USB Share Switch Review
April 13, 2005
If you’re a regular reader of this site, you’re doubtless familiar with my ongoing battle with DVI/USB KVM switches.
Since I finally came to the conclusion that DVI switches just aren’t ready for prime-time yet, I decided to bite the bullet and add a second monitor for my secondary machine (a Windows box I use mostly for testing; my main machine is a PowerBook).
Unfortunately, that still left me with the USB switching issue; it’s a lot easier for me to accomodate two monitors than it is for me to accomodate two keyboards and mice. Also, I occasionally find it handy to switch the printers I use back and forth between machines as well.
Enter the “USB Share Switch”.
Life was a lot simpler when we were just switching VGA and PS/2 keyboards and mice. On the KVM switch threads, many people reported USB switching problems as well—keyboard-switching not working, intermittent keyboards and mice, bootup issues, etc.
The keyboard-switching (making the device switch based on certain keystrokes) seems to be a major problem, so I wanted a manual switch that didn’t even try to interpret keystrokes.
The device I found (from SewellDirect) is labeled as a “USB 2.0 Manual Share Switch Hub”. The price was $29.95 plus shipping.
This thing couldn’t be more simple or straightforward. It is basically a 4 port USB 2.0 hub, with two PC connections instead of one, and a pushbutton to switch between them.
Physically, it’s pretty much the same dimensions as a standard “mini” hub, about the length and width of a deck of cards, and slightly thinner. It has a “wall-wart” transformer about 1” x 1” x 2”, which thoughtfully mounts perpendicular to the outlet, to keep from covering additional outlets.
I have a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse plugged into one port, an HP inkjet into another, a label printer into a third, and a spare for later use. My powerbook is plugged into one PC port, and my Windows box is plugged into another.
This thing works a treat—thus far I’ve had no problems with it. Both the PC and the Mac recognize the devices instantly on switch, and it appears to be recognized as a fully 2.0 compliant device (the PC used to bitch that the KVM wasn’t 2.0).
I’ve had no keyboard or mouse stuttering or freezing issues, no problems rebooting either machine, and the PC has not once so far “lost” the keyboard or mouse.
The only slight negative I have with it is that the switch is “soft” to the touch, and there is no audible feedback, so sometimes I’m not sure for a second whether I actually pressed it hard enough. Not a big deal, just a minor annoyance.
On the whole, I couldn’t be much happier with this. If you’re looking for a USB switching solution, I’d recommend this highly.