Accessing the Pocket PC on a PC Ė comparing Pocket Controller, dotPocket and ActiveSync Remote Display
The question of accessing a Pocket PC device through ActiveSync (or, more generally, through any kind of wireless/wired connection) is being asked at several boards all the time so I deemed it important to devote a fully-fledged comparative (!) roundup with some benchmark figures to the subject.
There're several ways of displaying and manipulating the Pocket PC screen on the desktop over an ActiveSync and/or, as with more advanced solutions, a TCP/IP connection. Aside from slow(ish) solutions like running a VNC server
on the PDA, these are as follows:
- SOTI Pocket Controller
(from now on: SOTI; current version: 5.02): clearly the best, most powerful (except for the lack of a Nyditot-alternative), fastest solution. Flawlessly works with VGA PDA's (from version 4.12), even over TCP/IP connections (read: fast Wi-Fi) and has a lot of additional goodies.
If you have a VGA device, youíll certainly need at least version 4.12. 5.0+ is not much better than 4.12, speed- and basic operability-wise; it has some welcome goodies like Smoothing
in zoomed-in modes that can be disabled (with 4.12, it was always on, making zoomed screen snapshots quite fuzzy) and a new ďStartĒ button on the main screen so that you donít need to press F5 to start communication and some other new features. If you donít need these new features, you may find version 4.12 fast and usable enough, even with VGA devices.
Differences between 5.01 and the recently-released 5.02
are minor. Thereíre, however, some important bugfixes in 5.02 affecting the Landscape mode with VGA devices (it still worked with 4.12); therefore, for VGA users, upgrading to version 5.02 is a must.
Please note that switching on the video acceleration on your PDA (the icon in the lower right corner or the Settings/System/Pocket Controller
Ė switching on Turbo Mode
in the desktop component, in Tools/Configure/General/Turbo Mode
, wonít cause problems) may result in a need for hard reset. I (as with some other PL720 owners
) had to hard reset my PDA because of this (tested the most recent version, 5.02). On the iPAQ 2210, I had no such problems. However, enabling video acceleration didnít seemingly accelerate the 2210 further.
You may also want to read the Dave's iPAQ review
of version 5.01. It has a lot of screenshots (therefore, I didnít bother making screenshots myself) and other good stuff.
. It's clearly worse than Pocket Controller with VGA devices and, in my opinion, isn't worth its price (US$ 25, as opposed to the US$ 30.95 of Pocket Controller) if you have a VGA device
. If you still have it lying around and, therefore, do not end up paying for it, it may be useful, though - it's still better and faster than the ActiveSync Remote Display. As of version 2.1, it supports VGA devices.
If you, however, have a WM2003 QVGA device and donít want to purchase the NYDITOT Virtual Display
, but you need its functionality, you may give this application a closer look.
You may also want to read the pocketnow review
of the app. Interestingly, it writes version 3.0
in the title Ė it may have been an oversight. You may also want to check out some other reviews here
. Interestingly, it doesnít list the Silicon Valley Pocket PC review
, which is also worth reading.
- ActiveSync Remote Display
, part of Microsoft's PowerToys: free, but clearly inferior to the two above programs: for example, it doesn't even support shared, synchronized clipboards (a very important feature in any program that accesses a Pocket PC). Therefore, I wonít directly compare it to the two commerical applications; only in the closing feature comparison table.
By default, ActiveSync Remote Display isnít VGA-aware, you will have to force it into the VGA mode based on the FAQ of ctitanic
, author of Tweaks2k2
; or, if you prefer an easier way of doing this, with Tweaks2k2 itself or with other tools like Mad Programmer's Force Hi-resolution tool
. As you may guess after reading my article on relocating the three applications from the main memory
, youíll need to force cerdisp2.exe
So, what's the difference between the two commercial programs?
First, the speed of accessing VGA devices. The SOTI application is much faster on VGA devices; not only at controlling the Pocket PC itself, but also when you directly control your Pocket PC while the remote controller application is running. Then, the PDA remotely controlled by the SOTI app doesnít noticeably slow down; the dotPocket-controlled PDA, on the other hand, does. The difference is clearly visible.
Iíve also made a demo video on the access speed difference on VGA devices of the two applications
. Please note that the codec used for capturing video was a plain desktop Windows codec and can only be played under Windows; if you want to play it on your PDA, with the infamous TCPMP
(tested with version 0.66), youíll need to download this, considerably larger version of the video
I ran the two applications parallelly, in two separate windows (it didnít decrease the access speed with either applications noticeably), and made the video with SnagIt
, with 25 fps. The dotPocket window is on the left, while the SOTI window is on the right. You should pay special attention to the animated ActiveSync arrows. The difference in speed speaks for itself.
Fine-tuning the video refresh rate (more on this later), disabling encryption and optimizing for slow connections donít help much either.
Please note that all the above only concerns VGA devices
. On QVGA devices, the dotPocket speed is pretty good (albeit still considerably slower than that of the SOTI app).
Unfortunately, goodies in dotPocket like enabling File/Properties/Grab Method/Direct Video Memory Access
(DMA) doesn't work on VGA devices: it switches to QVGA and, what is more, completely messes up everything. Fortunately, unlike with SOTI, I didnít end up having to hard reset my Pocket Loox 720Ö
DMA works with QVGA devices though. As I could see, however, it didnít really increase the speed with my iPAQ 2210 Ė the dotPocket running at 150 ms refresh rate, the SOTI app was still faster. In this, the dotPocket app is like the SOTI app: both seem to have problems with VGA devices, as long as video acceleration is concerned.
