- Review Price: £34.00
With more and more of us having two computers at home, but very little space, something like a KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) switch can be a very handy thing to have. The ability to control more than one computer with the same peripherals can potentially save a huge amount of precious living space. But to really explain what this device is all about, let me paint you a picture.
I live in a small flat in London and I don’t have space for more than one monitor, but I do have more than one computer and it’s this scenario that makes a KVM the ideal solution for me. It’s also really handy if you have a PC and a home server – since you rarely have to access your server you don’t really want a keyboard, mouse and monitor just sitting there dormant for the majority of the time.
Of course as well as the space saving advantages, you also save yourself the cost of a second monitor, keyboard and mouse, and although you’ll have to factor in the cost of a KVM, it is a lot cheaper than a new monitor, even a very basic one.
It has to be said that Belkin doesn’t come up with the best product names in the world and no matter how good a product is, with a name like F1DL102U, this little KVM isn’t going to stick in your mind like, say, the name Pentium 4 would. Luckily Belkin has a fairly easy to use website, which means that you can track the precise product down from there without having to etch preposterously obscure product names into your brain.
Let’s take a closer look at the F1DL102U and its features. The front of the main unit has a D-SUB connector, two USB ports and two audio connectors, one for speakers or headphones and one for a microphone. There is one downside to having the D-SUB connector on the front and that is that the monitor cable is usually hanging down the back of your monitor. This makes the cable routing a little awkward, but it’s a small price to pay for the benefits you’re getting.
On top of the unit is a switch that allows you to manually change between the two PCs that are connected to the F1DL102U. At the rear you’ll find two eight-foot (about 2.4 metre) long cables which are used to connect the KVM to the two PCs. Each end has a D-SUB connector, a USB port and two audio connectors. The only problem with this is that the cables are captive, but if you want a compact KVM, this is the only way to go. Besides, using detachable cables would only increase the cost, and value for money is one of the strongest features of the F1DL102U.
You might have noticed that the F1DL102U is a USB only KVM, but Belkin offers a range of different models, so there is a USB version without audio, as well as a PS/2 model with audio and without. The advantage of the USB models is that if you have a wireless USB keyboard and mouse, you end up with a spare USB port that can be used with something like a USB memory key. The real advantage here is that when you swap between the two PCs, the device plugged into the KVM will be swapped over at the same time.
If you fancy the USB version, but still want to keep your PS/2 keyboard and mouse, Belkin offers a solution for this as well, in the shape of the F5U119-E PS/2 to USB converter. This is a simple dongle with two PS/2 ports at one end for the keyboard and mouse and a USB port at the other. It works perfectly well with the F1DL102U and as I have a PS/2 keyboard this was the ideal solution for me. It can of course be used with any USB enabled PC or laptop to which you want to connect up a PS/2 keyboard and mouse.
”’The F5U119-E let’s you use PS/2 devices via USB.”’
If you don’t have space for the F1DL102U on your desk there is even a small utility supplied on the CD that allows you to swap between the two PCs without having to touch the main unit – as long as both of them are running Windows ME or later. There is an LED built into the switch button that tells you which of the two computers is currently active, although it’s not that hard to keep track of this with only two machines.
The F1DL102U supports resolutions of up to 2,048 x 1,536 which means that you’d need a pretty big monitor before you hit this little unit’s video limitations. With built in support for audio the F1DL102U is ideal for home use, since you can have one PC for the kids and one for the adults, but both can use the same audio peripherals. Either which way you look at it, if you have more than one PC, but don’t need to use both of them simultaneously then it is worth investing in a KVM switch.
Of course no matter how useful something is, it still has to be affordable and Belkin has given the F1DL102U an impressive price to match its impressive functionality. At £33.95 inc VAT the F1DL102U is a bit of a bargain, especially when you consider how much you’re saving on having only one monitor and input device set. So what more can I say than well done to Belkin for producing such an affordable and easy to use bit of kit.
The F1DL102U USB KVM is an excellent product if you’re after a KVM switch – it’s easy to use and offers some extra features that you don’t normally get. The price is also spot on, especially when you consider how much a full size KVM can set you back.