The Awesome New Level1 Techs USBc & HDMI KVMs

New Level1 KVMS?!!?!?!


Two models even!
*Two Port, One monitor USBc KVM
*Four Port, One monitor HDMI ( 4k @60hz) KVM

HDMI KVM!?!?

This KVM is essentially the same as our DP KVM but with HDMI instead of DP. Note that HDMI is just a bit less bandwidth than DP, but this supports HDMI 2.0/full spec/HDCP Passthrough and all that.

As with the DP KVM, when toggling inputs it disconnects the monitor from attached PCs and re-attaches it. Other options seem to introduce latency and gamers don’t like that.

Other than being HDMI instead of DP, no big changes here. USB3 (1 front/1 rear).

Two Port, One Monitor USB-C KVM

Apple products can be so terrible to work with. The trashcan Mac Pro requires a DP repeater but it does work with the Level1 One/Two Monitor KVM.

Background

Many laptops today have DP over USBc or DP over Thunderbolt and those can be problematic as well. In general most people have had very good success – probably the Level1 KVM is about the best KVM you can buy – but it’s not perfect. (So We Keep Going, right?)

Enter the Level1 USBc KVM. USBc/TB doesn’t play by the rules. It’s not a lot of fun. This KVM is generally the one you want for that situation. It’s been battle-tested on Macbook Pros with USBc and it works really well. Again, like the DP KVM there are some things you need to know to elevate your understanding of the situation because the fact that you need this hardware means that you are not, oh no, a normie.

What is this magical device?

So the Level1 USBc KVM has two USBc inputs. There is a physical switch on the KVM to toggle between “give all the bandwidth to display, damn the USB (if necessary)” and “damn the display, I will have my USB3 bandwidth”. This switch is also important for some phones that can use external displays (more on that in a sec).

We also have analog audio out + mic in. I had hoped the analog audio out + mic in would turn out a bit better. Don’t rely on the audio – a USB dac will work far better – but it’s there if you want to experiment.

There are 3 USB HID ports and 2 USB 3.0 ports (one front, one rear).

Where and When can I get one?

This KVM, and the new four port/One Monitor HDMI ([email protected]) KVMs are up for PREORDER at https://store.level1techs.com/
NOTE: It’s going to take 2-3 business days before the DP orders start shipping. The USBc and HDMI orders are preorders and will take much longer before they ship, details here and on the store.

What’s this going to cost me?

TBD. The USBc KVM is likely to be the least expensive KVM we will ever have. They aren’t cheap. They aren’t perfect. But they’re pretty darn good.

We are going to take preorders until April 22, then I will queue up a big order of the # of preorders plus 15-20%. It will take 4-6 weeks for assembly and testing. The pre-orders would start to ship around the week 2 or 3 of June. So if you pre-order you are guaranteed to get whatever you pre-order but it’s going to take a little bit for it to come. This is how we did it with the DP KVMs because I wasn’t sure what the demand would be and I think everyone would agree that we handled that really well. So we’re going to do that with the USBc and HDMI KVMs.

(The DP KVMs for single and dual monitor are in stock as of 2019-04-07 and orders of those will ship within 2-3 business days of ordering).

TODO: Add Links.

Darn, I already bought the DP KVM Last Year

Good news. You can use both USBc + DP KVMs at the same time!

The good news is that you can daisy chain/slave your USBc KVM to your DP KVM. How cool is that?

We have had the DP KVMs in stock for a while but I didn’t want to sell them until I could be confident the issues with earlier prototypes had been worked out. The production models + latest firmware are AWESOME. Better than ever. So I didn’t want to restock then a few weeks later say “surprise! new KVMs!” but we were waiting on some brand spankin new USBc silicon to confirm that some show-stopping issues would be fixed.

Slave a USBc KVM from a DP KVM

The input buttons obviously work fine. You want to use a short and high quality DP<>DP cable to connect the USBc KVM to the DP KVM. I recommend input #4 on the DP KVM. Just stack 'em. USB out on USBc KVM can go right to the input. Note I do not recommend passing through USB3 devices plugged in to just the USBc KVM if you do this. It works mostly, but it’s USB not a Christmas Tree.

If you want keyboard control, that’s doable, but a bit weird. So the trick here is that double tapping scroll lock or double tapping control and 1-4 will let you switch inputs 1-4 on a DP KVM by default. You can double tap scroll lock, then control, to disable control-control-num on ONE of the KVMs. It beeps once or twice to let you know whether the ctrl-ctrl hotkey is enabled.

