Recently I embarked on a quest to see if there was a way I could stream my PC games to my iPad using the various remote desktop apps available on the App Store. Initially, this resulted in countless hours (and dollars) wasted, only to be disappointed time and time again. Some apps had no audio, others were nowhere near responsive enough, and some of them just flat out didn't work-- Then came Splashtop Remote Desktop [99¢ / Lite / HD].

Splashtop is a remote desktop client that streams your PC or Mac screen directly to your iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone with amazingly fast response times, and full streaming audio. Installation and setup couldn't be easier. All you do is install the desktop software and download the app and you're up and running. Keep in mind, using Splashtop outside of your local network will require fiddling with port forwarding, and unless you've got an insane internet connection, will bring the response time down to be almost unplayable. However, on the same network, Splashtop is basically a 1:1 representation of what is happening on your PC, and is totally enjoyable to game on.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest limitation while using Splashtop is the somewhat inevitable control issue as you're playing games meant for a controller, keyboard, and/or mouse using an odd touchscreen setup. There is an onscreen keyboard but it obscures too much of the screen to be usable. The onscreen arrow keys are nice, but most games require more than just 4 buttons to play.

Windowed games work OK, but for Splashtop to really shine, you need to be playing something fullscreen. I've found that using the OnLive service is by far the best way to game with using this setup. OnLive allows fullscreen play and automatically sets the resolution to your iPad or iPhone's screen. Also the menus are very controller friendly, and these days OnLive not only has a great selection of games, but has tons of free trials.

Puzzle games seem to work great, as they're mostly mouse controlled which translates well with how Splashtop interprets your touches as mouse movements and clicks. Anything more complex than that really requires a controller. The developers of Splashtop have attempted to remedy this issue by offering the Splashtop Remote Touchpad [99¢] app which you can run on your iPhone or iPod touch, but we've had much better luck using Joypad [$2.99 / Free] which we've already reviewed and liked quite a bit for playing emulated games.

Using your iPad running Splashtop and your iPhone running Joypad, you can do a surprising amount of PC gaming on your iPad. Sure, the setup couldn't be more convoluted since you're using two iOS devices, a reasonably specced out gaming PC, and two different paid apps to do it, but how else are you ever going to be able to play World of Warcraft on your iPad?

Games designed with simple controls in mind work fantastic with this setup. I was able to finish Braid using my iPad and iPhone with minimal interruption or lag. Sure, it might have been better to play with a real controller, but the novelty factor of being able to run (and play) a ridiculous number of PC games this way is sky high.

Depending on your home network, and how powerful your PC or Mac is, most people should be able to duplicate my setup easily with similar results. Keep in mind there are a lot of factors in play when using a remote desktop client like this. This laundry lists includes the speed of your host computer, the overall wireless climate in your area, how fast you can typically transfer data over your WiFi network, how low your local ping times usually are, and more. As mentioned in the Joypad review, if you live in an area where the WiFi selection list on your computer scrolls for ages, there might not be anything you can do to improve things.

While this review has focused on the gaming potential of Splashtop, the amount of things you can do with it is incredible. You're able to use anything you can on your computer, with great response times and audio. Also, seeing how well OnLive works this way really makes me wonder when they're going to turn the OnLive Viewer [Free] into an OnLive Client.

UPDATE: Since we posted this earlier today, it seems like Splashtop has gone free. According to the iTunes description, it's today only, so don't miss it!

TouchArcade Rating

  • Hitch

    The question now is... Can it run Crysis? 😉
    That's pretty awesome though! The controls just need some tweaking. Because you're using Onlive, you shouldn't need a gaming PC, right?

    • kel

       Actually i dont think so. There is slightly lag, the mouse control needs more accuracy for an iphone (not sure for an ipad). It could be too much to handle games.

  • kel

    I had it before you posted. lol
    I recommend this to everyone since i have been using for 2 weeks. If you have any problem just go over to their forum and ask, they will reply you for sure. That is how good their service is. Not regret having this app!

