Splashtop Remote is a new iPad app plus PC server program combo package that provides remote control of your Windows PC using your iPad. It’s from the guys at DeviceVM who brought us the instant-on OS, Splashtop, but similarities end with the name. There are several applications that allow you to VNC into your computer across a network from an iOS device, my favourite thus far being TeamViewer, which has iOS apps for both iPhone and iPad, plus a plethora of desktop utilities. What DeviceVM say makes Slashtop Remote different is that you can ‘watch video, listen to music, and even play games remotely’. The major difference we can see is that Splashtop Remote automatically pipes the sound from your computer to your iPad, as long as you’re using Windows 7 or Vista.
What that means in reality is that you can play music straight from your computer on your iPad, and in our testing it works very well. Games can also be played, though why you’d want to play games like Farmville via Splashtop Remote rather than the iOS native app I don’t know, but for those fantastically addictive flash games that simply can’t be played on an iPad lacking flash support, it’s more than possible to play them using Remote. A word of caution however, even though the Remote solution works very well, there is a certain amount of inherent lag that just can’t be escaped. Even on a local network with the PC you’re controlling, the lag that comes with the degree of disconnection would make anything that required fast responses very difficult to play, you can rule out Crysis or anything that requires a keyboard and mouse too. However, in our testing, Margherita our veteran Farmviller described the experience as quite good, with the only issue being some of the smaller UI elements being difficult to actually tap on with fingers rather than a mouse. Full screen Farmville looks particularly good on the iPad’s 1024×768 native resolution, and the lag that would inhibit playing of faster paced games simply isn’t an issue.
There is one place where lag, at least for us, is totally unacceptable, and that’s video. There’s nothing more frustrating in our eyes than out of sync audio. In our testing watching flash video over Splashtop Remote was almost unbearable for anything with spoken word in it. The video comes across fine as long as you’re on a fast connection or the local network, but actually watching something decent, even clips of family guy without lipsync is just not kosher. Yes it’s a way of getting flash video viewable on your iPad, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
If you’ve ever thought, damn, I need full MS Office on my iPad – Remote will also solve that issue for you. There’s not much you can’t do on your PC via Remote except use apps such as games that require ‘full screen mode’, but a word of caution for multi-display users like ourselves – there is only support for one display as far as we can tell. Of course that kind of thing can be rolled out in an update, but existing and ‘free’ apps currently support monitor switching. Another potential good point, or bad point depending on what kind of bandwidth you’re packing, is that Splashtop Remote doesn’t alter the colour scheme on your Windows desktop. Most other VNC type apps reduce the screen resolution and colour scheme to reduce bandwidth requirements as much as possible. It’s fine for use on your iPad, but when you get back to your computer you have to go through the settings to change colour scheme and resolution back to normal. Remote does reduce the resolution of your PC screen display to either 800×600 or the iPad’s native resolution, but once you quit the app on your iPad the screen springs back to its full resolution, no user interaction needed.
So what do we actually think of Splashtop Remote? Well it’s a functional remote control program that has some nice features, but is sorely lacking a few things that make it a bit of a deal breaker for us. Yes, it is possible to play music and a few slow games via Remote, but due to the lag that’s inescapable in these VNC type solutions, watching video is something we’re simply not prepared to do over Remote. Having full control of your Windows PC is however a nice tool to have from a device like the iPad, and the control scheme implementation on the Splashtop Remote application itself is very good. It’s easy to click, right-click and scroll and bringing up the keyboard for text entry is a simple button tap away. But there we come to one of the biggest draw backs for Remote in our eyes – it’s Windows only. As primarily Mac users ourselves, remote Windows control isn’t all that useful, and I suspect that quite a high proportion of iPad users are Mac users. However, it’s just a case of implementing an OSX Remote server application and we could soon be controlling our Macs as easily as our PCs. Another potential drawback we could see, was that unlike Remote Desktop Connection, it’s not possible to control your PC behind a lockscreen or screensaver. That might be fine if it’s a home PC, but having your work PC showing everything you’re doing on the screen as you remotely control it and essentially enabling someone to control your now unlocked PC from your unattended desk is a bit of a security concern. The last potential nail in the coffin is that Splashtop Remote is not free. Gasp, I know, a decent app that’s not free – it costs $6.99 and while seven bucks isn’t going to break the bank, other solutions such the previously mentioned TeamViewer are free for non-commercial use.
Overall if you’re after a VNC-type remote application specifically for your iPad, which essentially puts Windows on your iDevice, then you can’t go far wrong with Splashtop Remote. The application on the iPad is extremely easy to setup, whilst the desktop counter-part is also fairly simple. Piping the sound from your computer to your iPad is a real boon, and yes you can play desktop Farmville via Remote. While there are free solutions that do the same thing, none of them are as easy to setup and use currently. We just wish that it supported remote control of OSX too.