Hands-On: 4 Remote-Desktop Services

LogMeIn

LogMeIn allows you to access your host computer through a Web browser. While the basic Web service is free, you can also use a standalone application called Ignition, which is sold separately, or use a for-pay plan called Pro2.

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How It Works

After you install the hosting software on the computer you want to remotely connect to, you log in to your user account on the LogMeIn site from your client computer. Click the name of your host listed on your user page, and its desktop appears within the Web browser (it requires both Java and Flash.)

If you'd prefer to use a front end on the client side (which offers better performance than the Web-based version), you can download Ignition; it costs $7.95 monthly or $39.95 annually for the Windows and Mac versions. An Ignition app for the iPad, iPhone or an Android device costs $29.95.

Whether you use the Web interface or Ignition, you can use a chat tool to communicate between the host and client.

Settings and Extra Tools

Like GoToMyPC, both the Web browser interface and Ignition let you adjust the number of colors that your host computer's desktop shows.

If you want to receive audio from your host computer or transfer files between your host and client computers, you have to subscribe to the Pro2 plan, which has an annual fee of $69.95. The file-transfer tools in both the Web-access version of LogMeIn and in Ignition work like GoToMyPC's -- i.e., one panel displays the file directory of the host, the other the file directory of the client. (Incidentally, you can use the Ignition client with either the free Web version or the Pro2 version.)

Performance

On a few occasions, when I was using a Web browser to access my host's desktop, the delay was so long when I clicked an item on the desktop of my host computer that I wondered if LogMeIn had frozen. However, most of the time the lag wasn't that bad, and the delay experienced in response felt like less than a second at most. When I turned down the color range of the host computer's desktop, it improved things a bit, but not significantly. I got the same results using Firefox 4.0 and Chrome 12 (the developer's version).

Things were a lot more bearable and responsive when I used Ignition to control my host. Obviously, I prefer this method: LogMeIn with Ignition is clearly the faster and more workable solution.

Like GoToMyPC, the sound quality of the music files that I played on my host computer -- whether I was using Web access or Ignition to connect to and control my host -- was comparable to what you might expect to hear from a decent but not high-fidelity radio stream.

Bottom Line

LogMeIn may have a free version of its service, but for the optimal experience (including hearing audio output from your host computer), you'll have to subscribe to the Pro2 plan and pay to use the standalone client, Ignition. Since you have to pay for both of these things separately, the total cost (the Pro2 plan plus an annual subscription to use the Windows version of Ignition) can hit $110 a year. That sounds pricey, but considering how well the product works, it could be worth it.

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