  • Erlend D. Handeland

     If it works this way "with amazingly fast response times, and full streaming audio", how come we haven't seen any iOS games using Airplay yet? THAT would really be great! :)ith amazingly fast response times, and full streaming audio", how come we haven't seen any iOS games using Airplay yet? THAT would really be great! 🙂

  • Michael

    The devs are planning to add joystick controls to Splashtop, but it has been taking too long. Hopefully they do get around to adding flexible controls since then this could be great for playing 3D games.

  • Cif

    Splashtop Remote Touchpad, Free 
    This app is 99c it is not free

    • Carl

       No, it's free. Try now.

  • Ron Krukkert

     noooooo there is a reason why those games only come on pc. to keep the people who play WOW stay inside ... get them outside and it will be an huge shock for them to actually see birds in real life and a huge dissapointment that they are the only troll in te neighborhood 

  • Ron Krukkert

     noooooo there is a reason why those games only come on pc. to keep the people who play WOW stay inside ... get them outside and it will be an huge shock for them to actually see birds in real life and a huge dissapointment that they are the only troll in te neighborhood 

  • Lucas

    How does this compare to everyAIR? It's an app thought to play PC games on iPhone/iPad too, it also promises low latency and future support for ps3

    • Anonymous

      Everyair is another good one, but no audio, and unfortunately as of April they have been bought out and will no longer support their product..

  • Anonymous

    I downloaded this app when I first received my IPad back in December. I'm not sure it is going to be the gaming solution for those wanting high end performance games to play on their iPad, but it certainly works amazingly well for my uses: JDownloader, Fileserve, and the like. I cannot think of a single issue I have had with it and for the price it is a no brainer.

  • Moatman

    While not as fast, splashtop works great over 3G also(both iPhone and iPad versions of remote desktop.) I regularly use it to connect to my pc while out, sometimes even getting a little wow in(though nothing strenuous or requiring fast reactions)

    Also handy if I need a file at home I can just email or dropbox it, or watching flash videos and that sort of thing. 3G setup is easy, was available since launch but requires port forwarding, which takes 5 minutes to setup. Highly recommend the apps.

  • Strayrobot1

    Splahtop was the only way I could play Civ5 incessantly and keep my wife.

  • Guest

    Splashtops currently being modified, does that mean the price is going back up?

  • Mariano Ruggiero

     This is really nice and all, but why would someone want to play like this? You not only need an iPad, an iPhone, two apps and a PC, but nobody can use the PC for anything else while you're playing like this because what you have is nothing but a remote screen and input. You might as well just use your PC and enjoy the comfort of a big monitor, and actual keyboard and mouse... Don't get me wrong. It's awesome that something like this is possible, but that doesn't mean it's useful... 

  • Charles Albert

     Hey guys, as I post this comment, this app is currently FREE on the AppStore. If you guys wanna try it for free, now it's the time!

  • Anonymous

    Purchased Splash Top four months ago - one of my most used programs. Sure, it's wi-fi, but you are able to do most PC stuff on your reclining chair via iPad. Movies, Flash Games, browser based games, Photoshop, outlook & other non-gaming apps, and many PC games that run in a window (full screen games usually don't work). We can access different computers in our household on one menu; we flip between Mac and PC  with no problems! Excellent program - especially if you don't feel like sitting hunched over your desktop all eve.

  • Kes

     I've been using Splashtop for the last month on my iPad 2. Works pretty well for hulu. I've also used it to start a bittorrent then watch the video remotely. It's also great for pranks - like starting up music or youtube videos on your desktop and disconnecting. 🙂

  • Michael

     What's the minimum speed you would want for this remote desktop app to work best? I have 15ms Ping, 11.32 mbps download speed, and 4.17 mbps upload speed. 

  • Sokurah

    For those saying "it's free" - it's only the iPhone version that's free...the iPad version still costs $1.99. There are free versions too, but their connctions are limited to 5 minutes. 

  • Bill Keeter

    Can I play Minecraft with this? If so, I'm in heaven. 🙂

    • Michael

       Sort of. If you have a good connection, it can be used as a portable screen to play Minecraft on, but you have to use the keyboard and mouse connected to your computer. Minecraft can't use the wasd keys to move or the mouse to aim. If you figure it out, tell me. 

