how can i easily swap between three computers using three monitors ?
June 23, 2018 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Is there a gadget that costs under $200 that allows me to easily connect three monitors to my Macbook when I'm working, switch them back over to my desktop when I'm looking to play Overwatch at night, and for bonus points connect to my Surface Pro when I feel like it?

I have three monitors that I like to use with my desktop computer. As I now work from home, I'd like to be able to easily switch between using them for my desktop computer, which is a PC, and my work computer, which is a Macbook Air.

Two monitors have DVI and VGA output - I've been using a DVI to DisplayPort converter cord to connect to my desktop's graphics card, a Nvidia GTX 960. The main monitor has VGA and HDMI.

My Surface Pro uses DisplayPort, either plugged into my Surface dock or directly to the computer.

My work Macbook Air uses DisplayPort as well.

I've looked into KVM switches but they seem to vary a LOT in quality, and most don't allow for three monitors. I've also considered getting a docking station and switching that between the three computers as needed. However, most seem to just use USB 2.0 and again, I'm worried about quality.

Bonus points for a solution that allows for switching my Razer keyboard and mouse between computers easily as well, same for audio ports. Additional points for personal experience - I've found a lot of options but I'd really like to hear if anyone has done this or something like it themselves, and how successful it was.

posted by beware the frog person to Technology (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
yes, sort of, but the answer is maybe not what you are looking for.

In the past, I have implemented this solution in a number of ways, including via the use of a Matrox triplehead, which is the closest single-doohickey solution I know of. Unfortunately my Mac and the triplehead did not play nice to provide 3x1080p.

So at that point I used the triplehead to get 3x1080 on the wintel and three cheap USB video adapters to get 3x1080 on the mac.

Eventually I bought a newer video card that had a potential native 4x1080 outs and installed it on the Mac, and then used a dual boot solution to move between a PC gaming environment and a Mac work environment.

I did, at one point, buy a DVI monitor-switching device that theoretically would have permitted me to swap the triplehead between platform outputs but the use-case was not supported (whhhhhhyyyy? I mean it's DVI for the luvva). so until I moved to dual boot, I was relying on multiple paralell digital inputs to my three monitors and switching them a monitor at a time, manually via front-of-monitor-panel switches.

Hope this helps. Any specific gear part number and mfrs you want, ask, and I will do a gear rummage.
posted by mwhybark at 7:58 PM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Not a direct reply to your question, but have you tried Mouse Without Borders? It may be a different way to approach the same problem.
posted by aqsakal at 11:00 PM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was relying on multiple paralell digital inputs to my three monitors and switching them a monitor at a time, manually via front-of-monitor-panel switches.

I take this back. I was running the monitors with ins to both DVI and VGA on the back and using adapter cables to get from DVI to VGA for one set of three inputs.
posted by mwhybark at 9:39 AM on June 24, 2018

also, you had mentioned examining and rejecting KVMs. There is a KVM that does exactly what you want, made by StarTech. It's not under $200, either. Just wanted to link to it as a starter.
posted by mwhybark at 9:51 AM on June 24, 2018

I have an HDMI switch (it reminds me so much of a KVM!) and if you can get the right adapters that could be a baseline. Mine has three ports.

For work I have a new Macbook Pro which is all "USB-C" - WTF - and there seem to be adapters for everything. In general if a machine is still supported, there's a really good chance that someone has needed/invented/found a solution.
posted by bendy at 8:31 PM on June 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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