By: Greg Ross
Does the GoToMyPC creator, Citrix Systems, bring their enterprise-class engineering and product lines to the consumer market? Or is GoToMyPC just the ugly stepchild of the Citrix family? Read the full review to find out.
Account Creation and Program Setup
In order to install GoToMyPC on any computer, users will need to create a new account. Users are welcome to immediately subscribe to GoToMyPC's services, but you can try before you buy using a free 30 day trial. However, it was a little annoying that we still had to give Citrix our credit card details in order to start the trial. Make sure the trial is cancelled before the 30 days is up, otherwise monthly billing will start.
Right clicking the GoToMyPC icon on the target computer's system tray prompts the above Preferences window to open. Each tab controls a fairly self-explanatory set of preferences, which collectively are rather robust.
The Performance tab lays out all of the settings that can impact the overall user experience. GoToMyPC does a good job of informing the user how each choice affects program performance. GoToMyPC also supports streaming audio, which is configured to turn the sound off should the network not have enough available bandwidth.
Like GoToMyPC's competitor LogMeIn Free, users will want to pay attention to the settings in the Security tab. If the keyboard and monitor are not shutdown on the target computer during an active remote session, peeping eyes can see what you are doing on the target computer and possibly get in the way by trying to take over the computer physically.
GoToMyPC also supports printer sharing, should you need to send a file on the target computer to the printer on the remote access station.
From the client computer, starting GoToMyPC's remote access session is as easy as logging back in and clicking the Connect button next to the computer alias. After a minute or so, the Citrix client program will pop up and ask for the authentication password previously set up.
From there, a fairly minimalistic user interface pops up that displays the target computer's desktop screen. The layout provides access to the chat session, file transfer window, and a few other goodies. Three buttons at the top right corner of the window provide quick access to sound control, file transfer control, and a button to send the magic Ctrl-Alt-Del key combination to the target computer. While the user interface is fairly self-explanatory, it does not provide quick access to some of the preferences and options like keyboard/mouse control and viewing quality control.
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 Wi-Fi hotspot in the same city.
GoToMyPC had no impact on the target computer's overall performance, and it required few system resources to operate. But we were surprised that the overall experience felt slow. Upon investigation, Citrix's application was just as fast as the competition but waits to update the screen in full rather than incrementally updating like its competitors. We still suffered from high latencies with keyboard and mouse usage with lag as high as a quarter of a second between a keystroke and GoToMyPC's reaction to that keystroke. Latency could not be eliminated, but we were able to minimize it by turning sound off and lowering visual quality as far down as possible.
On a positive note, GoToMyPC worked fairly well when it came to accessing the target computer. We had no problems controlling the computer, opening applications, editing documents, and configuring the computer as if we were sitting right at the desk with the target computer. Streaming audio and video were both stuttered, but video streaming performed better than most of the competition in this roundup thus far thanks to the heavy data compression.
Chatting in real time with another user through the GoToMyPC interface was easy, seamless, and speedy with no noticeable lag. The application supports file/folder drag and drop transfers, but the feature only worked some of the time. Fortunately, the clunky file transfer window (available in the menu bar) did work well enough. File transfers were fairly snappy once we got the hang of this wizard. GoToMyPC also supports file and folder synchronization, but users have to specifically run the sync job. The synchronization does not happen in real time, nor does it properly synchronize file deletions.
Citrix claims that the utility also supports multiple monitors, and we had no problem running the remote session at any resolution that the target computer supports (but setting the remote session to use the native resolution of the client computer was not possible unless the target computer also supports that resolution). GoToMyPC can also zoom in and out, and it supports stretching or shrinking the interface to best fit the screen without serious visual degradation.
During the review period, we experienced noticeable latencies with GoToMyPC processing keyboard and mouse input. Testing indicated that in every other aspect the program is as fast as its competitors. Audio streaming quality was a disappointment even considering that Citrix clearly compresses audio visual information during normal operation.
To GoToMyPC's credit, video streaming was almost possible during a remote session thanks to the heavy data compression involved. File and folder transfers were not as seamless as they should have been, but the user interface was friendly enough and it did provide tools for improving program latency and overall experience. But considering that GoToMyPC is one of the most expensive remote access solutions we've reviewed, we expected a little bit more in the performance department.
Maybe Citrix was having a bad day. Try it before you buy it.
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