I love my tablet, but I never have considered giving up my Macbook entirely – even though we’ve come a long way in using a tablet as a desktop replacement. Browsing works like a charm, but other applications simply require the superior graphics and processing capabilities of a laptop.
Then again, even a Macbook Air doesn’t measure up to the iPad in terms of portability. Lounging on the sofa, or lying in bed, the iPad remains the tool of choice. In an ideal world, your device would have the portability of a tablet, but the processing power and application range of a laptop computer.
It may be some time yet until Apple releases a de-simplified tablet – if it happens at all – but until then Splashtop does the job for us. It allows us to interface with our laptop’s desktop applications through your iPad, effectively giving us the best of both worlds.
Splashtop 2 ($19.99, But Free As Of Time Of Writing)
Splashtop uses software on your computer to stream your desktop to your tablet. You’ll be able to interact with your desktop applications through and intuitive an responsive touch-enabled interface. Splashtop can be used for a variety of uses. Do you want to create rich documents through Microsoft Office, make digital designs using desktop-based CAD suites, or browse the web using Flash-supporting web browsers? You can even use it to stream video from your computer to your tablet. Just say the word.
Splashtop works similar to Air Display, but is better suited for working with your computer through your iPad as opposed to simply using your iPad as an additional display. Alas, Splashtop 2 is also decidedly more expensive. We reviewed Air Display earlier this year.
Getting Splashtop Up & Running
Splashtop 2 is comprised of two parts. A streaming agent that’s installed on your computer and an iPad application. Users of other operating systems than Mac OS X will be pleased; apart from the Mac OS X agent, Splashtop also offers a streaming agent for Windows and Linux computers. Regardless of your operating system, you can download the streamer from Splashtop’s website.
The second part required to get Splashtop up and running is the tablet application. Normally, the iPad app sets you back $19.99, but Splashtop can often be purchased with huge discounts around the holidays. I bought the app for a mere $0.99 in Splashtop’s big Valentines sale, and as of the time of writing, the tablet application was free (although this may change at any time).
While installing the streamer and tablet client applications, you’ll be prompted to create a Splashtop account. Creating an account has become mandatory in Splashtop 2, but I dare say that’s a positive thing. By linking both applications to the same account, Splashtop is able to commune its location on the network. This makes the connection more secure and easier to establish.
Once you’ve entered your account details in both the streamer and tablet client applications, your computer will show up in the home screen of the Splashtop iPad application as you can see in the screenshot above. If you installed the streamer agent on multiple computers, all of these will show up in the list. Tapping the edit icon on the right side of a list item will allow you to specify display preferences.
By default, your computer’s display resolution will adapt to your iPad screen, but you can also use your computer’s native display setting.
If you’re having issues connecting to your computer, you can manually specify an IP address in the advanced section of Splashtop’s settings. However, this is not advised for regular users. If your tablet and computer reside on the same network, Splashtop should be able to discover your computer on its own.
Mouse & Keyboard
Splashtop has two different ‘mouse’ modes. By default, you interface with your desktop operating system using a standard touch-enabled interface. You click by tapping on the relevant item on your screen, and drag by dragging with your finger. This is great for most uses, but gets tedious if you’re trying to click small buttons and web links.
One way to solve this is by pinching the screen and zooming in on your iPad. Another, more conservative way is to switch to the classic mouse mode. By tapping the screen with two fingers, regular touch will be disabled, and you’ll be able to use your iPad’s touch screen as a touchpad instead. Just drag your finger over the iPad’s screen to move the mouse, and tap the virtual mouse buttons on your screen to actually click.
Splashtop uses the default iPad keyboard, but adds a number of special keys to the top, as you can see in the screenshot above. These allow you to use those keys that are specific to a desktop operating system, like the shift, control and F-keys.
Other Splashtop Tweaks
Tapping the arrow icon in the lower right corner of your iPad screen opens a bar with various Splashtop options you can tweak on the fly. Among other things, you can lock your iPad’s orientation, switch between different mouse modes, and reveal virtual directional keys.
One option I’d like to single out is the display mode. This button, second from the right, shows film and text icons. Tapping this button allows you to switch between two display modes; smooth and sharp. Smooth is better for watching video, and shows more fluent motion at the cost of display clarity. Sharp shows a very crisp screen and is better for browsing the web, but may result in choppy motion.
Splashtop is not cheap, but lives up to its price tag. It’s a feature-rich and responsive way to interface your desktop computer and its applications through your more portable iPad.
For what purpose would you use the application? Let us know in the comments section below the article!