The most compelling thing about TeamViewer Remote Control, a tablet app that gives you remote access to your desktop, is its price. This free app also works across multiple tablet platforms including iPad, Kindle Fire and Android as well as Windows and Mac PCs. But should you anticipate middling features to go along with its modest price, or does TeamViewer's offerings far exceed expectations? Read on to find out.
Similar to other remote desktop apps, the process of setting up TeamViewer on your tablet begins on the machine you'd like to access remotely. We downloaded the free desktop app from TeamViewer's site and installed it on our computer. You can connect securely to your notebook either by setting up unattended access (for which we had to connect to our TeamViewer account), or having the app generate ID and password codes. Once we downloaded the TeamViewer app onto our tablet, we could use the Connect tab to connect via this ID and password; or the Partner tab to access the computers we added to our account. The whole setup process took about a minute and was quite painless.
TeamViewer's interface looks similar across devices, whether you're using the app on an iPad, Android tablet or Kindle Fire. The majority of the screen shows off the desktop area, and a gray strip with six icons runs across the bottom: disconnect, show an onscreen keyboard, zoom in or out, view a menu of quick actions to choose from (Ctrl+Alt+Del, reboot remote computer, block remote user input and change monitor) and access the settings for the current session. When we fired up the onscreen keyboard, a translucent bar appeared towards the top of the screen with several hot keys: hide keyboard, Shift, Ctrl, Alt, Start button, and show a second keyboard with the function, escape and direction keys.
The app lets us explore our desktop using various multitouch gestures. We performed single-finger taps for clicks, used two-finger taps for right-clicks, and could double-tap and hold to drag and drop or resize or move windows. Dragging with two fingers doubles as a mouse wheel function, pinching works for zooming, and shaking your device switches quickly between two monitors.
TeamViewer offers the ability to copy files from your PC to your iPad and vice versa. We selected the File mode on the app by tapping on the appropriate tab and entering our partner ID and password. The TeamViewer app on our tablet showed us the list of drives available on the system, and our computer showed a log of all the folders we viewed, for security purposes. We liked how we could preview files such as images and documents before transferring them onto our device.
We tested TeamViewer over a public Wi-Fi network and a local network using an iPad, Kindle Fire and an Android Honeycomb tablet. After the fairly simple process of connecting to our notebook, we were able to access the full desktop.
The screen had impressively rapid refresh rates, but we found that there was some lag in registering certain input data. It took about three seconds for the app to show the results of our clicking on a particular spot--to launch QuickTime, for instance--and there was no way to tell if it had sensed our action at all, except to wait it out.
Other actions, however, such as switching to another Chrome tab, were faster--the lag seemed to be tied to whether the screen TeamViewer aimed to load was particularly graphics-intensive. Another quibble was that the app disconnected us automatically if our tablet's screen timed out from inactivity, or if we switched out of the app and switched back. Whenever we did this, TeamViewer re-launched from its startup screen and required that we reconnect to our desktop. This quickly grew frustrating.
Note that TeamViewer doesn't support video or audio streaming, unlike LogMeIn Pro for iPad and Splashtop Remote Desktop.
TeamViewer is free, provided that you're dabbling in noncommercial activities only. Since there's no possible way to check on this, an honor system is in place to enforce the rule. Of course, this doesn't stop developers from nagging users that the rule is in place--the app constantly sends annoying pop-ups about the policy, which appear on your tablet or computer upon every disconnect. For commercial use, there's a $100 version of the app called TeamViewer Pro and a $140 version called TeamViewer HD Pro, promising high-definition picture quality on your slate.
TeamViewer is a good option if you're new to the world of remote desktop access. Not only is it free, but novices won't have a difficult time with setup. TeamViewer doesn't have the most well-designed interface, but it equips users with enough basic functionality for their productivity tasks and throws a few extra features into the mix. More advanced users, however, will want to step up to LogMeInPro for the iPad or LogMeIn Ignition for Android.