Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Great 2-port USB KVM switch: IOGEAR GCS632U MiniView Micro USB Plus

A while ago I made a couple of posts about KVM switches [i.e., 1, 2]. In that case, I was searching for a PS/2 KVM switch that supported 5-button mice. Several KVM switches failed me, including a switch from Belkin that looked great on paper but was awful in practice. In the end, it was the cheapest switch that worked like a charm. Well, here's how things went this time.

  • Again, Belkin makes crap: Last week I went through virtually the same process with 2-port USB KVM switches. This time I needed a USB switch to go back and forth between my Apple PowerBook and my Dell Workstation (I'm spanning the PowerBook's second monitor onto the Windows machine). Because it looked to be the cheapest, I tried the Belkin F1DK102U 2-Port USB KVM Switch with Built-In Cabling first. It said it supported OS X and XP. Strangely, it also required software to be installed in order to use it. This should have been my first clue that I was wasting my time and money with this awful Belkin product. I don't remember the last time I was pleased with a Belkin product (I suppose I had some UPS's from them that weren't that bad). Despite being OS X compatible, booting with the product connected caused the PowerBook to crash pretty bad. It gave me that little black window of death on bootup. Again, because it required software in order to use, that made uninstalling it (while the monitor was still connected to it) was a pain. PLUS, when it was connected, it wasn't able to emulate my monitor and mouse and keyboard, and so Windows and OS X weren't convinced that I was using the monitor, mouse, and keyboard that I was using. Oh, and on TOP of that, one of its attached cables (you can see this in the picture) is only about a foot long, and it's the DEFAULT PORT! This was a lousy product.

  • IOGEAR is lovely as always: Luckily, I had to go back to the store for a different reason, and I noticed that they had four IOGEAR GCS632U MiniView Micro USB Plus 2-port KVM switches, and two of those switches were marked at a price CHEAPER than the Belkin piece of crap. I had someone check, and the correct price was the low price. So I took the Belkin back and got the IOGEAR instead. This switch said it was Mac compatible (Mac mini compatible, even). Heck, it even said it was SUN compatible! It also had ANALOG AUDIO support, which is kinda nice. Finally, right on the box it said, "USB sniffing technology allows complete USB mouse and keyboard emulation for error-free boot-up." This feature was one of the major things I LOVED about the old QVS PS/2 switch. Plus, I figured this meant that it would crash my PowerBook like the Belkin thing did. Both of its cables were the same length (6'), and it would choose a "default" port based on what was powered on. Oh, and did I mention it didn't require software?
The result? The IOGEAR GCS632U, the cheapest 2-port USB KVM switch that was available to me, worked EXACTLY as I wanted it to. It's beautiful. It's slick. I love it. I love IOGEAR.

NOTE: IOGEAR also has a PS/2 version of this switch that I'm guessing works as superbly as the QVS KVM-12CK (the PS/2 switch from the previous posts) that is still working great today.

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