16
Apr
c

Google released the Chrome Remote Desktop extension a while back, but it was designed for use with other computers. That's fine if you have one handy, but your phone or tablet is probably more readily available. I know that 95% of my remote desktop access happens from a mobile device, so it makes sense that Google would have a Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android – it just took a long time to happen. No matter, though. It's here and now we can take it for a spin.


Setup And Basics

If you don't have the Chrome extension installed, that's the first order of business. It's pretty painless, but remember to actually enable remote access, otherwise your apps won't see the computer. There will be some security prompts to bypass, but this is normal. The connection to your computer is gated by your account credentials and a PIN code. You can grant access for remote assistance to third-parties with an access code, but remote assistance does not appear to be a part of the Android app, which is kind of lame.

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The app's device list will show all active computers, but that doesn't mean a browser window needs to actually be open. Chrome will still run in the background when no windows are open. In fact, it runs at startup so you can restart and log into a computer remotely. You will be prompted for the PIN code each time you connect, but that can be disabled as long as you're using the right account.

How It Works

There are a few ways remote desktop apps can control a computer, and they usually include more than one as options. Not Chrome Remote Desktop, though. This app only has direct control of the cursor by swiping across the screen. So if you were hoping for a Windows 8 style touch-mapping interface, it's not happening. One very cool feature is that Chrome Remote Desktop just renders multiple monitors as a single desktop, rather than making you switch between them.

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The cursor will cause the segment of screen you're viewing to slide along as it moves toward the edge of your device's display. This only applies when you're zoomed in, of course. If you are zoomed all the way out, the view you have of the computer remains static as the cursor moves. Zooming is handled by the usual multitouch gestures. The keyboard can be opened with the button up top, and text entry works like you'd expect.

Clicking is a bit counterintuitive in this app. There's no tutorial explaining mouse control, but you can open the help menu for a page with the various controls. Of course a left-click is just a single tap, but a right-click is a two-finger tap (a long-press is far more common in remote desktop apps). Click and drag is also a bit confusing at first. Most apps use double-tap and drag, but not Chrome Remote Desktop. With this app you long-press until a ripple effect appears around the cursor. At that point you can begin dragging where you want.

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Scrolling is also built into the app with a two-finger swipe in the "natural" direction (i.e. swipe up to scroll down). To be clear, the touch interactions work fine – it's just not very clear at first.

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As for performance, it's reasonably impressive. The cursor movements are smooth and everything in the remote UI is responsive. Some solid colors show a bit of distortion, and text can be blurry when zoomed too far out. There's a little bit of a frame rate drop on the remote computer, but that's not evident in the Android app. It manages to do all this without down-sampling color depth or removing backgrounds like some other apps do. Performance over mobile data is good, though I do notice a bit more artifacting in solid color blocks (there's only a tiny bit of that over WiFi).

2014-04-16 21.16.14 2014-04-16 21.17.31 2014-04-16 21.55.27

There aren't as many features in Chrome Remote Desktop as you'd find in some other apps – no file push, function buttons, or media controls for example. Well, you get ctrl-alt-delete on Windows, which is okay, I suppose. Still, it's a solid app that's completely free and likely meets almost everyone's basic needs for remote access.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • don

    Great app. I am hoping to see (Clock/Timely) and (Email) apps in the play store soon.

  • darkdude1

    I've used teamviewer for a while and whilst teamviewer has more features, this is considerably faster and doesn't change my desktop wallpaper to black :p.

    • sssgadget

      I wonder about security when using this app. I could remote login into my work machine by bypassing the VPN.

      • http://google.com/+derekross Derek Ross

        Unless your admin disables Chrome Remote Desktop via GPO like I do at work ;)

    • haroonazeem638

      Teamviewer has an option to keep wallpaper on. I love this app on my Nexus 5. Its completely lag free for me.

  • Rodrigo Gonzalez

    Looks great and I want to use it but...I can't make it work with my laptop :(
    The chrome app gives me this message of "Could not load the Chrome Remote Desktop" all the time, and I already try all the supposed fixes and nothing.

    • Francois Roy

      1) What is your OS

      2a) Did you install a Chrome Remote Desktop Host?

      2b) HINT: If not, you didnt tried all the fixes ;)

      • Rodrigo Gonzalez

        1) Windows 8.1

        2) I have tried that but I get this error (image)

      • projectprivasy

        I am facing slightly a different problem. I have been successful in installing the Chrome extension and completing the process of enabling remote access. The problem is the Android app on my phone and tablet doesn't recognize the PC no matter what I do. I just get a blank screen with Network error. Any help?

