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In a world where server virtualisation and remote login is becoming increasingly common, it's all too easy to forget the humble KVM (Keyboard/Video/Mouse) which allows a single keyboard, monitor and mouse to control two or more PCs. For home users with a number of PCs or small to medium sized businesses, there's still a need to control multiple machines from one place without cluttering the place up with all the related paraphernalia. Furthermore, KVMs remove some of the security risks that can arise when enabling remote access.
Here at home I have various PCs I use for testing, editing and so on so I was pleased to get my hands on a new 4 port KVM from Aten. The Masterview CS1774 is rather more than the basic units you might find at PC World though - it has a number of interesting and useful features over and above the basic ability to switch from one machine to another.
################### ## In the Box ###################
The CS1774 is a small but pleasingly heavy device that support up to 4 different computers. As well as the basic KVM function, it also includes a 2 port USB hub, stereo out and microphone in and an Ethernet hub that accepts both 10 and 100Mbps links.
The kit includes a full compliment of leads for 4 PCs, a firmware upgrade cable, external PSU and full printed manuals along with a quick start guide.
The build quality is excellent with quality connectors and a solid metal case. The CS1774 is well designed with all the leads connecting at the rear except for two USB ports making it easy to keep everything nicely tided away. It is also designed to stack with similar units if desired. The keyboard and mouse connectors are USB although an adaptor may be used.
################### ## In Use ###################
The CS1774 can be controlled either via the four front mounted switches which also indicate the currently selected PC or via hotkeys. What I liked the most was the flexibility of the device. A frustration when switching from one PC to another is the fact that usually, this is a complete switch so if you're listening to music on one machine then change PCs, you lose the audio feed. The Aten unit however offers a better way of handling things. Whilst you can do a full switch, you can also switch just the things you want via various hotkey combinations. For instance, you could begin printing via USB from one machine, switch only the KVM functions and leave the printing to happily continue. You could also start listening to music and switch to a different machine but leaving the audio connected to the previous one. Essentially, the USB, Audio and KVM functions are all independent.
The USB hub also opens up further space and cost savings such as having a single printer and scanner being shared between the different machines although naturally only one machine can use these at any one time. It does save a lot of plugging and unplugging though.
The CS1774 also offers a high level of machine compatibility in a mixed environment with a PC keyboard being able to emulate both Sun and Mac ones although native keyboards will only work with the machine they are designed for - you can't control a PC from a Mac keyboard. The highest resolution that is supported via the SVGA connection is 20148x1536 which should be enough for most people.
The Aten Masterview CS1774 is an excellent device. The price is a little on the high side but I feel the build quality and flexible switching options as well as the built in hubs offer a level of sophistication and ease of use that justify this. There is a smaller 2 port version, the CS1772 as well as other models with different features so it's worth checking out the entire range to see what suits your needs best. I feel confident in recommending the CS-1774 to anyone who needs to operate up to four PCs from one station.
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The Master View Dual-View CS-1744 USB KVM Switch brings dual head video functionality to ATEN's USB KVM switch tech...
CS1744, 9423DV-4, CS1744C-AT
KVM / audio / USB switch - 4 ports
Expansion / connectivity
4 x KVM / USB ¦ Audio / video : 4 x ¦ 2 x USB - Type A ¦ 1 x RJ-11 - management ¦ 2 x VGA - HD-15 ¦ 1 x audio output - mini-jack ¦ 1 x microphone output - mini-jack ¦ 1 x keyboard (USB) - Type A ¦ 1 x mouse (USB) - Type A