Splashtop Remote Desktop for iPad Review: Turn Your iPad into a TouchScreen PC or Mac, it Works!
Need an app to let you access your PC from your iPad? Been frustrated with the apps you’ve tried? Then Splashtop Desktop Remote just may be the app for you. It is easily the most usable remote desktop app I’ve seen in the App Store.
On in-home WiFi, Splashtop Desktop Remote works, and works incredibly well. To begin, you will have to install a desktop client to your Mac or PC; this creates the IP address that Splashtop will access. Once that client is up and running, accessing your PC is as simple as opening the app, establishing a password, and pressing “Connect,” thus making your desktop available on your wireless network.
The stream from computer to iPad via local WiFi is the best I’ve seen in a remote access app. The client app even resizes the stream, so that my computer, which normally runs on a widescreen monitor, is displaying in iPad-friendly 4:3 ratio through Splashtop. The image is clear, the lag time is low, and things like video don’t suffer from slowdowns or sync issues. Mouse controls have been translated to a series of touch and tap gestures, and they’ll take a little getting used to, but once you start remembering what a Right Mouse Click or a Rollover is, things run really smoothly. You can even pinch-zoom the image! Through this connection, Splashtop Desktop Remote offers an incredible amount of access to programs on-the-go. Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Quicken, any number of specialized business or home applications — you now have a window into those programs from your iPad.
Of course, I had to try and access some of the Holy Grails of the Internet, like Hulu and Flash-based content. And as expected, it worked! After all, Splashtop is just streaming the content of your desktop, and the desktop can run Hulu. It’s not a crisp, clear picture, but it’s serviceable enough to watch. Ditto for sites running video through Flash players, and even sites running Flash games. If lack of Flash is one of those things that gets your goat about the iPad, here’s a solution for you. It may not be optimal, but it works better than other remote desktop apps I’ve tried.
In addition to local access, Splashtop recently added remote access. Set it up with a Google account, and your desktop becomes accessible between wireless networks. This feature is not quite as functional. I noted more lag and a degradation of image than I did over local WiFi, especially when trying something like Hulu — that is, something that was eating bandwidth that Splashtop needed to stream. This is not surprising, and I’m sure the level of lag and degradation will vary depending on both your home network and the network you’re accessing from. But still, the complete functionality of Splashtop is available over the Internet, and that’s a nice thing for those who absolutely need it. I wouldn’t rely on it regularly, though.
The appeal of Splashtop is also limited a bit by the robust nature of the App Store. The App Store nowadays is full of so many great native apps that function like desktop apps, that there are fewer and fewer moments when I’m traveling and wish I were on my PC. Sure, Splashtop will let me use Microsoft Word from my iPad; but it’s just as convenient to use something like Pages or QuickOffice. And desktop programs are not, of course, optimized to work in a touch environment, even one trying to mimic a desktop interface. For example, programs like the Sims 3 or Adobe Photoshop rely far too much on keyboard shortcuts and keyboard-mouse combos to be truly usable over Splashtop. That’s not the app’s fault, necessarily; it’s part of the limitation of having programs optimized to work with a mouse and a physical keyboard. But it is a limitation, nonetheless.
Bottom line: It’s hard to say whether or not you’ll prefer using Spalshtop Desktop Remote for iPad over sitting in front of their computer when using PC applications. But if you need that kind of functionality, Splashtop works, and works really well. It can never replace the desktop experience, but if you’re looking for a remote access solution, or if you want to view things like Hulu and Flash-based content from your couch, Splashtop Desktop Remote is pretty good.
Our Score: 4 out of 5