Introduction

PS2 to USB converters: Breathing new life into old peripherals

Introduction:

My plan was to add another machine to my network and use a KVM switch to switch between them. The complication was I wanted to stick with my USB mouse and most KVM switches only use either PS2 or USB. I could always use the converter that came with the mouse and use it as a PS2 device but that would mean having to use a refresh rate accelerator to boost the response time as the smooth scrolling and instantaneous response times of USB spoilt me.

So in all my wisdom I decided to opt for the USB KVM switch, figuring that it would be easier to get a converter for the keyboard and leave the mouse USB. Did I mention I didn't want to change the keyboard since I like the split/natural design?

Off to search (Overview):

After researching these devices for some time I decided to purchase one by Kingwin. The name is popular and their other devices are of decent build quality. I was quickly reminded of the old saying; past performance is no guarantee of future results. Simply put the device sucked. My biggest gripe was the keyboard lagged in games. During normal usage there was also a very slight lag in response time when typing.

Next up was a more direct approach that came from an unknown manufacturer. Simple and straight forward design was what influenced this purchase. This device reminded me of the Natural Keyboard Elite USB converter which worked great. This time I was reminded of another old saying, looks could be deceiving. Not only was the lag atrocious when using the keyboard but there was even more lag when playing game like GTA: VC.

Now being utterly frustrated I decided to buy a keyboard that supported USB naturally, but, not before requesting a device from PI Engineering. Now if you are wondering why I didn't just go out and buy this one too, there are two reasons. The first, I wasn't sure itíll work, and second itís bloody expensive. At $50 you could get several keyboards in several styles and colors. Letís hope you get what you pay for.

Comparison of the dirty quarter dozen:

Maker Kingwin Smart Adapter Pi Engineering
Model UPS2C Ez-PU21 Y-mouse
Cost $17.00 $8.00 $50.00
Connectors 2 Color coded 2 Color Coded 2 (mouse & keyboard works on either one)
Supported OS* Win 98 SE through XP
USB Version* 1.1 1.1 1.1

*Note: Tested on XP
** Note: all three of these devices were tested on and are compatible with USB 2.0.

Testing:

In the overview you would notice I didn't touch on the mouse usage. That's because I am going to use it as the method of comparison between these 3 devices since I couldn't find some reliable way of measuring keyboard response.

Constants:
Mouse: MX500
USB Tracking: 125 Mhz.
PS2 Tracking: 97 Mhz


DeviceTracking (Hz)
Kingwin UPS2C 40
Smart Adapter Ez-PU21 40
Pi Engineering Y-mouse 61
Mouse on PS2 alone (USB to PS2 converter) 97
Mouse on USB alone 125

Kingwin UPS2C

Smart Adapter Ez-PU21

Pi Engineering Y-mouse

A little more on the Y-Mouse:

Pi Engineering takes nothing for granted, not only do they supply the device in a well packaged box but they also provide a comprehensive manual to accompany their product. A manual? Why? Donít you just plug it in and go? Yes and No. Yes itís fully plug and play compatible, but the manual is there to tell you about the special capabilities of the device, like an enhanced scroll rate and USB power off feature, even support for Scandinavian ď*í key code (more for UNIX workstations). Once configured, your setting are stored on the deviceís own built in memory allowing it to keep your settings even if you unplug, power down or move the unit to another machine. Accessing these functions is relatively simple, after the device is installed, assuming you have a keyboard plugged into it, open notepad, hold down escape and hit the S key.

One other thing worth mentioning about the Y-Mouse is its ability to use multiple Y-Mice in a sort of a daisy chain fashion, e.g. using the Y-mouse USB, add 2 Y-Mice PS2 and you could have 2 keyboards and 2 mice all working together.

Note: you would only see the first part (v3.12[q] etc), the rest is there just to illustrate what the functions are.

Response form the Pi Engineering

Since Pi Engineering is the only manufacturer I an in direct contact with I decided to forward them the question as to why special functions donít transition over when using their converter; admittedly this is not fair to the other manufactures, however, the response is understandable enough that it should transition to the others.

Here is their response:

ďThe Y-mouse PS/2 to USB converter has an on board microprocessor. This processor boots and manages the PS/2 devices. It collects the data and converts it to the appropriate USB codes for a standard mouse or keyboard. It also manages some other USB requirements such as sleep and power issues.

It can read all the standard keyboard keys (the main 104 and a few standard variations) and several standard mouse formats. It supports up to 5 mouse buttons and the scroller function as defined by Microsoft. The difficulty with the "extra" buttons on the keyboard and some mice is that there is no well defined format for these. In PS/2 the manufactures often chose their own format and then their driver would support the translation of the buttons to a function. As there is no standard, it was not possible to code this into the micro.

We chose to concentrate on reliability of the standard formats and not to support the non-standard additional buttons. Our unit will just ignore any non-standard commands and not cause any problems.Ē


I verified their claims with both a Logitech MX500 and a Microsoft Intelli Mouse Explorer (more in the Downside section).

Downside:

The downside to these devices is the lack of full support for special buttons. The keyboards were converted into a standard HID Complaint Keyboard and on the Kingwin and Smart Adapter there was no functionality for the extra mouse buttons; they were converted into the standard third mouse button or ignored.

On the Y-Mouse, however, there was almost full functionality reproduction when it came to the additional buttons on the two mice I used (MX500 and Intelli Mouse Explorer). The only button not supported was the quick switch button on the MX500. Understandably you will loose some functionality when using these converters.

I donít particularly mind the loss of the extra features on the keyboard, however, the loss of the back and forward (side) buttons on the mouse is unforgivable. I am too used to them when surfing to go back to the back and forward on the navigation tool bar.

One thing I noticed when using the Kingwin and Smart Adapter is their somewhat finicky hot swapping support. When switching the MX500 with the Intellipoint Explorer they refused to detect the new mouse; I would have to remove the device and plug it back into the USB port before the other mouse was usable. Switching keyboards was flawless, unplug one plug the other one in, done.

Usage and Conclusion:

After using each of these devices, the Y-Mouse is the most transparent of all. Not only was there no difference in my score in UT 2003 and BF1942, everything else seemed to be just as responsive. Also, in using these devices I found that all of them allowed support for two keyboards or two mice simultaneously. Why would you want to use two keyboards or mice simultaneously? I donít know, but itís there waiting to be exploited.

If you must have that PS2 keyboard and/or mouse converted to USB then get the PI Engineering Y-Mouse. For what itís designed to do it does it well, there is no better device that I know of to convert your existing PS2 devices to USB. If, however, itís too expensive then just get a new keyboard and mouse.

Pros and Cons:

Kingwin UPS2C

Pros:
    Cheap
    Color Coded plugs
    No drivers required
Cons:
    Lags in games
    Finicky hot swapping
    Loss of Extra Functionality

SLRating 4

Smart Adapter Ez-PU21

Pros:
    Cheap
    Color Coded plugs
    No drivers required
Cons:
    Lags in games and everyday usage
    Finicky hot swapping
    Loss of Extra Functionality

SLRating 4

Pi Engineering Y-mouse

Pros:
    Transparent to the user
    Long USB connector cable
    Great Documentation
    Enhanced Functionality
    No drivers required
    Flawless hot switching
    Supports extra mouse buttons as long as they adhere to Microsoftís specifications.
Cons:
    Loss of extra keyboard functionality
    Expensive (but justifiable)

SLRating 9.5

What they look like:

Kingwin UPS2C

Smart Adapter Ez-PU21

Pi Engineering Y-mouse




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