Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The best KVM switch... ever?

It's not often that I come across a product that seems to be exactly what I've been looking for in computer peripherals. Thing is, I work with keyboard, video, and mouse switches pretty much everyday. Such devices, called KVM's for short, hook my Dreamcast and my liquid cooled system up to the same display. My Playstation 2, Gamecube, and another computer were on another daisy chain with just video switches. My Playstation 3 and Wii currently share a component switch, and a composite switch currently shares my Saturn, N64, Gamecube, and PS2. On to of that I keep another KVM switch handy on own test system used to write Mepisguides, so that when a computer comes in for repair, I don't have to move systems around to have a free display with mouse and keyboard.

Exhausting list isn't it? Well, of the video switches I have right now, they all lack a certain feature. No surround sound audio support. Every single switch I had was limited to only 2 channel sound. That sort of counts as a problem when Via Envy's are your stock sound chip, and you've got more spent on speakers than most people spend on graphics cards. For the type of person who went out of their way to get a hold of a motherboard with Aopen's TubeSound technology, and then picked up Zalman's 5.1 channel headset, only having two channels of audio is generally considered a problem.

Well, I use the term had, because Aten was gracious enough to send something over for a review, their new CS1782 KVM switch. Pardon the poor telephone shots, E3's have a tendency to lighten my luggage by removing cameras, and I haven't bothered to get a new camera since last E3.

Yep, that is a DVI switch with 7.1 audio sound. Aten also paid attention to something a lot of USB switches don't pay attention too, not everybody will have keyboards and mice that are based on USB, so there is a USB to PS/2 converter cable.

Now there are some slight caveats to the 7.1 audio support. It is based on 3.5mm TRS jacks only, and there is no Optical or Coaxial audio pass-through. The good news is that Aten does include the extra cables for supporting the extra headphone jacks.

There also is another caveat to device support. While the DVI ports are Dual Link capable, and contain the pin-outs for a VGA signal, the device itself was not able to pass along a signal to a CRT monitor on a DVI to VGA plug. On the flip side, if you are buying one of these, VGA support probably isn't exactly a selling feature.

I'll go over this device more once I have some time to work with it, and I am interested to see if a component to dvi adapter will pass along signals from the PS3 and Wii consoles. Sadly, Sony does not support using an HDMI to DVI cable, and Nintendo hasn't made a DVI or VGA cable for the Wii. However, the Component signal is the same signal used in DVI and HDMI, so there is a chance that a component to DVI adapter could work.

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