posted 12/16/2008 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: PC
KVM switches can be useful for some folks. Like me who has three PCs in the basement, it’s a lot easier to be able to connect them to a KVM and interface with them using one set of controls and one monitor. When doing installs of fresh systems or testing out equipment, I don’t have to go and purchase more than one high end monitor by having everything funnel through the KVM. Most of the ones I’ve used though were pretty basic with PS/2 connections and VGA inputs. IOGEAR though has come out with an impressive KVM switch that’s geared towards gamers and HTPC users and its one heck of a peripheral.

The GCS1784 is a four port KVM switch that supports DVI-D Dual Link inputs and 7.1 sound. Yes, you read that right. You can hook up to four computers with digital video connections and 7.1 surround sound to this puppy and have it all be controlled at one place. A quick look at the features includes:
  • One console controls four computers
  • 2-port USB 2.0 peripheral hub [ backward compatible with USB 1.1 ]
  • Share a 7.1 audio surround sound system
  • Asynchronous hotkey switching between KVM focus, USB peripheral, and Audio ports
  • Switching "Beep", mutable via hotkeys
  • Complete keyboard and mouse emulation for error free booting and real-time switching
  • IOGEAR's Display Emulation Technology reads and remembers the monitor's parameters (EDID) so the user doesn't experience delays or change in video resolution when switching between or booting computers
  • Supports MAC keyboards and special keys
  • Maximum video resolutions:
  • DVI-D Dual link: 2560 x 1600
  • DVI-D Single link: 1920 x 1200
  • Supports Special monitors to 3840 x 2400
  • Full support for DDC, DDC2, and DDC2B monitors
  • Firmware upgradeable
  • DVI compatible, HDCP Compliant
  • Out-of-Box solution including all cabling
The GCS1784 is a pretty thin box for what you can plug into. The front has four LEDs for each port and buttons to select each one. The design is a sleek silver tab cover that makes the front panel look pretty flat. The LEDs give you some status on what you are controlling as well as what ports are active. On the lower left are headphone and mic jacks as well as a USB 2.0 port. For those that use headphones, having the jacks in the front make it pretty convenient to plug and unplug when necessary. If you want to share USB peripherals, the front USB connector also makes it convenient as well to interchange USB products. The USB port supports high-speed USB products as I was able to plug in a few USB thumbdrives and transfer items at a good speed and no notice came up saying to plug the item into a high speed port. The front design of the GC1784 is simplistic and clean making it nice to look at as well as presenting you with all the functionality you need.

Once you go to the back, you’ll see a massive array of connections. The “console” area, or the connections you’ll need to your main controllers and monitor, is marked with a grey faceplate. To accomplish the 5.1 or 7.1 sound compatibility, six audio jacks are available to plug into computer speaker systems that support that number of connections. Everything is labeled cleanly so you know exactly what you need to plug where and the audio jacks are color coded as well. Two USB-A ports are here for you to plug your mouse and keyboard in.

Moving on down the line to the right of the console area, you’ll see four identical connection setups for the computers you want to control. To save space, there’s one USB-B port that will handle all the USB traffic to the satellite computers. The rest are pretty much the same as the console with six audio ports and one Dual-Link DVI connector.

What’s great about the setup is all the cables necessary are included by IOGEAR so you don’t have to purchase any additional items to connect four computers to the KVM switch. The video cable also houses a one audio connector, one mic connector and one USB cable. One end of the USB cable, of course, is USB-B to connect to the switch while the other end is the normal USB-A type connector that will go into your computer. If you don’t have a 5.1 or 7.1 sound card on one of your computers, IOGEAR has smartly made these connections separate from the main cable. That way you don’t have to plug them in or have them hanging and taking up more room. All the cables are of good length measuring about six feet so you can keep your computers at a good distance from the switch. Also, most of the them have caps on the ends that are also attached to the cable so they protect the connectors; a very nice touch.

For controlling the setup, you just need a USB mouse and keyboard. If you only have the PS/2 style, no problem as IOGEAR has supplied converter cables from PS/2 to USB for you as well. Having used PS/2 KVMs I’m really appreciate the USB ones and I haven’t run into any issues with switching between computers and not having the keyboard or mouse work. I’ve ran into this a few times with other KVM switches but the GC1784 worked like a charm switching between computers.

When switching between computers, you can use the front buttons or keyboard hotkeys which can be convenient. Pressing and releasing the front button will switch to the port you select but only the mouse will be active. Holding the button down a little bit releasing will then activate the keyboard to the active port. Being able to have the keyboard work on a different port was helpful at one point. When installing some software I had to grab the serial key for one of my products. I set the cursor active in the textbox to enter in the key and then did a quick switch to my other computer with the serial number on the screen. I was able to type the serial key in while viewing the active screen and have the keyboard interact with the computer that was currently on another port.
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