      • MaximiliumM

         I figured it out ;P

        I used the iPhone to control mouse and keyboard using the app WifiPad. It's free, you should try it out. 

        Or another solution is using the camera connection kit USB adaptor to connect a keyboard to the iPad and use the iPhone as the mouse 😀 I've been playing Minecraft for some time now using this setup and it works perfectly.

        This setup is good for any game you want. You basically have all the functionality you have in front of your desktop.

  • Sambo110

     Just tried this on my iPod, there was like 0.5-1 second delay just on the desktop, I didn't even try to play a game. I think it's more of a novelty than anything else, why play the game on your iOS device when your computer is right there.

    • Guest

       because you can go sit on the sofa in the living room if you have a desktop in another room.

  • dalurkersteve

     does anyone know how to set up the iphone as a control type configuration as is shown in the video within the article?  I've been trying to figure it out and all i get is a mouse or a generic keyboard setup :/

    • Bill Keeter

      they used the Joypad app. Which also requires software being installed on your machine. Just tried their setup with Minecraft. So far the controls didn't really work with it. 

  • Bill Keeter

    looks like it's also good for watching movies off your Mac without having to transfer them to the iPad. bonus.

    • Anonymous

       For movies, I use Air video as that can play mp4 videos natively (instead of duplicating the computer screen) along with live converting movies with formats not supported by iPad. That way my mac screen is free to do other stuff.

      But ya, as an added bonus, this is another cool feature of splashtop. 

  • Adams Immersive

    I use iTeleport for this kind of thing, and it’s great for many uses! (Even over the Internet from miles away, if I can accept slow speed. Not for games except maybe some puzzle titles.)

  • Lucas Kundigraber

    I can't get a picture on my iPad 2, I can control the Macbook but I don't see anything... the display stays black

  • H Boothy

    on iphone this only works for games that don't require looking around (can't play minecraft) the reason being is that its inaccurate 

    • H Boothy

       very good though

  • Fredrik Jackson

    Brilliant app.

  • Rose Yang

    Just give a shot,the iPhone version is free, as of today (5/15)

  • noname

     what is the first game shown in the video? the platform one

    • Sokurah


  • Klouud

     one word... hulu.

  • WrongMovie

    no ipod touch 2g support 🙁

  • Crypton

     I'm using Splashtop to watch DVDs on my iPad. Works realy good.

    I don't know about gaming...

  • CassieTheChaoticCupcake

    I have the full version of this app and it's simply amazing! It's like all the features my iPad don't already have are bundled in this app. Yeah, because it's basically just a remote monitoring and control device, but I'm completely content with it. I've been playing my MMOs on my iPad for the past few hours and the response time is remarkable. I've been juggling my downloads, games, apps, and messages pretty fluidly. This app just made the iPad so much more worth it to me. 🙂

  • SnowLeo MMi

    Doesnt anyone realize the splashtop app has a remote connection option using a gmail account? That means you dont have to be on local wifi for it to work. Its freakin amazing! Was on a 2 hour car ride with my LTE mifi playing assassins creed brotherhood on my ipad using my iphone as the controller. Also I got a $100 HP touchpad and they have splashtop for that so I let my little bro use the touchpad and I used the ipad and we strapped it to the back of the front headrests and played some NBA 2k11 multiplayer and it worked great! Splashtop running over LTE was just as good over wifi and onlive worked great.
    Cant wait till onlive actually releases a playable ipad app and their universal controller. Maybe even some DIDO wireless for wireless internet 1000x faster than the Shanon limit (maximum bandwith previously possible) with no dead zones or loss of bandwith to run games that xbox 360 cant even dream of handling. Hopefully that day comes before Im too old to care about it. The whole flash browser running flash better than the fastest computer on my ipad will definitely be nice though.

  • Gyro Gearloos

    Sound doesn't work with this crappy app. be it win xp, win 7, or OSX. These guys are a joke. Support is a joke. steer clear... just a warning. 

  • Juliet Bell

    Additionally, you may also have a look at R-HUB remote support servers. It works on Windows, MAC, iOS, Android etc.