Want a futureproof (4K capable, compatible with all OSes), scalable KVM solution for switching an HD monitor between multiple PCs? Here’s what you need:
- As many HDMI 1.3+ cables as you have PCs plus 1 extra. You can get these for as little as $1.97 each from Monoprice.
- Vanco 3×1 or 5×1 HDMI switch. You may need to search a price comparison site like Pricegrabber for the UPCs of either product as Vanco sells primarily to distributors.
- Synergy. This amazing bit of software allows computers on the same LAN to share a keyboards, mice, and even clipboards. It runs on Windows, OS X and Linux.
The steps are:
- Install Synergy on all the machines you intend to switch among. The process is straightforward, but there’s a helpful user guide if you have questions.
- Set one of the machines as the server and the others as clients. Note that the server must always be on for this to work, so pick a machine you’ll never turn off or sleep.
- Install the Vanco switch as instructed in the documentation it shipped with. Installation is simple, but there’s an order in which everything should be connected, presumably to avoid HDCP handshake problems.
And that’s it. Now you can switch among sources for your HD monitor and have your mouse and keyboard follow you too. Thanks to the included IR remote, this solution is scalable: to add another monitor to the mix all you have to do is pick up another (~$40) switch. If each additional switch is the same model as the original, you can switch them all at once with the same remote. Unlike other KVM solutions, this setup supports as many keyboards and mice as are connected to the Synergy server. Also, given that most decent KVM switches start at $150+ and vanishingly few support HDMI 1.4 and 4K as the Vanco units do, this is a great deal.
A few minor caveats, which shouldn’t be real problems for most people:
- Unlike many KVM switches, the Vanco model literally disconnects all devices that aren’t the current source, which means that non-source machines won’t see that particular monitor at all.
- The Vanco switches are HDMI-only, so you’ll have to use an adapter for DisplayPort, DVI, or VGA.
- Switching has to be triggered by the remote or directly on the device (i.e you can’t use a keyboard combo).
- Ctrl+Alt+Delete might always be intercepted and executed on the server itself. There’s a workaround here, but it shouldn’t be a major problem if the clients are laptops. If there’s a desktop client in the mix, keep a cheap keyboard connected directly to it.