Mobile apps and the cloud have tarnished remote desktop wizardry. In days gone by, being able to see your desktop on another computer halfway across the country was amazing. You could edit documents, look at your photo library or delete files all while your main computer stayed at home. With the iPad though, most users settle the “lite” version of computing via iOS.
If you want to use your daily computer to get any real work done, you still often need to pull out the laptop or chain yourself to a desk to use a remote access application. Not so with Splashtop 2 for the iPad. It promises to bring all the joy of your PC’s finely-tuned operating system to your iPad and do so seamlessly.
Let’s find out if it follows through on those promises.
Splashtop 2 necessitates some extraneous steps beyond the normal “grab iPad, download from AppStore, use app” chain of events, so let me briefly explain the basics.
- Download the Splashtop Streamer application to your Mac/PC. This app allows you to stream your computer’s screen to you iPad.
- Download the Splashtop 2 app from the App Store onto your iPad.
- Open the Streamer and find the computer you want to stream to you iPad. Add a password if you want.
- Open the app on your iPad and off you go.
After the beginning setup, Splashtop 2 offers a fairly seamless “pick up and play” operation.
Using the App
You will need to be on the same Wifi network as your computer in order to use Splashtop, unless you opt for the “Anywhere Access Pack” that provides connection regardless of the network. Once connected to your desired computer, Splashtop 2 provides some helpful shortcuts for navigating, as shown in the screenshot below:
In addition to these basics, there are some options to enhance the experience. For example, you can toggle arrow keys on the left side of the screen in case you’re playing a game, or utilize multiple monitors and switch between which is displayed on your iPad. Splashtop 2 also lets you choose between sacrificing speed for a sharp display on your iPad or vice-versa.
The option for speed is nice whenever you’re navigating your file system for a specific document, at which time you can switch to the sharper version to read said document. It’s little forethoughts like these that make the Splashtop 2 experience wonderful. As an aside, I don’t recommend using Splashtop 2 in portrait mode unless you want to lose half of the app’s screen real estate.
The Splashtop streamer forwards audio from your PC to your iPad, so if you open up Splashtop 2 while your computer is churning through an ’80s playlist in iTunes, the music will mute on your computer and come through your iPad speaker instead. Pretty cool, right?
Undoubtedly, there are readers out there wondering it Splashtop 2 can bring critically-acclaimed desktop gaming titles to their iPads. Examples such as Portal, World of Warcraft and others lack an iPad-friendly version due to the required horsepower of a computer. Well, I have good and bad news. Splashtop 2 runs these games quite well to the iPad, but enjoying them is a matter of control.
I fired up the the much-beloved indie game “Bastion” on it, and while the game functioned just fine with minimal choppiness, the lack of a keyboard or gamepad made it quite disappointing. Having said that, playing simpler desktop games may be more feasible, but the iPad already has these types of games via the App Store.
Without calling Splashtop 2 barebones, let me make it clear that the app concentrates almost solely on the job of recreating your desktop on the iPad. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles to accompany that task, but in my experience, it was solid for its main purpose.
At its regular price of $9.99, it may be a stretch to recommend unless you’re in need of a desktop virtualization app. Splashtop 2 does go on sale quite regularly though, so you may just need to wait around for a price that is more desirable. I bought Splashtop 2 duing a Fourth of July sale for $1.99, and the app was recently on sale for $2.99 in celebration of the Olympics, so there are obviously more wallet-friendly prices. Currently, it’s $6.99, so if it interests you, you may want to grab it before it goes back to its regular price.
If you decide to truly go remote, you’ll need the “Anywhere Access Pack” add-on in order to connect to your computer regardless of the network you’re on. To do that, expect to shell out an extra $0.99/month or $9.99/year.
The iPad is sadly not based on a finger-friendly version of OS X (as I deeply hoped it would be), but maybe that was the better choice in the long run. Splashtop 2 smoothly channels your desktop environment to the 10.1-inch iPad, but it’s not exactly a preferred experience to the tried-and-true mouse/keyboard combo. Splashtop 2 doesn’t make working from your iPad any more productive or even enjoyable, but it does make it feasible.
I’ve been using Splashtop 2 off and on for a month now and I will say that it has largely satisfied its fundamental premise. It doesn’t have gobs of features, but those it does have are designed to work well. Considering I went into the program assuming it would be a train wreck, I have been pleased to find it quite functional. It’s fluid, and doesn’t hit many hiccups (on broadband Internet). If you’ve ever wanted to watch flash videos on your iPad or take your Windows Solitaire game on the road, Splashtop 2 may be right up your alley — but I recommend waiting for a sale.