Aten CS1782 DVI KVMP Switch Review-
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Overall, the CS1782 worked like a charm. One of the best things about it, is that you can be blasting through enemies in Vegas 2 on one computer, while using the second PC to voice-chat via Ventrilo, Teamspeak, or your voice program of choice. You can switch between the two computers at will without issues, whether in a game or out of a game. No more alt-tabbing out of games and causing them to crash! One of the things the Wife and I need most, is to be able to check out some of the wiki sites for WoW while playing (or hint sites for any game really, or to yap on MSN, whatever). WoW tends to be incredibly stable when alt-tabbing, but I had her test it repeatedly while playing anyway. Other games, like Vegas and Vegas 2, are notorious for either crashing or doing weird things like stuttering, hitching, etc when you alt-tab out of them, so during those games she and I both played and used the CS1782 to switch back to the Asus to surf the net, turn on music, open Ventrilo and Xfire and MSN and...you get the point.
Video quality was excellent on the Viewsonic VA1912wb LCD. Whether at the desktop, using MS Word, or gaming, the quality was the same as plugging directly into the video card instead of the KVM.
The front USB hub allows our Logitech RumblePad 2 USB gamepad to function on both computers, and switching back and forth between say, Race Driver: Grid on one and NFS Hot Pursuit 2 on another, gave us zero issues. We did come across a couple of minor and/or annoying issues during game testing. The MS PS/2 keyboard had a polling problem in World of Warcraft. Using the WASD keys to move in the game, if holding the W key to move forward, hitting A or S or D or any key actually, would cause the character to come to a complete stop. This is more than annoying while playing, but it isn’t a deal-breaker, as long as you have a USB keyboard. Once we plugged in the Aopen USB keyboard into the front USB hub port of the CS1782, this problem went away.
We also encountered this issue while playing Vegas and Vegas 2, but it was slightly more odd in the sense that holding W key to move your character forward, would only be interrupted/stopped if you hit D to turn right, as your character would come to a complete stop, forcing you to let go of W and then pressing it again. However, if while holding W to move forward, you held down the A key, your character would continue moving forward-left. The oddest thing about it, is that it was more apparent in Vegas 2, but it didn’t occur 100% of the time. Using the Aopen USB keyboard made this issue disappear instantly.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 was the last game to show any strange issues while the computers were hooked in to the CS1782. The Logitech gamepad had zero problems, but trying to type anything with the PS/2 keyboard in the menus (character creation, etc) was basically impossible. Once again, using the Aopen PS/2 keyboard resolved this issue completely, which leads me to believe the problem is something to do with the way PS/2 devices “poll” (or ask) for CPU time. I’ve submitted this question to Aten, and I will update this review with a reply as soon as I receive it. I’ll hopefully get to use that Firmware Upgrade Port! (Some of us just cannot resist flashing a bios/firmware!).
Update: I asked Bill @ Aten about this, and he gave me a reply:
“We need to put some firmware between the keyboard and the output of the KVM (emulation), this firmware reads special key stroke combinations to allow the KVM to independently switch video, audio and USB sharing between computers. By necessity this emulation needs to be as basic as possible and because of this simplicity sometime programmed keys or special gaming key combinations are not passed through the KVM to the computer.”
The audio ports up front work properly, and more importantly, they work to give you front audio headphone + mic inputs for computers that don’t have front audio ports (or don’t have them hooked up). Anyone who has a Creative or other PCI sound card but doesn’t have the front-panel device that goes with it, knows the pain of not being able to plug your headset/mic into the front of the computer. The CS1782 does the job perfectly because the KVM is plugged into the rear ports of your sound card, eliminating much cursing as you try to reach around the back of your computer to plug in the headset/mic (and going back and forth between headset/mic and speakers = triple cursing grrrr).
How did the audio sound? Since I don’t have a true 7.1 system, I could only test with 6.1’s and 5.1’s. I noticed no discernable audio degradation going through the CS1782 while plugged into either speaker set. The Klipsch 5.1’s almost always allow me to hear differences in audio, as I almost always use them in digital optical mode with a Creative DTS-100 decoder. Yet even at high volumes with both computers playing Winamp FLAC (lossless) audio files through the analog cables (the CS1782 doesn't support digital optical/coax), it sounded almost exactly the same as if the computers were plugged directly into the DTS-100 (typical difference between digital and analog which isn't all that much unless you have audiophile ears and extremely expensive hardware to differentiate sound qualities).
Since audio always sounds awful through the Logitech headphones (they’ve been stepped on, dropped, and abused in many ways over the years but the microphone is still the best in the lab), we mainly used it for the microphone, and used the Sennheiser HD 485 headphones. While the Senns are not the top-of-the-line, they are definitely some high quality headphones. Once again, I found no difference in audio when plugged into the front of the CS1782 vs. plugging straight into the Audigy2 ZS or Realtek ALC888. The microphone worked perfectly as well, without the need to adjust volume/sensitivity levels. I experienced no lag while using Ventrilo to talk smack while getting a good beat-down in Vegas 2.
All that is left to talk about now is a very cool feature that can eliminate the need to press any buttons to control the KVM. Bill at Aten was quoted earlier about the problems with some games using a PS/2 keyboard, because of certain key combinations, and these are those key combinations that he was talking about.
Hotkey Setting Mode, or HSM, allows you to hit a specific combination of keys that commands the KVM to do whatever function is tied to that combination.
For example, if you hit:
[Scroll Lock] [Scroll Lock] [Enter]
this combination commands the KVM to switch KVM, USB, and audio focus completely from the computer it is currently focused on to the other computer.
Other combinations in HSM do everything from switching audio only, USB only, to just about any function that the CS1782 can control. You can even set [n] variables (for those of you who remember algebra, which isn’t required!) to control how many seconds the KVM will scan, to inputting the port number that a command will affect.
Honestly, I didn’t play around with the HSM as much as some of you might. I did fool around enough to get a sense of how the thing works (as it will now be my #1 KVM since it can do DVI and audio which clears up some space by removing a monitor and a set of speakers!), and to verify that it definitely does work as advertised. For me, just reaching forward to press or hold a button is not a worry, but I could easily see myself over time learning the HSM keystrokes by heart. Another welcome addition in a feature-packed piece of hardware that feels like it was built just for gamers and enthusiasts, like myself, as well as a lot of you reading this review.