Splashtop Remote Desktop (2012) Review

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Editor's Choice

Pros: Supports high-res video and audio; Improvement of setup process since last iteration; Rapid screen refresh; Relatively cheap compared to similar apps

Cons: Gestures weren't always accurate

Verdict: If the ability to play movies and listen to music on your remote desktop is top priority, Splashtop Remote Desktop is your best bet.

While remote access apps for tablets are primarily used to check PowerPoint presentations or Word docs, that doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to use them to have a little fun, too. In addition to productivity apps, Splashtop Remote Desktop's specialty is its ability to stream high-quality video and audio. But with a starting price of $4.99 ($6.99 on Android Honeycomb tablets), is it worth this extra functionality?

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Setup

Setup was a cinch. First, we browsed to Splashtop's website and downloaded the companion app, Splashtop Streamer, onto our remote machine. Once installed, we fired up the lightweight client and created a security code. In the next screen, Splashtop Streamer displayed our computer's IP address prominently.

On our tablet, we then tapped on the plus (+) sign on the upper right corner of the app. This brought up a dialogue box where we entered a computer name, the IP address listed on Splashtop Streamer, the security code, and choose a resolution (800x600, 1024x768, Best fit to the device, etc.).

If the computer you want to access is on the same local network as your tablet, it'll appear automatically on Splashtop's list. If it isn't, Splashtop has a nifty feature called Internet discovery, that used our Google account credentials to link our tablet and notebook. It's a vast improvement over the company's earlier (and much more complicated) port forwarding setup.

Interface

Once we accessed our system, the remote desktop environment took up all of our slate's screen. There was just a small icon in the lower right corner that we could tap to gain access to an onscreen keyboard. Otherwise, all of the other settings had to be adjusted through the home screen of the app.

Splashtop let us use gestures to move around the remote desktop environment swiftly. All expected motions were supported, including pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling within windows. A tap and hold with one finger produced a right click, and we could drag and drop files by tapping and holding on something on the desktop. Using three-finger scrolling, we could pan around the screen. Using all three fingers, we could also tap the display and bring up the app's controls. Here, we were able to switch between two displays (our work setup uses two monitors) and see a complete list of gestures we could apply within the app. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be a way to view both monitors at once, unlike the LogMeIn app.

One outstanding feature that really set Splashtop apart was its ability to stream HD video and audio straight from the tablet. Of all the remote desktop apps that we reviewed, this was easily the cheapest option to let us use this functionality. However, Splashtop didn't support a wake-on LAN feature, the way LogMeIn does.

Performance

Splashtop Remote Desktop performed admirably in letting us access our desktop over Wi-Fi on our Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, iPad 2, and Kindle Fire. The app rapidly refreshed the screen every time we did something new on the desktop.

When we fired up a 720p trailer for the movie "Drive," Splashtop handled it with aplomb, playing it back to us lag-free. Impressively, audio stayed in sync with video, and the picture stayed sharp and clear at all times. While there was a small number of dropped frames here and there, the clip was still watchable. Next, we tried out a 480p version of the trailer. With that smaller size, performance was flawless and completely stutter-free.

We found our gestures and taps to be a little less accurate than other remote desktop apps, but overall navigating through the app was manageable. We had some trouble with scrolling, whether we applied the two-finger scroll (to move up and down within a window) or the three-finger scroll (to pan around the screen). We also had some difficulty in applying the pinch-to-zoom gesture, too. It took several tries before we were able to zoom into the portion of the screen that we wanted it to magnify.

Value

Currently priced at $4.99 for the iPad and Kindle Fire and $6.99 for Android Honeycomb tablets (the app is usually $19.99 for all platforms), Splashtop Remote Desktop is pretty affordable compared to other apps of its ilk (which are typically in the tens or twenties range). Even better, the app doesn't require any special monthly or yearly subscriptions--only a one-time fee, after which you are able to get limitless remote desktop access and the ability to play HD video and audio smoothly on your tablet.

Android users looking for top-notch performance may also be interested in the company's upgraded app, Splashtop THD ($6.99), which is exclusively for quad-core Tegra 3 Android tablets and computer systems with top-shelf specs. Released last March 2012, it's the only app that lets you play graphics-intensive games (like Skyrim) with no lag.

Verdict

Splashtop Remote Desktop is the best way for you to listen to music, watch videos and browse other multimedia content on your tablet. Its easy setup and price are pluses as well. If you're looking for the best overall method to get your PC on your tablet (and don't mind paying a small fee), Splashtop Remote Desktop is the app you should buy.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Software Type Utilities
Software Type Cell Phone App
Platforms iPad
Platforms iOS
Platforms Android
Platforms Kindle Fire
Platforms iPhone
Required Processor
Software Required OS: iOS, Android
Required RAM
Disk Space
Company Website www.splashtop.com