Pros: Plays smooth video and audio; Works on iPad, iPhone, and Android devices; Inexpensive
Cons: Ran slow for some tasks; Difficult to configure remote access; Doesn't work well outside of local networks
Verdict: Splashtop Remote makes it a cinch to access your PC from an Android or iOS device over a local network.
Who says you can't watch Hulu for free on your iPad? Splashtop, the company best known for its instant-on operating system for notebooks, has created a simple but effective app for accessing your computer from an iPad, iPhone, or Android device. While the $5 Splashtop Remote isn't as robust as full-fledged remote access apps, those who want to want to tap into their computer at home or in the office on the cheap will find it works well.
Setup and Features
Splashtop turns a mobile device--be it a smart phone or an iPad--into a remote viewer. First, download and install a free client for your Mac or Windows computer. The installation process took only 5 minutes, and there is nothing to configure. Next, install the Splashtop Remote app on your mobile device. With your Android or iOS device and PC on the same Wi-Fi network, open the mobile app and connect to your computer just by tapping its name.
Splashtop provides a few unique gestures for controlling your remote desktop. Like GoToMyPC for iPad and LogMeIn Ignition, you can tap once to left-click, press two fingers to scroll in a browser window, and perform other simple commands. However, you can also hold down three fingers to choose video resolution or switch displays if your PC has multiple monitors. The gestures in Splashtop worked well for most controls except the browser window scroll. (Sometimes, the app would perform a right click instead.) Unfortunately, the "twist" gesture that used to work on the iPad is now disabled, likely because it never really worked that well.
Don't take the "remote" part of Splashtop Remote's name too literally. To access our computer outside a local network, we had to access our router's settings, configure an IP address to use a static name, and then set up port forwarding--we used a small app from DynDNS.com to accomplish this. Splashtop's website warns that this is not for the feint of heart. The company has not announced any plans to make this process easier.
Once connected over a local network, we could play movies, music, and games as though we were in front of the PC. In our tests, we played the movie The Town, which we had downloaded previously on our desktop using iTunes, and it looked smooth and colorful on the iPad. We tested the game StarCraft II, but the graphics processing on the iPad was choppy and stalled out.
Hulu.com worked smoothly for both audio and video when we used Splashtop Remote. We watched the latest episode of Secret Millionaire and had no trouble with stuttering video or low audio volume. Thankfully, there are no prompts about Flash or other warnings. Note that the resolution on the host PC changes to match the iPad screen, so it is still watchable but looks a bit odd. The iPhone version was also fairly smooth; it's great to log in and continue playing the same song on your phone that was playing on your computer.
Unfortunately, performance was lackluster outside of our local network. Once we got everything set up for true remote access, Splashtop Remote's speeds were slower than with LogMeIn and GoToMyPC.
One advantage Splashtop Remote has over its competitors is price: It costs just $5 for the iPad or Android app and $1.99 for the iPhone and iPod touch. LogMeIn Ignition costs $30, and while the iPad app for GoToMyPC is free, you still have to pay $10 per computer per month for the client.
For just $5, Splashtop Remote is an inexpensive and easy program to use, and it provides a simple interface for controlling your computer across a local network. However, those looking for a way to access their home PC on the road would be better served with GoToMyPC for iPad or LogMeIn Ignition, which are easier to set up and provide better performance from afar.