The HID signals will then pass through to the other KVM. As such you can control each KVM with an independent key sequence.

Of course you can also just hit input # on the DP KVM then input # on the USBc KVM, and that’s fine too.

Haha, what about my USBc phone? Lulz?

Guess what? You can use USBc with your phone, probably, if you’re asking about this. Every phone is different and some require the USB-priority mode switch (Note: DO NOT switch modes while switch power is on! Nooooo!) so you’ll be limited to DP 4k 4:2:0 in that case… but yeah, it works. You can “Dock” your phone to a full size display/mouse/keyboard. It actually works really well on Samsung devices – shockingly well – todo put in Samsung DeX video here.

Other Notes

Note that the KVM doesn’t have any USB Power Delivery capability. It can’t even charge a USBc phone while mirroring the display. So don’t expect that. The KVM would have to handle “housefire” levels of power, which takes a long time and $$$$ so let’s not worry about that for now.

It’s taken forever to get the firmware just right. You’re welcome :smiley:

As with the DP KVM, when toggling inputs it disconnects the monitor from attached PCs and re-attaches it. Other options seem to introduce latency and gamers don’t like that.

CABLES Note best to use thunderbolt cables even though it isn’t thunderbolt.

You will get a big black nothing on the display if you use common usbc to USBc cables. This is because the wires for display and the wires for usb are different and not every USBc cable will do anything other than USBc. Even usb2/3 is in the cable. It’s weird. Not the kvm if you get cheap crappy cables that don’t have all the wires or are out of spec.

TODO: going to add lots of pics here in a sec.

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This news came at possibly the best time ever for me, it’s almost like you read my mind!

Literally 12 hours after being bummed out that the Dual DisplayPort KVM was out of stock, and may only be restocked in late May, I see this thread. April 7th - I’ll take that!

I’m fully intending to hit that buy button so hard, it may just fall off the internet.

As an aside, in your original video about the KVM, you mentioned how this kind of kit was really aimed at people working with test benches and the like. However, I think my situation touches on some of the same pain points, and all I’m doing with this gear is shuffling bytes around and gaming. Perhaps I’m straddling the line between enthusiast, technician, and wants-it-all pain in the arse…

Indulge me while I explain, while complaining a little!

My use case

I frequently end up with at least 2 machines in operation in my home office - some combination of PC, Mac Mini, MacBook Pro 2012 and MacBook Pro Touchbar 2016. Having two displays should help with that kind of work, but with all the time it takes to switch inputs on a couple of displays, along with switching physical cables, I end up spending most of my time with only one display active. I can only see this situation getting more painful when I add in a Linux development machine in the near future.

The biggest complicating factor is the 1440p 144Hz GSync display I use as my primary. Of course I want everything that can output 144Hz to do so, and I definitely want GSync on my gaming PC too. See, I’m a pain in the arse, right?

So, I decide to get a bit of of kit to help with the constant switching. I end up getting by with a simple mechanical DP1.2 switch combined with a USB switch, and a lot of futzing with on-screen displays. It’s slow, fiddly, and painful. Blackouts are infrequent but noticeable, and there’s still a lot of buttons and cables to switch.

Cue hunting around for DisplayPort 1.2-capable KVMs, and being sorely disappointed at compatibility and cost. You get a mix between no signal or blackout, and a severely wounded wallet. The Aten CS1944DP was the best I could find, but the dearth of reviews or feedback indicating that things like 144Hz or GSync would actually work worried me. In fact, the only thing I did see was difficulty in getting Aten to deal with any compatibility issues you may have. Not great for £600+.

So, here I am, looking very seriously at the Level1Techs KVMs. Very. Seriously. Indeed.

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That switch for EDID selection is something desperately needed, cause we need a EDID emulator that is capable of 4K 60 at 4:4:4/RGB. Sometimes I just want to shut off my 4K DisplayPort monitor when something’s rendering without the GPU going crazy because EDID info is lost going to the display.

Would be even better if that EDID emulator had FreeSync passthrough.

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Awesome :slight_smile:
small typo in the Where and When can I get one? section.

URL should be: https://store.level1techs.com/

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Does samsung dex work on the DP switch with the usbc->hdmi dex cable that samsung sells?

