Today we’re looking at a very helpful gadget, the USB 3.0 Smart Link Cable for Keyboard and Mouse from ICZI. Basically this is a double-ended USB cable, which allows you to share a single keyboard and mouse between multiple computers. It has some other extra abilities too, like sharing a clipboard and even sending files across. Here’s our review.
The Smart Link Cable comprises of a fairly thick plastic cable, with USB plugs on each end. One end is the size of a standard plug, while the other is thicker and wider — this end contains the flash storage and other circuitry needed to make the connection.
The cable is supplied with a velcro tie, so you can keep it neatly bundled when it’s not in use. No other pieces are required or provided, apart from the obligatory warranty card.
Getting the USB 3.0 Smart Link Cable set up is pretty straightforward. Just plug one end into each of the PCs that you want to connect, ideally into a high-speed USB 3.0 port — it’ll work with USB 2.0, but the connection will have more delay and file sharing will be slower as well. A SuperLink drive will appear on each PC, containing the installation program. Run this on both machines, and then restart. The program will run automatically on boot and make the connection, allowing you to begin sharing.
Let’s look at the different functions available, and evaluate how well they work.
Keyboard and mouse sharing
First up, we have mouse and keyboard sharing – basically, you can control two computers with one keyboard and one mouse.
This is really handy if you have two computers that you need to use from time to time, but you don’t want to invest in two mechanical keyboards and two comfortable mice, for example, or you just don’t want your desk to be cluttered with superfluous accessories. I used this functionality to control a laptop review unit from my desktop’s mouse and keyboard.
Note that this is not a KVM Switch, as video isn’t shared — you’ll need a working and connected monitor (or built-in display, in the case of a laptop) for each device that you have connected.
There are a few different options you can tweak here. If you are going to be switching frequently between the two computers, you can keep the default functionality which switches the PC you control once your mouse cursor reaches one edge of your screen. You can tell the program how the two machines are connected so that the appropriate edge is chosen.
If you only need to switch between the machines every so often, then manual switching (via a key command of your choice) might work better. I opted to use the default, Alt + S, and this worked fine for me. You can also switch when the middle mouse button is pressed, but I felt this would interfere with common web browsing tasks (e.g. closing tabs, opening a link in a new tab) so I didn’t use it.
Overall, the keyboard and mouse sharing was on point. There was only a tiny bit of lag evident, and certainly not enough to throw off basic web browsing, image editing or file management or other common tasks. You probably wouldn’t want to play games this way due to the input lag, but it does work in full-screen applications like games — I used it to run in-game benchmarks, for example.
Clipboard & file sharing
You can also choose to share clipboards between the two computers. This means you can select text on one, copy it, and paste it on the other. It also works for files in the same way; just copy it, switch to the other machine, and press paste to copy the file to your current location.
File transfers were quite rapid, although the speed limitations of USB mean that it worked better for small files like documents and photos than it did for HD movies. Still, it’s way easier to use and (potentially) faster than network file sharing. It took 108 seconds to transfer a 3.98GB AVI file (old Battlefield Bad Company 2 Fraps recordings, natch), working out to a speed of about 37 MB/s (~= 280 Mb/s).
Overall, the Smart Link Cable did exactly what it said on the tin, without hassle or fuss. We’re happy to recommend it for anyone looking to share a keyboard and mouse between their computer, and doesn’t want to deal with (typically less fluid) software solutions like Synergy. For £20 — its current discounted price — it feels like a pretty solid deal.