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Gefens 2x1 DVI KVM Switcher

KVM switching goes digital for new generation of LCD DVI monitors By Frank Moldstad

Gefens 2x1 DVI KVM Switcher ($199 MSRP) allows a DVI monitor, USB mouse and keyboard to be connected to two computers simultaneously, saving desk space and the expense of buying duplicate hardware.

It delivers clear digital pictures to an Apple Cinema Display or other DVI monitor with no loss of image quality. In addition to the DVI connections, there are two USB 2.0 ports for mouse and keyboard connections. Depressing a button on the front panel switches the device from one computer to the other.

I connected two Apple PowerMac G5s with a 23 Apple Cinema Display, a Kensington wireless USB optical mouse and a Kensington USB keyboard to the 2x1 DVI KVM switcher. The PowerMacs come equipped with ATI 9600 graphics cards with DVI connectors as standard equipment. Gefen supplies two DVI cables, two USB cables, and two stereo audio cables with the switcher.

Hooking everything up was a simple matter. On the rear of the switcher, cables from the first computer go to DVI In 1, USB In 1 and Audio In 1. Likewise, the second computer is connected to DVI In 2, USB In 2 and Audio In 2.


Connectors for the monitor, mouse, keyboard and audio out are on the switchers front panel. The button for switching from one computer to the other is also on the front, and two bright blue lights on the front indicate which computer is currently selected. Its got a small slim profile with rubber feet, so it can be put on top of a computer without scratching it. There is also a port for an optional RMT-2 wired remote control. If the switcher cannot be placed within easy reach, the remote control ($30 list) would be a very good accessory to have.

The Gefen switcher can even be used with two monitors as long as they both have the same resolution, since it is a straight splitter. But different resolutions are possible if one of the monitors has a built-in scaler.

I settled on 1920x1200 resolution, the highest setting allowed by the graphics cards (might as well use all the real estate on the Cinema Display). The switcher produced no degradation in the monitors superb image, and the quality from one computer to the next was indistinguishable.

ATI 9600 Pro (above) and NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT DDL (below)
There was an issue when I first connected the switcher, but it was easily resolved. Every half hour or so, the entire screen would flash and turn grass green momentarily. Gefen Tech Support directed me to remove pin 16 on the included DVI cables from each of the Macs to the switcher. An FAQ page on Gefens web site explains this issue: ?Apple requires that the hot plug detect pin is set to "low" on DVI cables while non-apple computers use the hot plug detect pin set to "high." Gefen manufactures all DVI products to adhere with the DVI specification, which has pin 16 set to high.

At any rate, with a pair of needle noose pliers it was no problem to pull pin 16 from the cables, and no further screen flashes occurred.

The wireless Kensington mouse I used had an infrared USB transmitter, which I attached directly to the Gefen switcher and it worked fine. The standard wired USB Apple mouse also worked perfectly, as did the Kensington USB keyboard I used.

The 2x1 DVI KVM Switcher will work equally well with Macs or PCs, as long as each computer has a DVI graphics card. Also, it can be used in a mixed-platform environment, with one Mac and one PC. For older computers  that are not equipped with DVI graphics cards, ATIs Radeon 9600 Pro works with PCs and Macs, ($199 list), while NVIDIAs GeForce 6800 GT DDL is a Mac-only board ($499.99 list).

In some ways, switcher performance is measured by how little you have to think about the device. After I resolved the Gefens intermittent screen flashing by pulling pins from the DVI cables, I became unaware of this switcher. It functioned transparently. You can push the button back and forth to your hearts content with no waiting or unexpected hiccups disrupting your workflow the kind of issues Ive experienced on older conventional analog switchers with serial ports. The way it expands the usability of two computers and one DVI monitor is a great workflow enhancer, not to mention all the space saved with only one monitor/keyboard/mouse set. It does its job quietly and efficiently. That gets it a high recommendation in my book.

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Related Keywords:DVI, KVM Switcher, Gefen, Apple Cinema Display, DVI monitor,

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