Review: Belkin KVM (F1DL102U)
Date: 10/4/2006
Product: Belkin 2 port KVM (F1DL102U)

Score: 1/5

  • Cheap (paid ~$70 AUD)
  • Neat "all in one" cables.
  • No software support for Linux or Mac.
  • Hangs regularly
  • No reset button
After buying a Mac mini I needed a way to switch between my PC and the new Mac, so I did a little research and bought the Belkin 2 port USB KVM through a local retailer. After getting it home and plugging it in it all worked as expected. The software that allows soft switching via the keyboard only works with windows so I didn't even bother with that and I've only used the hardware switch on top of the unit. The KVM has two lights on the switch that light up when one or the other computer has the "focus". The cable system is tidy and comes with the unit, no need to buy extra cables. I like how that you have a single cable that has a bunch of fly leads on the end for VGA/USB/audio. That design is just brilliant, gets rid of a bunch of cable clutter.

Thats where the good news stops I'm afraid. Because the unit's actual job of switching between 2 computers is well lacking in a number of fundamental ways. First and foremost is the "blinking lights" problem that comes in a couple of different flavours. First version is that BOTH active lights come on at "half strength" and the KVM refuses to switch to the PC, well it does switch, just for a second and then switches back to the Mac. This usually happens when the Mac is on and selected by the KVM, and the PC boots in the other channel but it's not limited to that scenario. The other flavour is just delightful, the KVM can't decide which computer is active so it switches from one to the other every second. Back and forth endlessly switching. Both machines are on and functioning normally but the KVM just keeps switching as fast as it can. For either of these maladies the only solution is to unplug it from the computers to power cycle it and then plug it back in again. As it gets power off the USB ports, you only need to plug the USB plug on each computer. And this is happening a few times a week, so it's not some rare hardware glitch that I can ignore.

Then there is the issue of screen detection that I talked about in a previous entry where it seems that when Windows can't detect what monitor is attached, i.e. when the KVM is switched to the other computer, it decides to pick a refresh rate out of thin air. Which generally causes the average LCD to give an "Input Out Of Range" type error. Sometimes windows even chooses a different screen resolution as well. Now one would think, even assume, that Windows would be able to "Just Use The Friggin Display Options I Set(TM)" but that would be far too easy and would put whole swathes of MSCE's out of work so thus it was decreed that Windows should suck and not use the right settings. However that might not be the fault of the KVM, I expect that smarter KVM engineers would be able to come up with a solution to the windows problem. Belkin should find some of these smarter engineers and employ them. If you find yourself in this ugly sitution I heartily suggest using the RefreshForce to reign in Window's taste for trying new refresh rates.

So all in all, not much to recommend it. I'd try anything else first, and only get this unit if all else fails.
02/05/2006 2:14am
Wow - I just ran a quick google search for 'belkin kvm fails to detect active computer' to see if anyone has the same problem and boom, you describe exactly what I have (except I have not had it switching back and forth). It does have an issue when booting a machine and it for some reason just decides that machine is not on and keeps switching back. I am going to have to get another KVM - this one just does not work well.

btw: The temp fix for the problem is to unplug the USB connections from each computer (basically killing the power to the kvm) and then plugging them in one at a time (wait a few seconds between the first and the second to let it detect the computer).
17/10/2006 3:55pm
I've had this unit for abou a year, now. this is a regular problem that is exceptionally annoying. I'm glad to have the ability to switch back and forth between my Mac Mini and my PC, but sometimes it hangs on one computer only. In other words, if i switch from the Mac Mini to the PC, after a 15 second delay, it switches back.

As mentioned above, there's no way to solve the problem short of unplugging the unit, which is just prohibitive.

I'm upgrading later this week to a new Mac Pro and I'll put Parallels on it and be done with the KVM hell I've been in.

While it's otherwise a nice device, the switching issue is a major negative. Look elsewhere for a better product.
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