  • DoubleP90

    The good of this app compared to other ones is that I can close my laptop screen and still use it.
    And that it has free remote access, of course

    • AbbyZFresh

      Doesn't closing your laptop screen lock out the Wi-Fi?

      • HaywardB

        You can set the power options to do nothing when you close your lid instead of sleeping the unit.

  • cmbeid

    As a reminder for anyone else on Linux - it is not supported.

  • andy_o

    Besides the things mentioned here, it's annoying that Google's own app isn't using immersive mode, plus that damn black bar on top, the usable space is very small.

    • Bill Anderson

      This. Seems like it would be an easy-to-implement thing that would make a BIG difference in usability.

      • andy_o

        I've been using MS's own RD app and it works mostly fine and with more options, but it's slow even on the N5, where it's smooth but it stutters. On the N10 it's very slow.

        • Bill Anderson

          Yeah, I've been using the MS RDP app, and it's great. I was using the Wyse one, but accidently found the MS one and I'm glad I did. Works great on the N5 and my old (2012) N7. I use RDP every where I can, but I don't have a way to access my work network directly, so Chrome Remote gets me through the firewall.

    • Shadab

      Top bar goes away when you click X

      • andy_o

        Yeah, figured that much a while ago, before I thought it was the disconnect button.

    • hp420

      There's a huge notification at the bottom, floating over your screen, and all you can think is "damn immersive mode not working takes up space" lol

      • andy_o

        If you mean the one on the remote computer's desktop, that is annoyng as well, but it takes up less space than the navigation and status bar in the Android device, and you can move it out of the way, even hide most of it off-screen.

    • Matthew Fry

      Yeah it really sucks. My phone is 1920x1080 and my desktop is 1920x1080 but no... it has to scroll that tiny bit because the notification bar is hanging out there taking up space.

  • andy_o

    I'm also wondering why this app needs permission to read my Hangouts messages.

    • Elviss Kustans

      Just my guess - it could be related with Hangouts integration with remote assistance.

      • Fabian Pineda

        Yeah, like I could text you the code and by simply tapping it, you'd be rd'ing into it.

  • http://rayshq.com/ Ray

    Am I the only one who initially read it as "Deep-throat"?

    • Thatguyfromvienna

      Yes, you probably are.
      Illiterate or complete porn addict? ;)

    • PacoBell

      Wat. Go home, you're drunk.

  • Sam

    adding immersive mode would be beast

  • Miguel Ripoll

    Awesome... works very well.

  • https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=iWizard Bikram Agarwal

    I'm getting "Host is offline" even after following all the steps.

    • projectprivasy

      I am facing slightly a different problem. I have been successful in installing the Chrome extension and completing the process of enabling remote access. The problem is the Android app on my phone and tablet doesn't recognize the PC no matter what I do. I just get a blank screen with Network error. Any help?..

  • http://www.facebook.com/danieltye88 Tungmeister

    I've been waiting for this for ages, why there isn't a full screen immersive mode is beyond me.

  • pahern

    Click the X on the upper right to enter immersive mode - it closes the black bars, not the app. Open the menu and go to help to see the list of taps and gestures to get the most out of this. Works great for me on my 2013 N7.

    • PacoBell

      That's not immersive mode. The onscreen navigation buttons are still there.

  • Ash

    Was pretty disappointed with this app. With Team Viewer and Splashtop around, what's really the point of this? I felt like installing was more troublesome than the existing apps (requiring Chrome, enabling sharing, pins, etc.) and it doesn't solve any kind of problems.

  • Jim Fox

    Disappointed that it cannot support an external bluetooth mouse. I've been using Splashtop for a while now, and when I use my Nexus 10 for remote desktop, I use an external mouse and keyboard. Here, it is practically impossible to use with a mouse, since it doesn't move the remote desktop pointer. You can do it by holding down the right mouse button to move the pointer and then click with the left, but I could never get used to it. Back to Splashtop.

  • Rob Earls

    Wait. 2 fingers to right click? How do you right click on something smaller than the width of two fingers?

    • jesuguru

      Use one finger to position the cursor precisely where you want to right-click, then 2-finger-right-click anywhere on the screen. Works for me.

