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APC Biometric Password Manager Review

Highs

  • Easy to setup and use
  • effortless password management
  • never have to remember a password again

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 5

Lows

  • Software uses a lot of resources
  • can't easily close the software
APC's Biometric Password Manager is a small, relatively inexpensive device that will appeal to a wide range of users.

Summary

APC’s Biometric Password Manager is a small, relatively inexpensive device that will appeal to a wide range of users. At around $50, it is an accessory that will save you a lot of time and frustration. Imagine never having to remember or type in a username and password again – the Biopod allows just that.

With Windows only compatibility, Mac and Linux users miss out on the benefits of the Biopod, and the device is quite beneficial. The device does an excellent job of scanning and identifying fingerprints, is easy to setup and incredibly easy to use. It allows for plenty of users and finger scans to accommodate a shared home or office PC.

Once you use the Biopod you may never want to, or have to, type a password again.

Introduction

American Power Conversion, a company known for enterprise power and server-room solutions, has impressed us of late with recent releases of some unique consumer products. It’s not that APC has never targeted the consumer-level marketplace before, but products like the TravelPower Backpack, portable 802.11b router and the subject of this review, the Biometric Security Pod, show their commitment to innovation and utility for the mobile professional.

If you’re anything like the typical PC and Web user at Designtechnica, you probably have different usernames and passwords for tens, maybe even hundreds, of Websites and applications. Just think of them all: online banking, credit card sites, eBay, Web-based and Windows-based email applications, online photo sharing, online forums, a home network router, corporate Websites, your screensaver, e-tailers like Amazon, Newegg and Buy.com, Website administration sites, and many, many more. APC’s Biometric Password Manager can let you manage your access to all of those Websites and applications, with the simple flick of one finger.

Nicknamed the Biopod, APC’s Biometric Password Manager is a small USB-powered fingerprint scanner that allows you to control access to your computer and other password protected systems, applications, and Web sites, without having to type in a password.


APC’s Biopod Biometric Password Manager.

Features and Design

The Biopod is a small 2 1/2-inch by 3 1/2-inch gray device about one-quarter the size of a conventional mouse. It connects to your computer with a six-foot long USB cable which allows it to be conveniently placed anywhere on your desk. Two rubber feet help it from sliding around your desk. Its only feature is a small fingerprint scanner that is less than a half-inch wide and high.

AuthenTec, Inc., a leading manufacturer of biometric fingerprint sensors, provides the TruePrint fingerprint scanner and the software used is OmniPass by Softex Inc. Compatible with all versions of Microsoft Windows since Windows 98, the Biopod also supports the Fast User Switching capability of Windows XP.

Besides managing your passwords and user security, the Biometric Password Manager also includes a file encryption tool that is also driven by fingerprint scans.


The Biopod is a small, simplistic device that is easy to install and use.

Software Setup and Finger Enrollment

Setting up the Biopod is quite simple and straightforward. You simply connect the device to an available USB port, pop in the CD, browse for a suitable driver and then install the APC OmniPass software. The whole setup takes only a few minutes.

Once the device and software has been installed, the application will ask you to “enroll” a finger. This is where you start setting up users, and identifying them by their fingerprint. Enrolling a finger is as easy as placing your finger against the scanner and letting the Biopod read your unique fingerprint. To ensure accuracy, the software will repeatedly ask you to scan your finger until it has enough good scans, up to eight times. From this point on, any access to the user information in OmniPass is controlled by a fingerprint scan or manually typing in a username and password.

We found that it was most comfortable to use the Biopod on the user’s mouse-side, and that the index finger was the easiest finger to scan. However, any finger can be used and users can enroll more than one finger if they choose. The software allows you to register up to 20 different users or individual fingerprints.

Everything the software controls can be accessed by double clicking or right-clicking the system-tray icon. The software allows you to setup new users or edit or remove existing users. You also can adjust settings such as the audible alerts and startup options. The Password Vault allows you to view your username and password list for all entries in the database. Access to most of these options are fingerprint based as well. Switching or logging out OmniPass users can be accomplished by right-clicking the system-tray icon and selecting the appropriate action.


