If you bought an iPad and are looking to expand its utility beyond eReader, recipe finder, and gaming device, a remote desktop app will do just that. LogMeIn Inc. with LogMeIn Ignition and Citrix with GoToMyPC introduced iPad versions of their popular remote desktop apps earlier this year (LogMeIn Ignition is a universal app that works with either the iPhone and the iPad, with an Android version also available. At this writing, the mobile version of GoToMyPC works only with the iPad.)
As part of the TechnologyGuide look at summer networking technology for the vacationing executive, we put each to the test to see which is the superior option for accessing your computer from your iPad. While we were impressed with the interface and the performance of each app, based on price and features, we give the nod to LogMeIn Ignition. It offers a couple of key features not found on GoToMyPC, and it doesn?t saddle you with a monthly subscription cost. Read on to learn more about why LogMeIn Ignition is the superior remote desktop app for the iPad.
From perusing the virtual aisles in Apple?s App Store, you might be led to believe that GoToMyPC is the more affordable option at first blush. The GoToMyPC iPad app is free, while the LogMeIn Ignition app, at $29.99, is one of the more expensive apps you?ll encounter. Not until you set up each app and establish a login at each vendor?s website from your PC or Mac will you discover that LogMeIn Ignition works with Citrix?s free service on the desktop, while the cheapest GoToMyPC service for the desktop costs $99 a year.
Advantage: LogMeIn Ignition.
LogMeIn?s advantage only grows when you consider that the one-time $29.99 cost for LogMeIn Ignition lets you add as many PCs as you?d like, while GoToMyPC?s $99-a-year service supports but a lone PC. Adding a second PC doubles the price to $198. A third costs $297, and so on.
LogMeIn Ignition received an update this spring that introduced two important features: file management and wake-on-LAN. The new file management feature lets you go beyond remotely accessing your PC to view files on your iPad. Now, you can copy or move files from your PC to your iPad and vice versa, as well as copy or move files from one remote PC to another. One thing you can?t do is search for a file. You?ll need to know where it?s located and navigate to its folder in order to copy or move it. Being able to search for a particular file by title or keyword would be much appreciated.
LogMeIn also says that it has an update in the works that will tightly integrate Ignition with the Photos app in iOS.
Regardless, LogMeIn Ignition?s file manager is an incredibly useful feature for those instances you leave the office and suddenly remember you forgot a file on your work PC. With it, you can grab the file and copy it to your iPad or to your PC at home, provided it?s running the LogMeIn desktop client.
But what if, like a responsible consumer of energy, you turn off your PC (along with the lights) when you leave work at the end of each day? LogMeIn Ignition supports wake-on-LAN, which will awaken a sleeping or powered off PC so that you can gain remote access to it. Restrictions, as they say, apply. In order to be able to wake a sleeping or powered down PC, it must be plugged in and not running on battery power. And it must have a wired Ethernet connection to the Internet; a Wi-Fi connection won?t work. Lastly, you must have one LogMeIn host on your LAN that?s powered up and online. (Also, Macs can be resumed from sleep mode, but not when they are powered down). These restrictions make it more likely that you?ll use wake-on-LAN to access a desktop PC, unless you regularly keep your laptop in a docking connector or wired to your router. The wake-on-LAN feature is more likely to be used to access a computer on your network at work (where presumably there is at least one PC on), instead of your home network where you might have but a single PC.
In contrast, GoToMyPC has nothing akin to LogMeIn Ignition?s file manager to transfer files, and it does not support wake-on-LAN. It simply lets you gain remote access to a PC to browse files and control applications.
Advantage: LogMeIn Ignition
Installation and Interface
Setting up each app is dead simple. Download the app on your iPad, head to LogMeIn.com or GoToMyPC.com to create an account, and then install a small desktop app on the PC(s) to which you?d like to gain remote access. Both LogMeIn and GoToMyPC add another layer of security by assigning an access code to the PC you?d like to access, a code that is different than the username and password you used to create an account.
Both apps look and feel roughly the same on the iPad. Each establishes a connection quickly, within 5 to 10 seconds, and each feels responsive. The refresh rate is fast enough that navigating a remote computer feels natural, with only the slightest lag between initiating a command and having it addressed. On the whole, operation is very smooth with each app. Given the aspect ratio of your typical widescreen laptop or desktop display, the apps work best when the iPad is in landscape mode. You control the cursor with your finger, and multi-touch gestures such as pinch zoom and two-finger scrolling aid navigation.
From a row of menu options at the top of the screen (GoToMyPC) or the bottom (LogMeIn Ignition), you can call up the keyboard. The LogMeIn menu also provides shortcuts to popular Windows commands Alt-Tab and Ctrl-Alt-Delete, along with a button to assign a left or a right mouse click for your next screen tap. Both keyboards provide access to Function keys, arrow keys, and Page up and down keys. LogMeIn Ignition groups these frequently used keys on a separate keyboard, while GoToMyPC puts most of them along the top row of the main keyboard, and then offers the four arrow keys separately.
You can also call up the keyboard and hide it by swiping up or down with three fingers on LogMeIn Ignition or a three-finger tap with GoToMyPC. Two-finger scrolling through long documents and Web pages is easier on LogMeIn Ignition; GoToMyPC frequently read my attempts at two-finger scrolling as a pinch-zoom command, and when I did manage to successfully scroll, the screen moved up or down only a smidge at a time. GoToMyPC, however, offers better cursor control. I found my success rate at hitting my intended target was higher with GoToMyPC than Ignition, and it was much easier to drag and drop a file or folder on GoToMyPC.
LogMeIn Ignition puts a small mouse icon below the cursor. While the cursor lets you choose right or left click, it also makes it difficult to access the bottom of the display because the icon gets in the way. On a Mac where the menu bar hides along the bottom edge, it proved to be a frustrating exercise to access it.
Through both apps, you can play video, but it?s choppy and audio does not come through. You can also gain access to a computer?s Webcam, which might be helpful for certain security situations where you might want to take a peek at your apartment or bedroom through your Webcam?s eye. Again, you?ll get choppy video and no audio.
Lastly, one oddity I found with LogMeIn Ignition was it supports only plain Windows wallpapers. I tried it with two Windows laptops, each with an Aero-themed image as its wallpaper. When I accessed the laptops, the wallpaper went to black, and would switch back to its Aero wallpaper after I logged out. When I switched the wallpaper to a solid color, I found LogMeIn Ignition supported it. On a Mac with a custom photo wallpaper, both LogMeIn Ignition and GoToMyPC displayed it. I did not test GoToMyPC with a Windows PC; my 30-day trial offered support for only one computer, and I tested it on a MacBook Pro.
LogMeIn Ignition and GoToMyPC each proved to be a slick, smooth, and stable way to gain remote access. The ability to transfer files, the wake-on-LAN feature and the absence of the need for a subscription, however, tip the scales in LogMeIn Ignition?s favor.
Winner: LogMeIn Ignition