A useful device for multi-taskers’ workstations

A few months ago, I started a new job. That job was gracious enough to allow me to work from home due to the community health concerns surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19). I set my office up to be comfortable since I knew that I would be spending an inordinate amount of time behind my computer screen. As it turns out, this workspace ended up being dual-purpose and I found myself with two MacBook Pros living on the desktop. I love using a mechanical keyboard, wireless mouse, and connecting to an external ultra-wide monitor. So, I set everything up to work with a dock, but I started finding myself wanting an easier way to switch back and forth between the two computers. Enter the 2-Port HDMI USB-C KVM Switch by StarTech.com.

DETAILS

The 2-Port HDMI USB-C KVM Switch provides a space-saving option to switch between 2 USB Type C or Thunderbolt 3 desktop or laptop computers. The switch is independent of an operating system and is compatible with Windows, Linux, macOS, iPadOS (Apple iPad Pro), and Android systems. The switch utilizes USB-C with DP alt-mode so that you only need one cable to be connected to each of your computers. The device supports UHD resolutions up to 4K (3840 x 2160) at 60Hz and can drive one large HDMI 2.0 display. The switch is bus powered to eliminate the need for a power adapter.

Warranty2 years
Connector(s)2 – Console Interface(s)
USB Type-A (4 pin) USB 2.0

1 – Console Interface(s)
HDMI (19 pin)

2 – Host Connectors
USB Type-C (24-pin) USB 2.0 (480Mbps)
EnvironmentalOperating Temperature
5°C ~ 35°C

Storage Temperature
-20°C ~ 50°C

Humidity
20%RH ~ 80%RH
HardwareAudio
Yes

KVM Ports
2

PC Interface
USB-C

PC Video Type
USB-C (DP Alt-Mode)

Number of Monitors Supported
1

Rack-Mountable
No

Cables Included
Yes

Chipset ID
Parade – PS176


VLI – VL170


Terminus – FE1.1S

Daisy-Chain
No
Indicators1 – LED Indicators
Functional Display

2 – LED Indicators
Port selection or active host
Packaging InformationPackage Width
6.8 in [17.2 cm]

Package Length
4.7 in [12.0 cm]

Package Height
3.3 in [85.0 mm]

Shipping (Package) Weight
19.9 oz [565.0 g]
PerformanceVideo Revision
DisplayPort 1.2

On-Screen Display
No

Video Revision
HDMI 2.0

IP Control
No

Hot-Key Selection
No

Maximum Data Transfer Rate
480Mbps

Wide Screen Supported
Yes

Audio Specifications
HDMI – 7.1 Channel Audio

Port Selection Support
Push Button

MTBF
50,000 hours
Physical CharacteristicsColor
Black

Product Length
2.8 in [72.0 mm]

Product Width
5.5 in [14.0 cm]

Weight of Product
9.4 oz [265.0 g]

Product Height
0.6 in [15.7 mm]

Material
Plastic
PowerPower Source
Bus Powered
Special Notes / RequirementsSystem and Cable Requirements
Your USB-C ports must support DisplayPort over USB-C (DP Alt mode) in order to work with this KVM switch
What’s in the Box1 – Included in Package
KVM Switch

2 – Included in Package
3.3 ft. [1 m] USB-C Cables

1 – Included in Package
Quick-Start Guide

USER EXPERIENCE

The switch comes in a StarTech.com-branded box. The main part of the box is white and there are highlights in yellow with black type. There are few details included, but lots of writing on the box. StarTech.com includes the name of the product in several languages as well as some simple images of the product on the exterior of the box. “What’s in the Box” is also listed on the back: 1 x KVM Switch, 2 x 3.3 ft. USB-C Cables, and 1 x Quick Start Guide. When you open the box, you will find all of those items neatly organized and ready to work with your gear. I’m very glad that USB-C cables were included. I have worked with some docks that didn’t include the necessary cables to make the device work and that left me hunting for essential cables on my own. The USB-C cables are good quality and are long enough to tether two computers to the switch.

For my uses, I wanted to be able to switch back and forth between two MacBook Pros – a 2016 model and a 2019 model. I use the 2016 model for my personal work and the other one is for professional work. Until I got this switch, I had been connecting my monitor and keyboard/mouse through a docking station. The docking station is great because it provides power for the laptops, but I can only connect to one laptop at a time. Therefore, I was forced to pull the Thunderbolt 3 cable from the laptop and plug it into the other anytime I wanted to use the peripherals. The KVM switch has made it possible to swap back and forth without having to change the cable. I can actually hardwire in my connections and leave the cables alone with the help of the switch.

I connected my monitor to the HDMI port on the back of the switch and my keyboard, which has my wireless mouse’s dongle attached, to the USB-A port on the front of the switch. Then I connected one laptop to the PC 1 port and the other to the PC 2 port. I’ve used KVM switches in the past between two desktop PCs, but I’ve never used them with laptops — especially laptops being used in closed clamshell mode. I really wasn’t sure how well this would work out. I’ve had issues with the computers not waking up when they are connected to the docking station so I just didn’t know if the switch would work as I hoped. Spoiler alert — it exceeded my expectations.

After connecting both laptops to power (the switch is bus powered so it does not provide PD to the laptops) and then back to the switch, I started switching back and forth. I started with both laptops open and awake. In that state, both laptops switched to the laptop and keyboard seamlessly. Then, I closed both laptops and tried switching to them. It still worked. Finally, I tried putting on the laptop to sleep and switching to the other. Then, I switched back to the sleeping laptop – while it was closed – and tried to wake it by using the keyboard. I was amazed to see the icon on my monitor change indicating that the laptop was waking up! It takes approximately 10-15 seconds for the laptop to be fully functional after switching to it. I haven’t had any issues with the keyboard communicating or any glitches with the monitor. The switch is working beautifully and there are only two /real/ issues I have with it. First, it doesn’t provide power back to the laptops. I know this might be a lot to ask from a simple KVM switch device, but instead of having one cable connected to my laptop, now I have two. Second, the layout of this particular switch seems to collect cable clutter. That’s something I’m not a fan of at all. When I incorporated a docking station into my workspace, I was trying to get all the cable clutter under control and now, I seemed to have created more of it by adding this switch.

CONCLUSION

This is a very handy product to have at your disposal when you are working with two computer stations. I do love its functionality but wish that it could be integrated a bit easier into workspaces with some thought given to cable control.

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