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Summary:

I keep most of my work in the cloud these days, to facilitate collaboration with my remote colleagues. But I have an HTC EVO 4G, so I tested VNC® Viewer for Android to see if it would work to gain emergency access to my work computer.

VNC Viewer

These days, I keep most of my work in the cloud, in order to facilitate collaboration with my remote colleagues. I don’t have to worry too much about whether I have all my with me files when I go on the road. And if I have my laptop, it’s easy to connect to my work network through something like LogMeIn Hamachi.

But I also have an HTC EVO 4G with a nice large screen, so I’ve been wondering if it would be feasible to use as emergency access to my work computer. After all, I found RDM+ for iOS usable on the smaller screen of an iPod touch. Unfortunately, Hamachi doesn’t have a client for Android, and I haven’t had a chance to try LogMeIn Ignition for Android yet, but the folks at RealVNC sent me a review copy of VNC Viewer for Android, which has just joined the existing VNC Viewer for iOS.

Once connected to the remote machine, VNC Viewer works well. The program responds quickly on a 3G or WiFi connection, and it automatically adjusts performance based on connection speed. The developer says that it can support screen resolutions up to 5,120 by 2,400 pixels (!) I couldn’t test that, but it does display both screens of my two-monitor Mac setup. Gestures like pinch and tap work as you would expect them to. Navigation takes a bit of getting used to, since by default, the cursor remains in the center of the screen, and the content moves around it. But it’s pretty simple to work with, and mouse button mode lets you emulate mouse clicks and scrolling.

I found it easy to manipulate windows, open and close programs, and do a little typing using the on-screen keyboard. I wouldn’t want to write a whole blog post, although I did type this sentence remotely!

As with most remote access solutions, VNC Viewer is just half of the system. You’ll also need a VNC server on the machine you want to connect to. Recent Macs have the required software built-in, as the VNC Viewer can connect using the Mac OS X Remote Desktop or Remote Management components. Windows and Unix users — and Mac users needing additional features (like 128-bit AES encryption, simpler authentication, and the ability to copy text between your device and the remote computer) — can purchase VNC Enterprise Edition, or use a third-party VNC server.

Unfortunately, actually getting connected is not as easy as I would have liked. Even with VNC’s instructions, I had to work with my company’s network expert to set up the appropriate firewall rules and port forwarding. If you’re not ready to tackle such configuration, you may want to look at some of the other remote access and remote control options we’ve looked at.

VNC Viewer for Android costs £5.99 (about US$10). Commercial licenses for VNC Enterprise Edition start at $50, with educational, nonprofit and volume discounts available, along with 30-day trials.

Have you used VNC Viewer? Do you connect to your desktop from a phone or tablet?

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  1. I have tried real VNC and Remote RDP Enterprise 3.0 and prefer the latter. No delay and nice pop up keyboard. Currently use on a Galaxy Tab and DroidX.

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  2. Meh… It is neat, but how useful is this really? What am I going to do on my PC from my phone? I can’t game, or write code. I wouldn’t be able to get much done in MS Word or Excel using a touch screen. I’m just not sure I see the value in this. Anyone who needs remote access can just use a $200 netbook and save them-self the aggravation of trying to get anything done from a phone. This app might be useful on a tablet in the future, but its not very useful for a phone.

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  3. If you like this, you really should try LogMeIn Ignition. I’ve personally used it extensively to set up VPNs at multiple satellite branch offices and it’s surprisingly functional and responsive, even over 3G. Sure, it’s not quite as easy as busting out a netbook, but you can’t argue the portability/ubiquity angle. Plus, it makes you feel like James Bond ;)

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