Best KVM Switch for Your Computer Setup
A KVM switch (or keyboard/video/mouse switch) is a device that lets you easily swap input devices between two or more computer systems. The basic design of this type of switch has an input for a keyboard and mouse as well as a connection to a single video display. This then connects to the keyboard/mouse ports and video output on multiple computers. With the press of a button on the switch (or hotkey if you prefer) you can then use one keyboard, mouse, and video display, easily swapping between the computers you have connected. While this certainly isn't necessary for every computer setup, a KVM switch makes multitasking easier between multiple workstations and using one setup for more than one system.
We've chosen the following as the best KVM switches in 2022 because they all provide the best functionality due to support for at least four different computers, though switches with even more ports are available. All of these are great options for the latest computers and displays, thanks to either DVI or VGA and USB support. For all your computer setup needs, our guide below is here to help.
TRENDnet 4-Port DVI USB Type A KVM Switch
IOGEAR 4 Port VGA KVM Switch
Tripp Lite Desktop KVM Switch
IOGEAR 8-Port KVM Switch
The Best KVM Switch Options of 2021
A lot of smart decisions went into designing this KVM switch and it all comes together to make a really effective and easy-to-use switch. This model works for up to four different systems that you want to connect with each one clearly marked on the front buttons and back connections areas. This model has USB ports for the mouse/keyboard and DVI video ports for the monitors. If you need VGA this isn't a great choice, which is perhaps its only real weakness. However, it has microphone and speaker plugs for all four systems, and two additional USB ports for connecting storage devices or printers. The switch buttons are easy to see and press, though you can also use hotkeys to switch between systems. LED lighting clearly indicates which system is currently active and this kit even includes all the necessary cables, making it easy to set up with minimal effort.
There is a lot to like about this model from IOGEAR although it lacks the extra audio connections of the TRENDnet TK-422DVK. This switch uses VGA connections for the video which is perfect for use with most modern displays and monitors. Perhaps the best feature of this model is it works with either USB mouse and keyboard connections or older PS/2 plugs. Also included are four cables which have VGA, PS/2, and USB connections for easy setup. However, another set of cables is needed to connect from the switch to console, so keep that in mind while shopping. That's an odd oversight, but otherwise everything you need is included with this set. The large buttons are on the front of the switch, plus you can use hotkeys or a mouse to switch between systems. This model has no additional power requirements so you don't have to worry about having a free outlet to use it.
There are some good features included with this KVM switch, but also a few aspects are less than ideal. Perhaps the strangest thing about this switch is the USB console connections are on the front of the switch while the display connection is on the back. While not a major issue, it just seems strange and is not as streamlined as some other models on the market. This switch is pretty easy to set up and use although it only supports USB keyboard and mouse setups and VGA monitors. Keep in mind you need to plug in a power supply with this model and it doesn't come with any cables. The steel housing is good and strong, so you're getting a durably built device, the buttons are easy to press, and it supports hotkeys to switch between systems.
While a lot of KVM switches are designed to connect just a few systems, this is a great option if you're looking for something much more extensive. This is an eight-port switch you can use to connect eight different systems to a single mouse, keyboard, and monitor. If that's still not enough, you can use more than one of these switches together to control up to 512 computers all with a single keyboard, mouse, and monitor. It also has an on-screen display that lets you keep track of what computer you're currently accessing.
Keep in mind, this pick is designed for a mouse and keyboard with PS/2 connections (rather than USB) and it uses VGA video ports. You can use this switch on a desktop, but also designed to fit into a rack for professional use. Eight connection cables are included, four of which are six feet long while the other four are ten feet long. This switch is definitely not for an average home setup, but it's a great choice for professional rigs with even hundreds of systems.
A KVM switch connects a user to the computer. Doesn't it sound simple? The complex part is selecting the right KVM switch. Various companies are producing different types of KVM switches to cater to all kinds of users. Thus, it is challenging to select the perfect KVM. Here are some helpful tips.
What Are the Different Types of KVM Switches?
There are plenty of KVM switches. Each type is designed specifically to meet the specific requirements of users. Let's take a look:
Centralized Access and Management System
This provides centralized IP access to multiple services across various locations. It can spread the number of servers to hundreds or even thousands. Furthermore, it gives access to hundreds of users spread all over the world at an unlimited distance.
