Belkin “F1DS104L” SOHO 4-Port KVM Switch Review

Originally posted April 22, 2012

After my MicroServers arrived I realized I was in need of a new KVM switch (Keyboard, Video, Mouse, allows you to use a keyboard, screen, and mouse with one or more computers) as the two port Belkin USB Flip wasn’t going to be enough – I wanted at least a four port one. Two ports for the MicroServers, one for the DL360 and one for the file server. I looked at IPKVM switches but I quickly realized that they would have been too expensive for a home network. My criteria, then, was a four port KVM, with USB (as the microservers didn’t have PS/2 ports) and VGA.

Enter the Belkin SOHO 4-Port KVM Switch

I found this on the Novatech websites – as they were based in Portishead and it was the school holiday I decided I could take a trip down to get it rather than waiting for delivery from eBuyer or similar – and it looked ideal. There were a couple of other models with more ports and rack mountable but that would have been getting expensive. As bad luck would have it Novatech didn’t have it in stock so it was ordered in for me on the Tuesday I went down and was ready for me to pick up on the following Saturday.

First impressions were very good. Solid base unit with four colour coded buttons, and four chunky colour coded leads of a decent length that took the video, audio and USB data to the computers (I didn’t actually realize it had sound capability). Through voodoo or magic the end that went into the computer had audio, video (mic, speakers) and USB, while the switch end just had video and audio – I guess the USB must be done over the VGA. Unfortunately three of the machines I was plugging into the KVM didn’t have sound/mic ports so I tied them back along the main cable to keep them out of the way.

Once installed it sat quite nicely underneath my screen, plugged into the VGA for the screen, two USB ports for a mouse/keyboard and a set of headphones. The switch also features two USB ports, one on the back, one on the side, that act as a USB hub and can be presented to the machines as if a USB stick was plugged into the system itself, however switching between machines disconnects the USB meaning you can’t start a copy one one computer and switch to another while the transfer is running. Switching between computers is quick and the mouse/keyboard picks up with no delay, unlike the Belkin Flip I was using before. Pressing the middle of the button switches both audio and video output to that machine, pushing the left hand side switches to just the video and the right is just the audio – so you could listen to music from one machine while using another.

Really, for £114, it’s quite good value, although the downside is that you can’t use your own VGA cables with it, it has to be the Belkin ones – the longer cables are quite expensive. Due to it’s size and form factor it’s only really good for the small home/office or lab setup – anything more and you’ll probably need to start looking at IPKVM switches – but if there was a 8 port variant of this KVM that would almost certainly be worth a look. If you spent the time shopping around you could probably get it for under £100 then it’s definitely worth it.

Edit November 2012 – The unit recently failed on me – not working at all. No lights and no beep when pressing the buttons to change input. Returned to Novatech/Belkin under warranty and they replaced it with a new one. Unfortunate but good service.

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