When you have several computers,
use a KVM switch to control them from a single keyboard, monitor, and
mouse. Avocent’s SwitchView MP, aimed at the small office/
home office market gets the job done with ease. Just plug in the cables
and go. It doesn’t support Macs, and you’ll still need speakers connected
to each controlled computer.
(all include video)
4 ft., $35; 8 ft., $55;
15 ft., $85; 30 ft. $130
4 ft., $35; 8 ft., $55;
12 ft., $85
4 ft., $35; 8 ft., $55;
15 ft., $85; 30 ft. $130
KVM isn’t a huge field, but it is an important one. Both
Raritan offer KVM switches for large-scale corporate use and
other, smaller product for the home and home-office markets.
IBM PC/AT, PS/2, Sun workstations, USB computers, and 100%
compatibles. Macintosh is not supported.
VGA, SVGA, (XGA, XGA-II with adaptor)
1600 x 1200 @ 85 Hz refresh rate
supported: PS/2 keyboard, PS/2 mouse, Microsoft Explorer mouse,
Microsoft IntelliMouse Family, IBM Scrollpoint, Logitech Mouseman
Wheel, Logitech Trackman Marble wheel, Logitech Marble FX and
Kensington 4 button mouse, Sun Type 5 and Type 6.
1.9" H x 8.1" W x 5.0" D
Avocent SwitchView MP KVM Switch
By Joel Shore
Under my desk there are four, count ’em, four computers. One
is the main “business”
machine on which I do my writing, my e-mail, and
maintain the Reference Guide Web site. A second machine runs the
software that controls all our lights and thermostats. The third and
fourth are the systems I use to install and run the products I write
about. Heavens, I don’t want to keep installing and uninstalling
software on my main system. One flub and Reference Guide would be out of business—at
least for a while.
Since I can do only one thing at a time, it wouldn’t make sense to
have four keyboards, four video monitors, and four mice. That would
also take up a lot of space and waste expensive electricity. But with
a KVM switch (keyboard, video, mouse), I can use one keyboard,
monitor, and mouse to control all four systems.
click for larger image
Standard PS/2 keyboard and mouse
connect to the purple and green ports. Connecting a Sun
workstation keyboard to the gray port disables the PS/2
keyboard port. Ports A through D connect to each of the
four computers being controlled by the SwitchView MP.
Avocent’s SwitchView MP is a compact unit to which you can connect up
to four computers. PCs and Sun workstations are supported. Got a Mac?
Sorry. Keep the unit within arm’s reach and you can switch among
the four systems by pressing a button. If you prefer, you can tuck the
unit under your desk and switch among the systems with a keystroke
combination. For example, to select the computer connected to port B,
you press the Control key twice, press B, then press the Enter key. It
seems like a lot of work, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty fast.
In fact, that’s likely to be come your preferred method. The reason is
simple: instead of having a separate select button for each of the
there’s only the one Select button. If you’re currently using computer
A and want to select computer D, you’ll have to press the select
button three time to cycle through channels B, C, and finally, D.
Connecting a computer is a snap. Shown
is the PS/2 cable. This end plugs into the keyboard, mouse, and
video ports of the computer being controlled. The other end
attaches to an any of the four ports on the SwitchView MP’s rear
The Cable Guy. Like all KVM switches, you purchase the unit and
the connecting cables separately. That’s because a variety of cable
types are available and each type is offered in several lengths. We
chose two PS/2 cables, like the one shown in the picture. We also
selected two USB cables. PS/2 connections are probably your safest
bet; you know they’ll work with your current keyboard and mouse. But
don’t be surprised if you spend more for the cables than you do for
the SwitchView MP unit. KVM cables are expensive!
Setup and use.
Installation was easy. First, we powered down all the systems and
disconnected the keyboard, monitor, and mouse from each. Next we
attached the cable to each system then plugged the other end into the
SwitchView. We attached a keyboard, monitor, and mouse to the
SwitchView and then powered up all the equipment. There’s no software
to install, but you’ll probably be spending some time under your desk
snaking all those cables. We did eliminate a couple of wires by using
a cordless keyboard and mouse, the Freedom Optical from Logitech (read
Using the SwitchView is straightforward. To select one of the four
systems, you can either press the select button or use the keyboard
combination. A neat feature is scan mode. After it detects
no keyboard activity for a predefined period, the unit cycles through
all the systems, letting you see what each is up to. Any keystroke
breaks the unit out of scan mode. The amount of time each system is
displayed (the “dwell”
time) can be set from 2 seconds to 60 seconds. The SwitchView is
preset for 5 seconds. You can also choose whether movement of the
mouse interrupts scanning.
Silent treatment. Aside from the lack of a select button for
each of the SwitchView’s four channels, the only other real
shortcoming is the inability of the unit to share one set of speakers
among all the connected systems. There’s no place to plug in a set of
speakers, and the cable that you use to connect the SwitchView to each
computer system does not have conductors or a plug for an audio signal. You’ll have
to keep separate sets of speakers connected to each system.
There were a couple of small annoyances, too. The front panel of
the SwitchView sports green and yellow LED indicators for each
channel. But the manual buries the explanation of each light’s
function deep in the user guide. It turns out that the green LED
indicates that a connected computer is powered on. The yellow LED
identifies which of the connected computers is the one currently selected.
It’s a good thing we checked the manual, because we would have guessed
the exact opposite.
The final, albeit small, irritation was the misspelling of the word
“connecting” in the manual’s table of contents. Manuals do sometimes
contain inaccuracies; that’s because products can change after
the documentation has been written. But there is no excuse for a misspelled word.
Overall, Avocent’s SwitchView MP did the
job and was easy to use. Hook up your computers and you’ll wind up
with some newly found desk space. The absence of support for your
computers’ speakers was the only real drawback.<
Yeas & Nays
saving unit fits on your desktop
4Scans up to
four computers for any activity
PS/2, USB, Sun cable connectors
||In the Box
SwitchView unit, power
adapter and cord, user manual. Cables are purchased separately.
Sure, the SwitchView MP is great when the systems you want to manage are
within 30 feet. But what about controlling multiple networked
computers with a single keyboard, video monitor, and mouse (KVM)?
Well, it can be done. Using
the same Internet Protocol that your Web browser uses, Avocent has
developed “KVM over IP” technology. That
makes it possible to sit at your desk and control hundreds of
computers located thousands of miles away.