Cat5 Matrix Switch
These switches can support analog and digital video for 1 to 2 users on 8, 16, and 32 servers. You can use it to provide local access for server rooms, data centers, and small labs. The user to computer distance supported by the Cat5 matrix switch is up to 1000 feet.
KVM over IP
This option can accommodate 1 user per 8 ports to 8 users per 64 ports. Typically it is used for IP-based remote access for enterprise data centers and small to large labs. It can provide access to users over unlimited distance with WLAN, LAN, or internet.
Desktop and Secure Desktop
This provides access to a single user trying to access 2-16 servers per switch. The typical applications of desktop and secure desktop include small rack or desktop use. The user to computer distance covered by this KVM switch is 5 to 50 feet.
KVM Extension provides point-to-point access to a single computer and further scales to provide access from multiple locations. As the name suggests, it provides extended access to a single computer from more than one location. The user to computer distance covered by the KVM extension is up to 500 feet.
We can say that it is an alleviated version of the KVM-over-IP type. As the name suggests, it is a high-performance switch with 4K video support. It is used for broadcast, videos, control rooms, and other applications with a high image or video resolution.
What to Consider When Choosing a KVM Switch
There are multiple things to consider before buying a KVM switch. Let’s take a look at some of these:
Number of Sources
As discussed above in the types of KVM, different KVM switches have a different number of sources. To find out how many sources you can connect with the KVM switch, you can check its number of ports. The number of ports is equal to the number of sources that can be attached. Desktop over IP solutions is also an option for those who want an unlimited number of sources.
KVM switches can support multiple analog and digital video connector types. Some KVMs offer HDMI, DVI, DP, and VGA simultaneously, while on the other hand, some may only support VGA. You can also use video adapters to convert and adapt to various video types if need be.
Resolution and Performance
The resolution of KWM switches varies. While some KVM switches can provide a maximum resolution of 4K UHD, others have low resolution. If you need high resolution, then it is best if you consider going with analog switches.
Support for Audio
Some of the best KVM switches provide audio support. For instance, the rose electronics UltraView Pro series has the option for audio switching. At the enterprise level, Raritan DKX3 devices have multi-user switches that have audio computability.
USB peripheral device hub
If you want to connect to any USB interface device, you need to have a transparent USB peripheral device hub. It allows you to connect with storage devices, flash drives, jog shuttles, graphic tablets, wireless Bluetooth keyboards, 3D explorers, and joysticks. You can connect all these to any source computer with the help of a KVM switch. There is an additional virtual USB media function in the IP KVM switches for plugging devices remotely into the source.
Which KVM Switch Do You Need?
Earlier, we discussed the different types and features of the best KVM switches, so how to choose which one to buy? Your requirements and needs define what kind of KVM switch you should buy. As already seen, there are rack-mount, desktop design, and rack-mount console options available.
The desktop model is best to buy when you need to control four computers using user-supplied mouse control, monitor, and keyboard.
The rack-mount and rack-mount console models are a perfect choice for saving space with rack enclosures. It typically contains some networking equipment and multiple servers.
The rack-mount console models add more to the rack model as it includes a touchpad, LCD, and built-in keyboard.
KVM Switch FAQ
Q. How many computers can you control from a single KVM switch?
A. The number of computers you can control from a KVM switch depends on its ports. KVM switches have up to 32 ports to control at least 32 directly-connected computers directly.
Q. What kind of cabling do you need to operate the connected computers?
A. If you want a KVM switch for a short distance, like 25 feet, you can use a standard cable kit. If the computers you have connected are spread more than 25 feet from the KVM switch, it is best to use Cat5 cabling. The Cat5 cabling is best for up to 1000 feet.
Q. What are the bandwidth requirements for KVM switches?
A. The bandwidth requirements for a KVM switch vary a lot. The bandwidth requirements directly depend on the graphic intensity of the application you use. Mostly, compression technologies use differential bandwidth because they only need to send the changes that are appearing on the screen of their users.
Q. Is KVM bad for gaming?
A. Previously, IP-based KVM solutions were not ideal for low latency games. However, as technology has advanced, it is now possible for users to play video games on WAN or LAN.