No because the dp switch is dp. Probably would work on the HDMI kvm though.

I’ve seen all kinds of adapters for DisplayPort; is the general rule of thumb that a DP signal can be converted to many different kinds of signals, but other signals cannot convert to DisplayPort?

DP ⇋ DP
DP → HDMI, DVI, VGA
DP ↚ HDMI

DisplayPort (the spec) has a number of different modes, and you’re correct that generally a device with a compliant DisplayPort output should be able to support a few different signal types.

It’s just not “conversion” in the traditional sense of the word. It’s more that the interconnect can be repurposed to support things like HDMI, and that ability to repurpose is defined as part of the general DisplayPort specification. It’s essentially repurposing the lines in the cable, with a level-shifter voltage adapter in the cable itself (from 3.3v as per DP to 5v for HDMI/DVI). The source is entirely aware that it’s transmitting HDMI or DVI over a DisplayPort output, at least that’s how I understand it.

See DisplayPort Dual Mode for DVI and HDMI over DisplayPort, DisplayPort Alt Mode for USB-C for DisplayPort over USB-C.

Also, I think that DisplayPort over Thunderbolt is part of the Thunderbolt standard, and therefore separate from the USB-C alt mode… Don’t quote me on that though!

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So, there’s a DisplayPort port and protocol, but the port supports more than just one protocol?

Is this correct:

Physical Port Protocol
DisplayPort DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI
USB Type C (DP-AM) DisplayPort
USB Type C (TB-AM) ThunderBolt (contains DisplayPort)
USB Type C (HDMI-AM) HDMI
HDMI HDMI

Does HDMI also support DVI in the same way that DisplayPort does?
Does the USB Type C DisplayPort alternate mode only allow DisplayPort protocol, or could you use it to pass through DVI for example?

Yup! It’s a pretty complete (and therefore complex) standard. There may be further distinctions (or pedantry) between the standard, port, protocol, and signals, however.

I’m not sure, I’m not nearly as read-up on HDMI as on DisplayPort. I seem to remember HDMI having some backward-compatibility measures, but I’m not sure if that’s true, nor whether it forms a part of the standard required for certification of HDMI devices.

It is specifically only for DisplayPort signals. From what I’ve read, use of Dual Mode adapters (think cable with DP on one end, HDMI the other) hanging off a USB-C to DP adapter is not a supported configuration.

Also as an aside, Mini DisplayPort is just an electrically-compatible connector with a smaller footprint, sort of how mini/micro-USB are in relation to USB Type B. It was an Apple invention.

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I have a separate but related problem. All HDMI switches suck. Everything on Amazon is cheap chinese crap and never seems to work reliably. I would happily pay >$100 for a 6 port HDMI 2.0b capable switch that could be controlled via IR and bluetooth.

The store has an HDMI switch, so what it’s missing for you is the remote control aspect, and validation for 2.0b?

Actually, 2.0a and 2.0b seem to be mainly HDR metadata additions according to Wikipedia is there a chance that the existing L1 HDMI KVM would work fine with 2.0b signals, since it does not use a repeater?

There’s a chance, sure. Would just need it to work via IR and bluetooth, and of course cut prices by like 66%. Those Chinese HDMI switches don’t work very well, but they are extremely cheap. Coming in at $100 would be a nigh-1000% price increase.

My thinking is that like KVMs, HDMI switches also suck, but unlike KVMs they are a true mass-market product. You could make a lot of money selling a premium HDMI switch that actually works, no BS, for a hundred bucks, to people like me that have bought several crappy switches off Amazon and want something that just works already.

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Oh, sorry I was deep in thought about HDMI and DisplayPort, and forgot about the whole USB switching component in there for a moment.

That is the main difference, right?
KVM = display switch + USB switch

Yes, plus it looks at the USB input for the switching keystrokes, and home-theater HDMI switches need IR and/or bluetooth to initiate switching input.

Do these KVMs use custom firmware or will the OEM eventually sell the exact same stuff to bigger brands? (That seems to have happened with the DP model)

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Custom fw. The startech ones are still garbage firmware and no USB3 :wink:

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I noticed that startech sells a rack mount for the single monitor DP KVMs that i assume fits your single DP KVM as well, but is there a rack mount for the double monitor KVM?

Having a proper HDMI or DP switch would be great.