Startech KVM Console USB Crash Cart Adapter

If you've ever needed to plug a keyboard, monitor and mouse into a server, this handy KVM could really save you backache.

We tested the adaptor by using a laptop running Windows Vista to control various PCs running Windows XP, Debian 4 and a SUSE 9 rescue disc. In every case, the connected machine's display immediately appeared in the windowed display of the utility installed on our laptop. Standard actions with our laptop keyboard and touchpad were passed on to the connected machine perfectly, although we found that some special commands, such as alt-tab to change window focus, continued to control the laptop rather than the system we were connected to.

reboot

Unlike a remote desktop connection, you can view and control the system from the moment it boots.

We were pleased to find that we had no difficulty accessing the BIOS of the machine we were controlling when we rebooted, although its low resolution meant that the display was shrunk to the centre of our screen. Display quality is a bit of an issue. You can reposition the display, adjust its resolution and full-screen it (assuming you're not viewing a square display on a widescreen laptop, as illustrated by our screen shots), but fine detail looks a little fuzzy, which can make it harder to read small fonts. However, everything was clear enough to work with, which is all that's really required.

rescue

The Crash Cart itself can be used to control any operating system, including this Linux rescue disc.

Other settings on the control interface enable you to take a screenshot of the connected machine and send special keyboard commands. There's also a ctrl-alt-del shortcut. A mouse menu lets you enable MacOS X scaling, which provides more accurate mouse tracking when you're connected to a Mac. You can also disable the mouse entirely if you want to use a USB mouse connected directly to the client machine. This is worth doing on Linux machines, as poor tracking of Crash Cart's emulated mouse meant that our cursor was generally several inches away from where it was supposed to be.

Verdict

Despite issues with short cables and poor mouse tracking under Linux, the Crash Cart Adapter is really handy, particularly if you or your technicians work on a wide range of servers in different locations. However, at £300 excluding VAT, you're going to have to get a lot of use out of it before you can justify the purchase price. Nonetheless, it's cheaper than setting up a screen and static KVM switches in several different server rooms.

Warranty: 1 Year Number of KVM Ports: 1 Supported Platforms: USB and PS/2 (PS/2 keyboard support only) Maximum Analog Resolutions: 1920x1600 @ 60Hz Cable Length: 1 x 15in (385mm) USB host cable, 1 x 3in (76mm) VGA host cable, 1 x 6ft (1.8m) USB Console cable Console Interface(s): 1 - USB A Male Host Interface(s): 1 - High Density DB15 (VGA) Male Host Interface(s): 1 - USB A Male Host Interface(s): 1 - 6 pin mini-DIN PS/2 Male Size: 15x74x155mm (HxWxD) Weight: 0.17 kg

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