
At least a few USB ports should be available for sharing peripherals. Video output needs to transition smoothly between computers without lag or artifacts.
For the increased convenience of wireless control, expect to pay around $250-300 for quality models that provide a solid signal without slowdowns or disconnections during use.
- Responsiveness and range of wireless remote
- Ease of connecting remote to base station
- Any interference issues or glitchiness
- Number of USB ports available
- Price-to-performance value
- Smooth video switching between four PCs
Alternatives to KVMs
If a KVM switch doesn’t meet your needs, some alternatives to consider include:
- Synergy software – Open source app lets you control multiple PCs with one mouse/keyboard without hardware. But can have lag.
- Remote desktop apps – Built-in tools like Windows Remote Desktop allow you to control a secondary PC through your main computer.
- Docking stations – For laptops, docking stations quickly connect all peripherals with one cable.
- USB switch – More basic version of a KVM that handles only mouse/keyboard, no video.
- Input switch boxes – Manually swaps connections between computers as needed.
The right KVM switch enables seamless control of multiple computers while reducing clutter. Consider video performance, switch speed, and device compatibility when choosing a hardware or software KVM solution tailored to your needs and budget. Gaming demands fast response times that physical KVM switches specialize in. With the proper setup, a KVM can be a vital addition to any multi-PC workstation.
I hope this overview provides some guidance on factors to look for when purchasing a KVM switch. Please let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions!