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Review: Uniclass DVI-USB KVM

Discussion in 'Video Cards & Monitors' started by one-eyed-xander, Dec 16, 2006.

  1. one-eyed-xander

    one-eyed-xander Member

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    So this is my first review on OCAU. It may not be in the right forum. It may not even make sense. Please be gentle.

    In [thread=520482]another thread[/thread] I mentioned that I had found a DVI/USB KVM which would do 1920x1200 and would post my opinion about it once it had arrived.

    Well it's arrived and I've been playing with it for a little while now. Here's what I've found so far.

    [size=+2]Why a KVM? Why not...[/size]

    The story starts way back, well actually not that long ago. I bought a Dell 2407. It was good. It was really good. It was sooo much better than my crappy old CRT that it wasn't funny.

    Anyway the monitor was too good just to attach to one PC. I wanted to share it between my laptop (PowerBook G4) and desktop (A64 PC running Ubuntu and WinXP). I had gotten used to the screen sharing arrangement with my old KVM. Unfortunately it was no longer really up to the task of switching the 2407 mainly because it capped out at 1600x1200, was VGA only, and suffered some other minor problems. So for a while there I was using it as a KM switcher only and using the input select button on the 2407 to switch the display.

    This got annoying really fast, mainly because the 2407 has so many damn inputs that it can take ages to cycle back around to the one you want. And I tend to switch back and forth a lot. Must be the ADD.

    Remote desktop is out because it doesn't bring Teh Snappy.

    So I went on the hunt for a KVM that was up to the task. I have a Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro (USB only) and an IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0.

    [size=+2]The Uniclass DVI 202-SK, or possibly 202-AU[/size]

    The KVM I bought (from my new friends at Price Point Computers) is known amongst many local retailers as the Uniclass DVI-202-SK. If you go to the Uniclass website it is called the DVI 202-AU, and the DVI 202-SK is actually a different model (with a PS/2 console). In short, it's a bit confusing. But there is only one 2-port DVI/USB KVM from Uniclass so if you make sure you order that one you should be alright.

    According to some other random person on the internet, the Uniclass is actually a re-badged, or more likely OEM, Avocent SwitchView. This is also available locally but it's about $400.

    The uniclass on the other hand is a bargain at $160. As we shall see.

    [size=+2]Whatsit Look Like Then?[/size]

    The front has just a couple of buttons, illuminated to show the currently active computer.

    [​IMG]
    Click to view full-sized image!
    Hosted by UGBox Image Store

    The rear is pretty simple too. You connect the DVI and USB cables to your computers, the DVI to your monitor, and mouse and keyboard to the respective USB ports. Couldn't be easier.

    [​IMG]
    Click to view full-sized image!
    Hosted by UGBox Image Store

    There's also a DC power input but you don't need to use it. The KVM itself is powered from the USB of one of the computers. Only if you use the built-in USB hub do you need to add power. I have enough USB hubs around the place (eg the 2407 itself) so I don't plan to use this feature.

    Speakers and microphone are also supported but again I don't care much about that.

    One thing I really like about this KVM is the fact that it uses standard cables. It comes with some fairly short 1.2m cables (which are fine for me) but if I want longer I can just go get them off the shelf. Other KVMs I've had do not allow this, they want you to buy their own cables.

    [size=+2]Does it work?[/size]

    You betcha. It's a pleasure to switch back and forth between computers with this thing. The switch is rapid and does not involve a USB connect/reconnect at either end (no "duh-dum" USB attachment noise in Windows).

    This is probably because the KVM appears as a unique entity on the USB bus. It attaches and detaches the keyboard and mouse internally to the KVM without affecting either of the computers. See the following output from the MacOS System Profiler:

    [​IMG]
    Hosted by UGBox Image Store

    There are several configuration options that I haven't yet tinkered around with. You can change the switching hotkey (by default it is scroll-lock, scroll-lock, then 1 or 2), switch the USB hub and audio independently, and other stuff.

    Also you can switch from the front panel buttons.

    [size=+2]PC Compatibility[/size]

    Initial setup with the PC was not encouraging. It initially worked, but booted windows at 800x600 and then the screen went black. After that I couldn't get any video signal to go through. After playing with the cables a bit it started working, so it was probably a loose cable to blame. Anyway it works fine now.

    Both WindowsXP and Ubuntu work just fine. In windows the media keys do what they're supposed to. Bear in mind I don't have the IntelliType software installed, nor do I want to. However the docs do advise that you don't install keyboard driver software, so even I wanted to, it probably wouldn't work (see more below).

    The installation instructions say to enable legacy USB keyboard/mouse support in the BIOS and I did this. I'm happy to say that the keyboard works just fine in legacy mode (eg navigating the BIOS menus and the grub OS loader menu). This is another one of those minor annoyances with my old KVM: it wouldn't work with the BIOS in legacy mode, so I had to keep a PS/2 keyboard attached to the PC just for those times that I needed to select a bootable operating system... Anyway like I said, the Uniclass works fine.

    [size=+2]Mac Compatibility[/size]

    No teething problems with the Uniclass KVM and the PowerBook. Booted up just fine and went through the "I have detected a new keyboard" sequence.

    All works just fine with the standard MacOS drivers. Wheel mouse and everything (whee!)

    Now the only problem with the Mac side is that the Microsoft keyboard drivers I had been using no longer detect a Microsoft keyboard attached (as shown above it's just a generic "KVM" device). This meant that the Microsoft drivers could no longer perform their rather crucial function: swapping the alt and command keys to their rightful (according to my finger's muscle memory) location. For now I have re-mapped the keys using the Keyboard & Mouse preferences panel but this is suboptimal because that setting is global and I don't want to swap the keys on my powerbook's internal keyboard...

    If you don't have a Mac with a Windows keyboard none of this will bother you.

    [size=+2]In Conclusion[/size]

    I like it. $160 is pretty reasonable for the ability to use my Dell 2407 on the two systems that I use regularly. Not all is perfect but I think that none of the issues are insurmountable or fatal. Recommended.
     
  2. skootyloops

    skootyloops Member

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    Great review mate :) I wouldn't spend that much on a KVM but then again I wouldn't even spend that much on a monitor :lol:
     
  3. MR CHILLED

    MR CHILLED D'oh!

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    lol, oh comon, it doesn't take ages! There's 5 modes 1-2-3-4-5 so to get from mode 2 to mode 1 is only 4 pushes of one button. It would take you about 1 second to cycle to the next monitor input :p

    But if this KVM works as you describe it I might even pick one up myself......been waiting ages for one that has dual dvi. And this seems pretty reasonably priced :thumbup:
     
  4. eva2000

    eva2000 DDR1/DDR2/DDR3 Addict

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    great write up there.. but wow that's one huge and bulky kvm switch!
     
  5. Neoman

    Neoman Member

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    Is the firmware upgradeable? :wired:
     
  6. OP
    OP
    one-eyed-xander

    one-eyed-xander Member

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    Well there's a line in the user "manual" (ie a poorly printed sheet of paper, should have mentioned that in the review) that says the firmware is indeed upgradeable. But there is no indication how to do it, and more seriously the firmware is not even available on the website. So who knows?

    It's about the size of my Billion ADSL modem. The back panel is pretty much full of ports so I don't see how it could be made much smaller. It could however be made less ugly though I'm sure :)
     
  7. proffesso

    proffesso Member

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    if you want dual dvi switching you might have to look at the gefen 2x2 switcher - http://www.gefen.com/kvm/product.jsp?prod_id=4178

    does dual dvi switching, but you'll need to go higher again if you want dual dvi-dl switching
     
  8. stevo4

    stevo4 Member

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    Not really worth comparing with the Uniclass product, given the Geffen unit is $800 US versus this one at $160.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2007
  9. surfichris

    surfichris Member

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    Have the same KVM here and absolutely no problems with it on this end either.

    (Also using it to switch between OS X and Windows.. heh :tongue: )
     
  10. dadust2

    dadust2 Member

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  11. treblid

    treblid Member

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    It's written somewhere that it's upgradable via USB. No idea how too, guess we will never find out. :p

    I have the 4 port version. This is alot cheaper than GeFen (which IMO is a rip off), and it came with all the cables, connectors you need. So it's really a good deal..

    For me it's an added plus because the audio jacks on the KVM and the supplied audio cable (needs 3.5mm to RCA convertor) works with digital coax too!

    My KVM is used to switch both the video and audio of my HTPC (720p DVI) and DVD player (1080i HDMI).. The keyboard is IR, so effectively, I use my Harmony 880 to switch the KVM, control my HTPC and DVD..

    Not sure if this KVM works with HDCP though..
     
  12. OP
    OP
    one-eyed-xander

    one-eyed-xander Member

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    Now that I'm using up my 15mins of fame by being posted on the front page of ocau, it's a good time for a short followup:

    Firstly I'm still really happy with this KVM. It does everything I want, and has been trouble-free.

    One thing I didn't mention in the review was the fact that the supplied cables are kinda chunky. This isn't a problem in itself, but when you have two of them, plus your original monitor cable, plus USB cables, plugged into the back of the KVM it can topple over backwards pretty easily. It's fallen off the back of my desk a few times as a result. Not a biggie, just something to watch out for.

    Also I'm happy to report that I fixed the Mac OS keyboard driver problem. Solution was to spend US$15 on ControllerMate. This is an awesome keyboard/mouse/controller remapper for MacOS. Seriously, check it out, you can make your keyboard/mouse/whatever do prettymuch anything. Even stuff the standard drivers don't do half the time. This should be part of the OS IMHO.

    That's it really. I'm happy. Yes it's "limited" to 1920x1200, but the purchasing department isn't likely to approve a larger screen any time soon, so I can forsee this will last for a while.
     
  13. paady

    paady Member

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    Is it usb2 connections or usb1.1?

    I heard that some can't run G15 keyboards because they have usb1.1 connections for keyboard and mouse.
     
  14. k371n

    k371n Member

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    Exactly what I need for my setup!
    Yes, the Gefen soln is very expensive and switches DVI only.

    btw, can you elaborate more on the IR?
    ie. how else can I switch w/o using a cabled/USB kb and the front buttons?
    cheers
    k_
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2007
  15. warhead

    warhead Member

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    One of the nagging issues with my current KVM switch is that I can see my 19" LCD flicker when it's connected through the KVM. Not flickering like the image comes on and off, but like you see scan lines in the top part of my LCD. Very noticeable on backgrounds of shades of gray colours.

    Does this particular KVM have those issues? Is the image quality as good as connecting the monitor directly and through the switch? Do you see a difference?
     
  16. OP
    OP
    one-eyed-xander

    one-eyed-xander Member

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    Wow.

    OK well I don't really know how to answer that question except to say that the KVM includes a USB hub that definitely *is* USB 2. However I don't know whether that includes the ports for the keyboard and mouse, or just the designated "hub" ports. Also I don't have a G15 keyboard to test with.

    warhead: The image quality is flawless. Exactly like a direct connection for both the Mac and PC side (the latter is a 6600GT if that matters). And this is at 1920x1600.
     
  17. nVIDIAxp

    nVIDIAxp Member

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    interesting review, how is the image quality? do you reckon any differences?
     
  18. crazyhatman

    crazyhatman Member

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    OK, I have one of these things, and i have been using it without trouble for some time. (like 12 months).

    I also have a G15 and a MX310 attached, though thru the USB hub part, not the normal Keyboard/Mouse sockets. No matter what i tried, i couldn't get the extended features of the G15 working until i plugged it into the USB hub section, which means that I cannot use the keyboard to change PCs on the KVM (sucks a bit, but I don't do it so often that reaching out for the button is annoying). Also, you get the disconnect/reconnect thing happening with the keyboard and mouse when changing. Still works fine in the BIOS of both PCs though.

    The image quality is fine (Well it is on my Samsung 930BF) and so it should be, being fully digital and all.

    If you wanna run DVI and use a KVM, i recommend this unit.
     
  19. treblid

    treblid Member

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    The KVM allows you to switch inputs from the keyboard, e.g. to switch to input 2, hit ESC+ESC+2 in <1s to switch to input 2, and so on.

    So, I train the 880 to do just that - 3 keystrokes as a single IR command. 1 IR command for each input. I have hidden the KVM as I don't need physical access to it..

    Of couse I could have brought a AV receiver with HDMI switching, but I couldn't justify buying one as I am against HDCP (and I can't afford one :p). And having the KVM actually tidies up the cable arrangment somewhat..

    The USB port for keyboard/mouse is indeed USB 1.1. And you need to enable legacy USB devices in your BIOS to get that to work. It's kindda irratiting why they've made it that way, but I guess there must be a reason for it (uses less power perhaps?)...

    There are still two unkowns for me though
    1) Does it support HDCP? I think this KVM is a passive switch, so HDCP should pass through properly. But I don't really know.
    2) Does it support dual-link? The website says no. But until a few months ago, the webpage said the max supported resolution was 1600x1200... Now it's 1900x1200 single-link.

    But nonetheless, it's still a great deal for me. 4 DVI cables, 4 audio cables capable of carrying digital-coax signals, it's like the the KVM is free!
     
  20. k371n

    k371n Member

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    can I then assume that you have an IR receiver plugged into the USB k/b socket?
    cheers
    k_
     

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