Review: Iogear MiniView KVM switch can save you space and money

This 4-port switch helps you share peripherals, audio and high-end displays among multiple computers

You would think there was nothing at all interesting about a KVM switch. But if you run multiple computers and need quick access to them, a KVM can prove very handy by letting you use just one monitor, one keyboard and one mouse to control two or more systems. And when you add access to peripherals like USB printers or external hard drives, you're reducing your printer and drive count as well.

If the money you'll save doesn't impress you, just think about how much smaller your carbon footprint would be with three fewer sets of peripherals running 24/7, not to mention the reduced physical footprint for smallish apartments or otherwise tight spots.

If you need any more convincing, meet Iogear's MiniView GCS1784 4-Port Dual Link DVI KVMP switch. It adds a "P" to the three initials; the "P" is for "peripheral" -- the device has a USB port through which you can connect and share printers or external hard drives. It also supports DVI-D video and 7.1-channel surround sound.

(By the way, don't let the astronomical MSRP of $799.95 on the product page scare you -- the price dives down to $479.95 when you hit the "Shop now" button, and drops down to about $350 if you do a bit of online shopping.)

That's a far cry from the basic VGA available from my old KVM switches. It means big-screen monitor compatibility so you can play games in hi-rez, create and manipulate graphics, write while seeing several pages on-screen at the same time, and even watch HD video -- on a single display.

The buck stops here

I currently use four computers in my lab. One is exclusively for video (not TV) capture while the other three are multipurpose systems. One system uses a 30-in. Dell DVI-D LCD monitor, while the others have a mix of 24- and 22-in. displays.

Suppose I had instead hooked up the KVMP to the Dell monitor and retained only one 22-in. LCD for video capture. (Put your hands down, it's a theoretical.) I wouldn't have needed the two 24-in. displays, and the $350 Iogear KVM would have saved me about $500 in monitors. It might have also saved me about $70 in keyboards and mice, as well as around $180 in speakers.

MiniView GCS1784 4-Port Dual Link DVI KVMP switch
MiniView GCS1784 4-Port Dual Link DVI KVMP switch
Iogear's MiniView GCS1784 4-Port Dual Link DVI KVMP switch

Installation

Unlike most KVMs (except for some of the low-end two-port models), Iogear really does provide you with all of the required cables so you don't have to hunt down an electronics store in the middle of the night when you realize you're a few short.

The actual installation is just a matter of plugging things in. The hybrid cables have Mic and Speaker miniplugs along with DVI-D connectors. They also incorporate a USB cable that carries the keyboard signal (and communications from any peripheral attached to the MiniView's USB port) from the KVMP to your PC. If you have a full 7.1 audio system standing by, use the extra audio cables that Iogear supplies to make all the connections you need.

Because the cables are relatively thick, if you want to sit the KVMP in front of your monitor, you should give yourself about eight inches of space. Assuming you don't sit literally on top of your monitor, that shouldn't be a problem.

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