KVM Switches vs. Monitors with Built-in KVM

kvm switch and monitor with kvm

KVM Switch and USB Switch

KVM stands for Keyboard, Video, and Mouse. These are essential peripherals for anyone to control a computer host. A KVM switch is an intermediary device that integrates the connection and shares these peripherals among multiple computers. It allows users to switch between different computers and still use the same KVM peripherals without the need to set up a separate set for each one of them. This not only cuts the hardware costs but also saves desk space.

A USB switch, on the other hand, can be thought of as a KVM switch without the video interface. It only handles the switching and sharing of USB devices. There are also video switches like HDMI switches or DP switches to deal with the video part. From this perspective, a KVM switch can be considered a combination of a USB switch and a video switch.

Monitors with Built-in KVM

A monitor with built-in KVM can be taken as a multi-input monitor with the function of a USB switch incorporated. With a multi-input monitor, you can switch to or select different video inputs, like the feature of a video switch. When a USB hub is integrated into this multi-input monitor, it combines video switching with USB switching features and serves like a KVM switch.

Most monitors provide various video interfaces like DP, HDMI, DVI, and for more old-fashioned, VGA interfaces. Monitors with built-in KVM features require: firstly, USB-A ports, of course, for connecting peripherals like a keyboard and a mouse; secondly, one or more USB-B ports to connect to your computers.

In this case, the monitor can have both video-switching and USB-switching functions. Video switching can be done by selecting the desired input source, while USB switching requires invoking an on-screen display (OSD) menu to set the USB host.

Since the Type-C interface is widely used for many devices, the monitors of the new generation are providing Type-C ports for connection. They are able to carry both video and USB signals, which makes KVM switching simpler. You can connect your computers to the monitor using Type-C cables, and once you select your input sources, the USB host will be switched too.

In the current market, monitors with built-in KVM functions are not very common. Typically, they can connect to two computer hosts for a two-to-one setup. One host is connected via a Type-C interface, while the other connects through USB and HDMI (or possibly DP or DVI). The number of available USB-A peripheral ports is often limited, primarily catering to keyboards and mice.

Monitors with KVM features are not a typical choice for users. There is not much provided on the market as well. The basic model of it would support dual-host, mostly one for Type-C connection, and another for USB & HDMI (or DisplayPort, DVI). Normally, there will be a limited number of USB ports; sometimes for a keyboard and a mouse only.

Monitors with KVM vs. KVM Switches

What are the differences between monitors with built-in KVM & KVM switches?

Cable Management

The biggest advantage of monitors with KVM is that it simplifies the cabling, especially for Type-C monitors, and keeps your desk neat and tidy. In fact, many users purchase a KVM switch for better cable management and a neat table as well. Yea, they both help and a KVM monitor saves more space since you don’t have to place a KVM switch on your desk. 

If you don’t take the premium price of a KVM monitor into consideration, you do save the extra cost of buying a KVM switch separately. However, there are limitations you should take into account too.

Switching Methods

  • KVM switch: Basically all KVM switches provide press button(s) on the equipment for switching. For some other KVM switches, there can be more switching methods, such as Hotkey, IR remote, and switching with the mouse wheel. You can switch both the video source and USB host at the same time.
  • Monitor with KVM: As we discussed above, a monitor with KVM switches video source and USB separately. It takes a few steps to successfully switch from one computer to another. If you’re using multiple displays, the switching would be even more cumbersome (the connection too). You need to switch the USB host, and the video source on each monitor one by one.

Number of Hosts

  • KVM switch: A KVM switch can support a good number of hosts. Models that are designed for end users mostly support from 2 to 4 computers. A professional KVM switch for a data center can even connect up to dozens of host machines. If you have a good number of devices, a KVM switch can be more scalable.
  • Monitor with KVM: Basically, a monitor with KVM supports connection up to two computers, or at best three. They are not specially designed for multiple hosts and it is more like an additional feature.

USB Availability

  • KVM switch: Manufacturers are striving to meet the various needs of their end users. They design KVM switches with different amounts of USB ports (mostly 3 to 6), and ports with different standards (USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and sometimes USB-C). Now you can even find KVM switches that have docking features (for example, with ports for LAN, SD card reader, Toslink Out, etc.) included which help integrate all devices of your setup. 
  • Monitor with KVM: A monitor with the KVM feature provides a limited amount of USB ports. Normally, there would be 2 to 3 USB-A ports for keyboard and mouse connection.

In short, KVM switches are designed to help share peripherals, including video (single or multiple), USB, and even more connectivity like Ethernet and analog audio with multiple devices. They keep evolving to meet the needs in different use scenarios, for example for home office, or gaming. Therefore, you will have different choices and they are more flexible.

Monitors with KVM are mainly designed for monitor use. KVM feature is a nice plus for some users and it would not be the main part of this product. That’s understandable. If you have a really simple setup, for example, two computers with one monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse, and no other USB devices needed, a monitor with KVM could be acceptable for you.

Comparisons

Monitor with KVMKVM Switch
Cable ManagementYesYes
Switching Methods1. One switch method
2. Switch video and USB seperately
1. Multiple switch methods (Button, IR, Hotkey, etc.)
2. Switch video and USB simultaneously
Number of MonitorsOneSingle or multiple
Number of Hosts22-4, or more
Supported PeripheralsLimited number of USBUSB, LAN, Audio and more

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AV Access KVM Switch

As an experienced supplier in the consumer KVM switch market, AV Access offers a wide range of single-screen and dual-screen KVM switch products. We also introduce the innovative iDock series and integrate the KVM switch with docking features to further empower your workstation. They improve your productivity, and also your work/entertaining experience.