Hands-on: Splashtop Brings Windows 8 to the iPad


We’ve been fans of Splashtop’s remote access apps for quite a while, so when we heard the company was working on a new remote desktop app for Windows 8, we jumped at the chance to take it for a test drive. Dubbed Win8 Metro Testbed-powered by Splashtop, the app is meant to provide Windows 8 developers with an easy way to create tablet apps for Microsoft’s latest OS without having to pick up an expensive Windows tablet. It also serves as an early version of what consumers can expect to see when the company releases its Windows 8 remote access app later this year.

Currently, the app only works on Apple’s iPad, a decision Splashtop said was motivated by the sheer number of developers with access to the device. The company assured us that an Android version is also in the works. Downloading the current version of the app through Apple’s App Store costs $49.99, although you can get it now for a special promotional price of $24.99.

Setup

Before you download Win8 Metro Testbed, you’ll need to install a copy of Windows 8 on your PC. Once you’re finished, download and install Splashtop’s Splashtop Streamer for Windows 8 on your PC. After installing the software, go ahead and download Wind8 Metro Testbed onto your iPad.

Like its Windows 7 remote app, Splashtop’s Win8 Metro Testbed allows you to remotely connect to your iPad to your PC through a shared Wi-Fi connection. The company also enables you to connect over the Web via your Gmail account. We chose the first option and connected our devices through our Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx’s LTE connection. Before connecting to your PC, Splashtop requires that you select the resolution at which your Windows desktop will be displayed on your iPad.

By default, the app will choose your iPad’s native resolution. If you want to get the full Windows 8 experience, you’ll have to set the resolution to display at your PC’s native resolution.

Once finished, simply choose your Windows 8 PC from Splashtop’s Computers list, and you’re set.

Interface

If you choose to display the app at the iPad’s native resolution, your iPad’s entire screen will be taken up by your Windows 8 desktop. If you choose to use your PC’s native resolution, you’ll notice a considerable amount of black space at the bottom of the screen. As with Splashtop’s other remote access apps, a small utilities icon in the lower left corner of the screen lets users access the onscreen Windows keyboard and a host of other settings.

Beyond using the keyboard, Win8 Metro Testbed gives users access to all of Windows 8′s multitouch gestures. Users can swipe from the left edge of the screen to cycle through open apps, slowly swipe left to right to run two apps on the screen at once or quickly swipe from left to right and back to the left to view a thumbnail list of all open apps as well as the Start menu.

Swiping from right to left opens Windows 8′s Charms menu, which allows users to quickly access Windows 8′s Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings.

Performance

Because Splashtop is so heavily dependent on your Web connection, it’s difficult to determine where performance issues with the app start and stop. In general, our experience with the app was fairly lag-free, with the exception of the occasional network hiccup. There were, however, times when our iPad 2 slowed to a crawl.

We had the most issues with a Google Chrome window that we had previously minimized. Tapping the Chrome icon on our iPad was immediately recognized by the Windows 8 machine and opened without issue. But when it began to open on our iPad, there was a significant amount of slowdown. We also noted a bit of lag when switching between Windows applications, though nothing close to the issues we noticed while running Chrome.

Performing Windows 8 gestures was mostly smooth.

Outlook

From the looks of it, Splashtop’s Win8 Metro Testbed has the makings of another excellent remote access app. Although there are still some kinks to work out, the fact that the software is as polished as it is gives us hope for not only its consumer release, but the Windows 8 apps that will be developed with it.

AUTHOR BIO
Daniel P. Howley
Daniel P. Howley
A newspaper man at heart, Dan Howley wrote for Greater Media Newspapers before joining Laptopmag.com. He also served as a news editor with ALM Media’s Law Technology News, and he holds a B.A. in English from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
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