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    Damn those idiots giving 2 star reviews to the app

  • lavkesh

    i installed everything correctly and have enabled the remote connections on my pc but my android device always shows that my pc is offline." Host is offline".
    help me out

    • projectprivasy

      I am facing slightly a different problem. I have been successful in installing the Chrome extension and completing the process of enabling remote access. The problem is the Android app on my phone and tablet doesn't recognize the PC no matter what I do. I just get a blank screen with Network error. Any help??

      • TheKees

        Same...anyone...?

    • nilesh shep

      Hey I was facing same problem.I had connected my laptop n mobile to hostel wifi and I guess Firewall was causing that problem. Connected my laptop to mobile internet using tethering and now it works fine.

  • Ken Hunter

    No way to use function keys? I need to use F keys with my AS400 terminals! =(

    • Anthony B

      Depending on the emulator you're using, couldn't you map those keys to a hotbar? That's what I'm doing for my various 3270 sessions.

      • Ken Hunter

        Good idea. Not sure why I didn't think of that.

      • Ken Hunter

        For some reason, keyboard input stopped working to my IBM System i AS400 sessions. Every other app works fine except for the official IBM System i emulator app. The keyboard will not type input into the window. What a pain.

    • JJ

      Search button and a number can be used. For F1, you can hit the Search+1. Etc.

  • mauric

    it's just cool to see battlefield 3 on my phone

    • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

      I imagine it plays awfully

  • Nicholas Polydor

    "There are a few ways remote desktop apps can control a computer, and they usually include more than one as options. Not Chrome Remote Desktop, though. This app only has direct control of the cursor by swiping across the screen. So if you were hoping for a Windows 8 style touch-mapping interface, it's not happening."

    Is TeamViewer the only remote desktop app that supports this, and only when running on Windows?

    http://www.androidpolice.com/2013/03/21/teamviewer-for-android-updated-with-native-touch-control-for-tablets-windows-8-gesture-support-and-more/

  • Simon Belmont

    Finally we can get Crysis on our phones. Haha.

    Yeah, yeah. I know that any remote app could, TECHNICALLY.

    • wi1lywonka

      nah, rdc's don't usually support DirectX

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/TheBBRgameplays TheBBRcast

    Hmmm... I may check it out : )

  • hp420

    There's a gigantic pop-up message at the bottom that won't go away for me. does anyone know how to get rid of it?

  • byoris

    i had the same problem, i just have to create a new group on windows called Administrators, and it works perfect now

    • Karol Klimczak

      I don't think i can create groups on windows 7 Home Premium. You need at least Pro version to do that

  • Robert Best

    No Chromebook support? That just is not right.

  • Pissed off Chrome user

    Chrome keeps sending the message "Chrome couldnt load remote viewing". Ive tried to install it via "safemode networking" where it allowed Chrome to download remote viewing (going through PIN) but connecting to my phone failed. Google is a multi-Kazillion dollar industry with a $5 tech support aka "Google Forums". Any suggestions?

  • mucketymuck

    So far so good. But would prefer to have support for control and alt keys when remoting into Windows. I assume remoting into Mac has similar issues.

  • Samudra

    I can't hear any sound when I use this app. I use a Windows 7 machine and splashtop etc work fine but no cigar for CRD

  • sN

    I just noticed that if you are on the same network it does a local connection. This is really cool...

  • ZTA

    I successfully connected to my pc from my Nexus4, but non of the gestures works, I mean I cannot control anything on my pc just see whats already on the screen! Any idea?

  • JJ

    Open the remote app "open as window", then F11 (full screen) before connecting. Once inside, should be full screen and the esc works.

  • TECHIES_NET

    See the how to guide to setup this chrome remote desktop connection from first to last in a easy manner - http://goo.gl/W0tv7V

  • http://www.guyrcook.com Guy R Cook

    Soon as I select full screen, the screen locksup, can't do anything on the remote system. This is happening on the chromebook (usual suspect) and also on the other dual monitor equipped computer. Solutions welcome, any ideas? Oh, and it's my birthday today too.

    • Dusty

      I'm having this same issue - I try to remote in with a Mac computer and if I try to go to the second monitor by putting my mouse cursor to the right side of the screen, it freezes up. It only unfreezes when I then move the mouse to the left side of the screen. I used to be able to access the second monitor, but can no longer.

  • coupĂ©dumonde

    Always need to be online what about wifi direct or bluetooth?