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

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Usage

In theory, anyway, there shouldn't be anything really complicated about choosing which PC you want to use when multiple systems are attached to a KVM. On older KVMs, it was a matter of pressing one of four buttons on the face of the box. Simple? Yes. The downside, however, was that the box had to be within reach so those buttons could be pressed. Now, however, Iogear has endowed the MiniView with a few different control options.

For example, the MiniView uses your keyboard's Scroll Lock key as its trigger. Press the Scroll Lock twice and then press the Enter key, and you're switched to the next computer attached to the MiniView (or back to the first if you're at the fourth). But things can get a bit complex when you consider the totality of what the MiniView controls.

Press the Scroll Lock key twice, press, "K" and then press Enter and you only switch the keyboard, mouse and monitor. Substitute "U" for "K" and you only switch access to the USB section. Finally, substitute an "S" in that key sequence and you switch the audio.

(Why switch the audio? Suppose you're playing music on one computer and you switch to another computer -- but you still want to listen to what you were playing originally. Just use the appropriate key sequence to switch the audio source back to that first computer. Voila!)

If you're in a hurry, you can press the Scroll Lock key twice, the number associated with the port that particular PC is attached to (1-4), and then press Enter. That will get you there immediately. If you don't have the correct hot keys available (I'm speaking to you, Mac owners!), you can reassign the key selections. You just invoke Hot Key Mode and then run through a maze of possible key pairings you can use.

You can still do everything manually -- with the silver "buttons" on the front of the MiniView's box -- but even here things get more complex. Press one of the four buttons, and the KVM function will advance, but USB and audio will not follow suit. Press the corresponding button twice and the audio will switch to the selected PC. Press a corresponding button for two seconds and everything will advance to the selected computer. Finally, press and hold Buttons 1 and 2 for at least two seconds, and the MiniView will start to autoscan (it stays on each PC found for five seconds). And you thought the combination lock on your high school gym locker was tough!

If you don't think you can learn all these combinations immediately, I would suggest that you download the manual from Iogear's Web site. It's a PDF document, and you can't blow it up large enough on-screen to actually be able to read its contents.

Conclusions

If you're setting up a multicomputer installation, a KVMP is the ultimate way to save money by sharing a single set of peripherals that you'd normally hang on each PC. The MiniView's 7.1 audio and DVI-D video connectivity, plus its low pricing compared with the cost of the peripherals it can replace, makes it an ideal contender for the task.

Bill O'Brien is a freelance writer who has written a half-dozen books and more than 2,000 articles on computers and technology, including Apple computers, PCs, Linux and commentary on IT hardware decisions.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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