❓ 20 Questions 💡

🎵 The song for this post is René, by Residente. 🎵

There'll be a bunch of us in nursing homes doing bodyweight exercises on the floor with Dalgona coffee next to us and our adult children will be holding paper coffee cups and be like "yeah, they lived through COVID. Let's go to the gym."

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://morepablo.com/2020/05/20-questions.html

Yeah I guess there aren’t any USB-C KVM switches on the market yet. All that crap is too new and manufacturers haven’t caught up to each other yet. Most of the ones I’ve seen are just VGA and PS/2. I was surprised to even see a few DisplayPort and HDMI ones, and they’re fairly expensive. Overall, my impression of USB-C so far is “why does this have to be so hard?”

This is a cop-out answer and not helpful for your situation, but the monitors we got at work solve the KVM problem a different way. If you ever find yourself in the market for a new monitor down the road, you may be able to find one you like that has this feature.

The Dell U3419W has video inputs for DisplayPort, 2 × HDMI, and USB-C. It can charge laptops over USB-C. It also has an internal USB 3 hub with 2 × USB 3 B input ports (to connect to your computers) and 4 × USB 3 A output ports (to connect to your peripherals). Crucially, you can bind the video sources to USB sources. This gives you KVM behavior inside the monitor.

Example setup


USB hub configuration

Here is how you bind the video sources to USB sources.

With these settings, it means that

  • whenever I choose the DisplayPort input, all the USB devices hooked up to my monitor will be connected to the computer on the other end of the #1 USB A-B cable.
  • whenever I choose the HDMI 1 or HDMI 2 input, all the USB devices hooked up to my monitor will be switched over to the computer on the other end of the #2 USB A-B cable.
  • whenever I choose the USB-C input, all the USB devices hooked up to my monitor will be switched over to the computer on the other end of the USB-C cable, which is permanently bound.

Note that Dell calls the USB hub inputs “USB 1” and “USB 2.” This is a little confusing because they’re not referring to the older, slower USB 1.1 or USB 2.0 standards, they’re a pair of USB 3.0 ports that are just called 1 and 2 to differentiate them. I think naming them USB #1 and USB #2 would have been more straightforward.

Usage example

Switch the video input on your monitor from DisplayPort to USB-C using the buttons and on-screen display, and all your USB peripherals will be disconnected from your desktop and connected to your laptop.

This is a very expensive way to solve the KVM problem, so I would only recommend looking into it if you were ready to get a big new monitor anyway. It’s not worthwhile otherwise. That being said, I really love this monitor.

@Aldaviva ! This is awesome! And so unfortunately timed lol, I bought a monitor last week and it’s getting delivered tomorrow x_x

It’s an Acer Nitro XV273, which is exciting, but I was strongly considering a Dell, and while I like looking up monitors on Tom’s Hardware, I would have taken this recommendation lol.

This is very useful though, for giving me a bit more to think about outside the box, while also confirming my feeling that HDMI/DisplayPort KVMs are still pretty early, all things considered. I’ll post updates if I’m able to crack this nut—I’d love to be able to push a button and get dual monitors with decent performance (not too much resolution or refresh downgrade) and all my peripherals on whichever computer I want to be using.

Looks like a nice monitor, congratulations! Let me know how you like it.

The Dell U3419W is pretty different, so I’m not sure it would have fit your situation as well as the Acer. The Dell is 3440×1440px, so it’s a lot more demanding on the graphics card than 1920×1080px, and there are some games where my GeForce 1070 needs to have the settings turned down to run well. It’s also a 60Hz monitor, so if you want higher refresh rates and no ghosting then it also won’t be what you want. It does the thing where it tries to negate ghosting by painting a contrasting afterimage where motion has happened to avoid smearing, but it’s still very visually obvious and cannot compete with the higher framerates of a 120-240Hz monitor that just avoids this problem entirely by being faster.

When I was using both Mac and Windows machines interchangeably at work, my technique was a monitor button hotkey (if yours are customizable) to quickly change inputs, and then manually plugging a USB hub with all my peripherals into the correct computer, using a USB extension cord to reach the desktop under my desk without crawling. Depending on how your hardware is located, that may help you.

I haven’t tried any USB switches, but something like this may be helpful as well.