by Greg Ross
LogMeIn Free's remote access software promises access to your computer's data from any Internet-connected PC. Is this the frequently traveler's dream application, or just another kludgy third-party replacement for Windows XP remote desktop. Read our LogMeIn Free review to find out.
Account Creation and Program Installation
In order to install LogMeIn onto any computer, or access any computer from the Internet, users need to first create a LogMeIn account at LogMeIn.com. LogMeIn offers several products tiers; this review will focus on the LogMeIn Free product offering. Signing up costs nothing but a minute of time, though opting out of some of the information and offers emails might be advised.
In general, the LogMeIn signup process is bit drawn out and has a few quirks, but nothing terribly cumbersome. Among the minor oddities:
After the installation is complete, no rebooting or restarting is necessary. The computer is now ready to be accessed from any 'net-connected PC.
Installation of LogMeIn is a bit longer than preferred, but it is not too long nor too complicated. Despite this, the program only took a few trouble-free minutes to install.
In order to access the target computer from another location, users will need to log back into LogMeIn from their mobile computer or public access station. When a computer is offline it will show up in the main menu as a grayed out option. If the target computer is online and working a blue link will appear instead. Clicking on the blue link will start the remote access session.
The main screen for the remote session presents a compact list of options in the sidebar. Users can either choose to jump right into the remote control program or go through the help or preference pages.
The preferences page presents a series of pages and settings that are all a few clicks away. Advanced remote control settings can be configured, security can be altered and additional levels of protection can be implemented, or various other network settings and log files can be accessed. The program also gives the user the option to restart LogMeIn on the target computer, or completely reboot the target computer, in order to solve any issues that might come up with the computer. While it is not a feature that will probably need to be used often, being able to remotely reboot a computer will certainly help in the unlikely event of a computer or application crash.
There are a few settings in particular that we want to bring to our readers' attention. By clicking on the Remote Control option within the preference page, users can access some very important settings, particularly the Security section. Unless users are tutoring someone else watching the target screen, it would be advised to disable the target's keyboard, mouse, and monitor during the remote control session. If that is not done, someone else will be able to see everything you do and get in the way by typing or taking control of the mouse. These options can be configured during the remote control session as well.
From within the Remote Control session itself, the target computer's desktop is the centerpiece of the application. The sidebar is the same one previously discussed, while the top bar now pops up to present a wide variety of new options. The layout is very user-friendly, and the options are easy to understand. As mentioned before, the screen, keyboard and mouse can be disabled on the target computer here as well.
Training or help sessions could also be run via LogMeIn as well. A chat screen can be enabled to interact with a user sitting at the target computer, while the Whiteboard feature can draw figures on screen or the Laser feature can point to specific items in a program.
The visual quality and resolution of the remote session can also be adjusted. Color quality can be reduced to reduce latency, or enhanced if there is plenty of bandwidth available. The display resolution can also be adjusted as needed, though the available resolutions are somewhat limited (mostly 4:3 aspect resolutions like 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1600x1200, etc, etc). Full screen mode is also available for users that prefer the appearance of actually working at the target computer's location, and it also makes the best use of available screen real estate. If necessary, LogMeIn can zoom in and out as well. The program also supports multi-monitor viewing in the event the target computer has two monitors.
During the evaluation period, the target computer was connected to the Internet via a 6Mbit DSL connection. The computer used to access the target was connected to the same DSL connection for a high-speed test, or connected to the Internet using a public WiFi hotspot in the same city.
On the target computer, LogMeIn had no impact on the target system's performance and it needed very few system resources to operate.
When using home and home office applications, LogMeIn was snappy with little to no latency or stuttering most of the time. Opening, closing, moving, or resizing windows does produce some latency, but it is certainly understandable for a remote connection. Viewing streaming video does produce stuttered video clips, but once again remote access applications really are not meant for it. But to LogMeIn's credit -- and unlike some competing products -- the remote access interface did not lock up when streaming video was playing. Outside of those constraints, LogMeIn did impress us with its capabilities.
We had no problem working with the operating system and all the programs installed on the computer; it was almost like we were sitting at the actual target computer. We could reinstall or run applications, change settings in the OS, open up Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel and work on a file, and do virtually any other task the target computer is capable of performing.
It is also possible to access your computer using a wide variety of system configurations. We had no issue accessing the target computer using Internet Explorer 7, IE8, Firefox 2, or FF3. LogMeIn also supports Mac computers, which suggest that Safari is also supported, though we did not test this theory.
LogMeIn Free also allows the user to remotely control and access any number of computers from anywhere. One account can easily be used to access your work computer, your media server, home computer, laptop, and even your grandmother's computer for free.
Limitations and LogMeIn Pro
LogMeIn Free, while it does a great job providing access to computers remotely, is a slimmed down version of a much more powerful LogMeIn Pro. LogMeIn Pro costs about $70 per year per computer, though bulk discounts are available.
LogMeIn Free is not able to share printers, or directly share files between the two computers, or keep files between two computers synchronized. However, the pay-to-play version LogMeIn Pro does have those abilities. Given the cost of LogMeIn Free (or rather the lack thereof), there are no complaints here.
LogMeIn Free is a very impressive tool that provides a quick and easy way to remotely access, control, and use computers while away from home or work. LogMeIn Free can be installed on any number of computers in any location, and the program is very snappy and smooth. Since it is freeware, it does not offer remote audio streaming nor file sharing/synchronization, but a more powerful version is available at a fair price for those that need these advanced features. This program has met all of our expectations; it works and works well.
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