Sharedware – Sharedware Savage review

one PC, several monitors, keyboard and mice, with 3D graphics
Photo of Sharedware – Sharedware Savage
£170 + VAT

We reviewed the original Sharedware card quite a while ago (read our review). It’s an ingenious device that allows two people to use the same computer simultaneously, for different tasks. You need an extra keyboard, mouse and monitor, of course, but that’s still potentially cheaper than buying a complete PC.

This new card adds a few more ingredients to the mix, as you can probably tell from its name. The Sharedware Savage now features a graphics engine based on S3′s Savage3D chip, with 8MB of SDRAM. This opens up the possibilities for gamers, while the improved drivers also increase the range of applications supported.

The Sharedware card installs in a PCI slot, and has connectors at the back for a monitor, keyboard and mouse, plus speakers and a microphone. Once installed, it acts as a second workstation, using the multi-tasking features of Windows 95/98 to configure a second desktop, and allow a second user to access all the features of the host PC simultaneously. With the older version, only native 32-bit Windows applications could be shared properly, but now there’s support for 16-bit apps and DOS boxes running under Windows too.

It is even possible to play some multi-player games in Deathmatch mode using the Sharedware card. Some will obviously require more processing power than usual, but we had a bit of a thrash with Forsaken and things worked quite nicely. OpenGL and Direct3D are both supported, although the company recommends the latter, due to disappointing OpenGL performance from S3′s early drivers. Obviously, if you’re playing a two-player game, you’ll need twice the memory recommended for a single player.

On a more serious note, the Sharedware Savage duplicates access to pretty much all your PC’s peripherals. This means that both users can access the CD drive, printer, and modem simultaneously. So it’s possible to browse different Web sites on two separate screens. Simultaneous networking access is also supported, if you’re connected to a network, via a single network card. Other very useful features of this card include a TV output, so that you can play games on a TV screen while someone else uses a monitor, and there’s full sound support from an ESS Agogo chip.

Company: Sharedware

Contact: 01274 401010

You'd think there'd be major problems with this device, but there aren't. It just seems to work perfectly. Whether it's cheaper, after adding on the monitor, mouse and keyboard, than buying a budget PC as a second machine, is debatable, but it should certainly save on the upgrade bills. If you're feeling really fancy, you can buy two Sharedware Savage cards and have a three-user PC...