I've tried just about every remote control application under the sun. iTeleport, LogMeIn Ignition, Mocha VNC and TeamViewer have all been on my iOS devices at one time or another. When I recently heard about Splashtop Remote, my initial thought was to delete the email about it and move on. Fortunately, my curiosity got the best of me.
Like most remote control apps, Splashtop comes in two pieces -- the free Splashtop Remote Server part that runs on the target computer (either Mac or Windows), and a client app for iOS. The Mac server is still in beta, while the Windows piece has been in place for a while. The iOS apps run US$1.99 each for the iPhone and iPad versions, and there is a free time-limited (5 minutes per connect session) version for iPad that is useful for just trying out the app. That's probably my biggest complaint right now -- many of the other remote control apps are available in Universal versions that run on any iOS device.
Why am I so smitten with Splashtop Remote? Perhaps my biggest criteria for apps of this type are ease of setup, speed and a way of controlling the Mac or PC that makes the best use of the iOS touch interface. Setup is dead simple on both the desktop and mobile devices, although the Mac installation does require an installation of Soundflower. Since I already use Soundflower, I was able to skip that step. Launching the mobile app displays the computers that are running the server on the local network. A tap on the computer name launches the connection.
The first time you connect, a help screen appears showing the various gestures to control the computer. A tap is a left-click, a tap-and-hold is a right-click, a two-finger tap is used to mouse over an item on the screen, a two-finger drag vertically scrolls a window, and an item can be tapped-and-dragged to cause a drag-and-drop on the Mac or PC. There's also a three-finger tap gesture that displays in-app controls for switching between smooth and sharp video modes, switching between multiple monitors, an arrow pad and an orientation lock.
Your finger acts as the mouse on the remote screen. If you have a huge display like my 27" iMac with a native 2560 x 1440 resolution, you won't see the entire display. There's a setting that allegedly allows your device to use the remote computer's native resolution, but it didn't work properly for me, so I was stuck in a 1024 x 768 window. Considering that the desktop remote server piece of this software is still in beta, I believe that's something that will be fixed soon.
On my home Wi-Fi network (802.11n), connection and control speeds were lightning-fast. I found that and the intuitive "your finger is a mouse" concept to make this the most natural remote control application I've used. I actually wrote a paragraph of this post from the iPhone app, something I was not able to do easily with most of the other control apps. I also like that the sound from your desktop computer is streamed to your mobile device. I used the iPhone and iPod apps to listen to music on my Mac (Splashtop mutes the desktop computer's sound) and watch movies. It's a sly way to also watch Flash movies on your iOS devices, sound and all.
How does it work from remote locations with a 3G or Wi-Fi connection? In a case like this, self-discovery of the local machine isn't possible, so you use a feature in the app to add the desktop computer with its external IP address and a specific port number. I then made sure that my Mac firewall would accept connections to that port and that I had port forwarding enabled on my AirPort Extreme. While my iMac could tell that it was being tickled by the iPhone app (it specifically showed a message that said that the Mac was being controlled by the iPhone), I could not establish a control connection from the iPhone. Once again, that doesn't worry me. The Remote Server app for the Mac is still in beta, so there's time for Splashtop to fix this issue.
While that's being fixed, I will continue to use Splashtop for control of my Mac from iPad or iPhone over my Wi-Fi network. It works very well, and the low price makes the app a bargain. If you're dubious about Splashtop, I suggest trying the free iPad version to get a feel for how it works.