A red fingerprint means an unrecognized scan. The print turns green when recognized.

Accessing Password Protected Information

With the software and hardware installed, adding passwords to the user database and accessing password protected information is quite simple. When the OmniPass software detects a password field, it prompts the user, asking if you’d like to enter that username and password into your database. By simply typing the username and password and then clicking the OmniPass key icon that is displayed, the information is entered into the database.

From that point on, that Website or application can be accessed by that user scanning their fingerprint when prompted. A small box signifying the fingerprint scanner appears on your screen and when you put a finger on the scanner, it will show you a graphical representation of your print. Make a bad scan and the print will show red, make a good scan and the print will appear green and you will be granted access. In our experience, the scanner worked flawlessly. The only bad scans we got were when our finger wasn’t properly placed over the scanner or if we purposely used a different finger.

At first, entering in your username and password to all of the sites and applications you want, and even remembering which sites to go to, can be a tedious process. But the great part about it is that after you do it once, you’ll never have to type that information in again.

By default, the software features voice prompts and responses for everything you do and we quickly found that annoying. Luckily, it is easy enough to change the audio alerts to beeps only or to completely disable the audible alerts. Similarly, the default setting prompts the user with a popup message every time a passworded field is detected. This behavior can also be modified, by changing from “Beginner mode” to “Advanced mode” which just pops up a smaller, less intrusive window in your system tray or you can completely disable all popups. With the popup messages disabled, you can add a password for a site or application by right-clicking on the OmniPass icon and selecting “Remember Password”.


The Biopod is small enough to ft anywhere on your desktop and is easy to travel with.

Encrypting Files and Folders

The Biopod also includes software to encrypt and decrypt Windows files and folders. Upon installation of the OmniPass software, encryption options are added to the right-click menu in Windows.

Encrypting a file or entire folder is as simple as right-clicking on the item and selecting the OmniPass encryption option. Encrypting takes a bit of time, especially if you are doing it to large files or folders, but this is to be expected and nothing out of the ordinary. Encryption adds a .opf extension to each file, which can only be decrypted by selecting the decrypt option in the right-click menu and scanning your fingerprint.

A word of warning, which is noted when you first encrypt files – if you uninstall the OmniPass software or move the data to a machine that doesn’t have it installed, you will not be able to access that encrypted data.

What’s Not to Like?

In just a week of using the BioPod, we had saved usernames and passwords for 43 different Websites and applications, saving us countless keystrokes on a daily and weekly basis. So what’s not to like? There were a few annoyances we encountered, but nothing that should be too much of a concern to most people.

First of all, the application is a resource hog. We’re not sure what in particular makes it so big, but the software certainly takes up some resources. We noted at least four applications that are running on startup; WebLink.exe, scureapp.exe, OPXApp.exe and omniServ.exe; which combined take up about 29MB of memory. By comparison, while writing this review, explorer.exe took up about 30MB and Microsoft Word took up about 24MB of memory. With enough memory you should be fine, but users with lower-end systems and older operating systems may experience slowdowns.

Secondly, the applications are hard to shut down. There is no shutdown or exit command from the system tray. While some users may prefer to have the software running at all times, there are some occasions, such as when playing a game or installing software, when you may want to disable OmniServ and the Biopod software package. The only way to do so is to end the processes from your task manager.

And lastly, we experienced lockups on our test system when we booted up and the Biopod reader was not hooked up to the USB port. Granted, most users will not unplug the device as often as we did while testing, but we thought it was worth mentioning anyway.

Conclusion

APC’s Biometric Password Manager is a small, relatively inexpensive device that will appeal to a wide range of users. At around $50, it is an accessory that will save you a lot of time and frustration. Imagine never having to remember or type in a username and password again – the Biopod allows just that.

With Windows only compatibility, Mac and Linux users miss out on the benefits of the Biopod, and the device is quite beneficial. The device does an excellent job of scanning and identifying fingerprints, is easy to setup and incredibly easy to use. It allows for plenty of users and finger scans to accommodate a shared home or office PC.

Once you use the Biopod you may never want to, or have to, type a password again.

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