The image/video playing capabilities
of dotPocket are also a bit inferior to those of SOTI as far as output file formats / video codecs are concerned.
First, the former, dotPocket, can only save to BMPís and doesnít have a keyboard shortcut to do this (you will always need to go to the menu Ė two clicks instead of a much faster keyboard shortcut). SOTI, on the other hand, also supports JPG and GIF (the latter still needs to be compressed though Ė this is pretty easy if you have ImageMagick around. Iíve described this problem and the ImageMagick-based solution to that here
Second, while with SOTI, during video recording, you can use any pre-installed codec on your Windows desktop, thatís not possible with the dotPocket app Ė you will only be able to use its default encoder, and not your (much better and more efficient) codec of choice.
Please note that these problems are not that crucial
and shouldnít be a showstopper with dotPocket, unless you really need the fastest way of capturing PPC screens and/or donít want to do any kind of post-processing (which must however be done with SOTI to reduce its GIF sizes if you keep using it in GIF capture mode; or convert them to PNG; here I assume you donít want to capture JPEG images at all). Post-processing is really only a nuisance with videos because, to my knowledge, they canít be as easily automatizable (just run a batch file to convert) as converting image files (I may be wrong though).
SOTI also has some other, non-cruical, goodies like, for example, System Info
, a remote process viewer
(itís also capable of actually killing processes, unlike, for example, the PHM Task Manager
) and a remote DOS box
(which is almost useless, compared to real console applications Ė it doesnít support any kind of scripting support
etc.) Also, Overlay Drawing
. the ability to edit the keyboard shortcuts to make menu navigation even more unnecessary and Sync Manager
(the latter can be made unnecessary with free (!) alternatives like MobSync
though) are pretty welcome additions.
Thereíre some advantages of dotPocket over SOTI, though
. First, the NYDITOT Virtual Display-like client on the PDA. Iíve made some tests with it on my iPAQ 2210 (didnít do the same with my VGA Pocket Loox 720 because it doesnít need a portrait vs. landscape tool because of the operating system) and was pretty happy with it. It worked flawlessly in all my tests.
Second, it has a built-in file transfer utility. It has a tolerable speed, about 11% less than the standard ActiveSync file copy speed with either the standard Explorer or using the Total Commander with the WinCE FS plug-in
, counted in the speed hit introduced by running dotPocket itself.
Third, you can also record videos with dotPocket that also show the mouse cursor. This is not possible with the SOTI app. (The latter, however, is able to insert title/trailer frames into the stream so you wonít need to postprocess your captured videos to insert them.)
Some technical and benchmark data in tabulated form
Please click here to see it
because I couldnít include HTML forms in a public forum and I didnít want to convert it to a < PRE > table because of the hassles involved.
A side note for the table: Iíve measured the slowdown factor this after starting the application by transferring a 2.44 Mbyte through ActiveSync to the main memory (I havenít used Card Export II, which undoubtedly would have shown much more pronounced differences
), under exactly the same circumstances. Without running any of the three apps, the file was uploaded in 9.6 seconds (255 kbytes/s) on the PL720 and 8.3 secs (295 kbytes/s) on the iPAQ 2210. Iíve re-measured the transfer speed of the same file after starting all of the three apps one by one. As can clearly be seen, on a VGA device dotPocket really slows down the connection with the default settings; with setting the screen refresh rate to 1 fps (which, with VGA devices, isnít worse than the default setting, usability-wise), however, the slowdown decreased to 4%. Therefore, if you use dotPocket with a VGA device, you should go to File/Properties
at once and set ďSend timeout (s)Ē to 1 sec as soon as possible.
On QVGA devices, there werenít so big differences.
Also, you may want to read my article on relocating the three applications from the main memory
if you (would like to) want to decrease their RAM memory usage.
There is no clear winner. Both the SOTI and the dotPocket applications have its strengths as far as previous-generation (read: no built-in lanscape support) QVGA devices are concerned. When it comes to VGA devices, however, I think, the SOTI app is the only real alternative because of its speed.
- if you use a WM2003 QVGA device
, as simple remote controller tools, all the three apps are tolerably fast (with SOTI being the fastest, but the two are pretty usable too). The dotPocket price, as it contains a Nyditot alternative, can be pretty good cost/performance wise (you wonít need to buy Nyditot!), especially if you donít need the bells and whistles of the SOTI application.
- if you use a VGA device
1. you will already have built-in Landscape support in your operating system (except for the old WM2003 Toshiba e800ís, if you, due to the screen refresh problems, donít upgrade them to WM2003SE), so, the additional capabilities of dotPocket wonít really interest you. On VGA devices, Iíd say itís only the SOTI application that can be used without major heart attacks because of the very slow response times.
2. if you still plan to use dotPocket, to avoid its connection (and the PPC itself!) being considerably slowed down, lower the refresh rate from 6.2/3 fps to one. It, however, wonít speed up its access speed.
3. donít forget to apply the Forced VGA patch to the Microsoft application if you still prefer that to the other two!
: 18/Jul/2005 11:30 CET: added a lot of new stuff (for example, URLís to other reviews) to the article; cleaned up the English a bit.