Check out our AccessJ review below.
Of course the first thing any Internet-nerd is going to want to know about is the connection speed. LEO-NET is broadband, and in my case fiber-optic, but some buildings may use ADSL. And remember, since it's proprietary, that means every other apartment in your building is using the same main line as you.
That said, the speeds were, in my experience, fine. I didn't dread downloading 100MB files like I did back on my terrible DSL connection in the States, but things over a couple gigs (like a Steam purchase or something) usually meant I'd be leaving the computer on overnight. Compared to other fiber-optics connections I used, it felt slow; I couldn't expect the several-megabit-per-second speeds I'd had on NTT Flets or whatever tiny regional company it was that strung cables into my university dorm room, intent on swaying me to their service with bright-minded catchphrases about their Internet being "本当にベリーファスト."
Anyway, if you're mainly concerned about things like watching Youtube, then no worries: LEO-NET buffers streaming video as soon as you hit the page.
In my case, I could almost expect LEO-NET to be down for a few days every other month for maintenance or some problem with my building. I imagine this isn't representative of all buildings, as it turned out that there was some physical damage to the line, and some third-party company had to come out on more than one occasion to fix it. The modems are all proprietary, of course, and can't (easily) be replaced by something else you buy yourself. They aren't bad, but they don't seem to be built for continuous operation. If you leave yours on all the time (instead of turning it off each time you're done using the Internet), you may find that every few weeks computers will mysteriously stop connecting to it. Cycling the power on the modem should fix the problem.
Signing In & Compatible Devices
I had some qualms about LEO-NET, the first of which was that it requires you to sign in every time you want to use it on a freshly rebooted device. If you're turning your computer/console on after a complete shutdown, the first time you open up a browser window and try to navigate to a page a popup will trigger asking you for your LEO-NET username and password.
That username and password should have been provided to you from the realtor in your moving-in booklet. Mine was on a flimsy blue sheet of A4 paper. The username and password are both long strings of numbers. Because they are a pain to remember, I used a magic marker to scrawl mine down in big numerals on a piece of paper and hung that on the wall (so I could see it from anywhere in the room).
Regardless, nothing on the Internet is accessible until that login information has been entered. Aside from PCs (Windows, Linux, and Mac), I was also able to get a Playstation 3 to connect to LEO-NET. You have to open up the console's browser once after every boot-up to get the "popup," but after you enter your credentials there you can play online without any hitches.
As for entering the username and password each time, I think I eventually got an obscure Linux browser (Kazehakase, perhaps?) to remember the credentials and automatically log me in whenever I started that browser, but I never found a way to do the same with Firefox or Chome at the time. For the PS3, I just had to enter the username and password on the crappy on-screen keyboard each time I played.
My other major complaint with the default setup is that it only allows you to attach one device to the Internet at a time. A standard ethernet cable snakes out from behind the LEO-NET modem, and you can attach that in to one device. If your device doesn't have an Ethernet port (i.e. iPad), LEO-NET tells you that sorry, you're just S.O.L.
I never tried to hook up a wireless router to my LEO-NET modem. It may be possible, but I don't know how you'd configure your router settings. It may "just work" or it may require you to play around a bit with the internals. Either way, I assume that after you got your device connected to the modem, you'd still need to open up a browser and enter your credentials into that obnoxious HTML port popup. Devices unable to provide that login prompt may simply be unable to use the connection.
I did, however, make good use of a cheap $10, 5-port hub. With that and a small collection of short Ethernet cables, I was able to connect all my devices and have them online simultaneously. Yes, I had to enter login credentials on each of them every time I powered them on.
Ready to Go
Perhaps the biggest strength of LEO-NET is that it's already wired into your room and ready to go, even before you move in. At other apartments, you have to contact a provider, make sure they have main lines installed at your building, then schedule a day for them to come and run a smaller line up to your actual apartment. During peak moving times, the installers can be booked at all times of day for 3 or 4 weeks. That can mean a sizable gap between moving in and using the Internet. And if you insist on a Saturday installation (because, you know, you have a job), you may be stuck waiting for a month or two before they can come hook your apartment up. This is pretty obnoxious around moving time, when you might want Internet access at home to communicate with family, employers, or to shop online for furniture and stuff for your new place, and I think this is especially pertinent when you're moving into a new place abroad. LEO-NET preemptively knocks that problem out of the way for you.
I hope you enjoyed our series on Leopalace apartments or found it useful in your own preparations to move to Japan. If you have any more comments on your experiences using LEO-NET, or if you have any questions about it, let us know!