Lead Image © David Grigg, 123RF.com

Lead Image © David Grigg, 123RF.com

Five multipurpose thin clients compared

Lean andStrong

Article from ADMIN 16/2013
Once you have decided to go for a thin client, you still have to choose which one. We look at five different devices from the wide variety of thin clients on offer.

There is no such thing as the best thin client. Nevertheless, in this article I compare five representative models – why? Because the thin client certainly is the best device for a particular purpose. The intended application determines how practical and inexpensive a certain thin client is.

If the application only uses text-based menus and ASCII art, if you do not need to connect to local peripherals, and if response time is not critical, your needs will certainly be well served with an inexpensive entry-level model. However, if you want to work with multiple monitors or even handle multimedia content to a significant extent, the entry-level choice is not optimal. Additionally, if you need special interfaces, you will have to look for a thin client that is equipped with them.

The choice is quite varied. We picked five fairly universal models, including entry-level devices and their better-equipped competitors (see Table 1).

Table 1

Thin Client Comparison

Manufacturer Rangee GmbH IGEL Technology GmbH Fujitsu Wyse Technology GmbH Wyse Technology GmbH
Price approx. EUR 375 approx. US$ 435 approx. US$ 450 approx. US$ 600 approx. US$ 335
CPU Via Eden X2/1GHz Via Eden X2/1GHz AMD G-T44R/1.2GHz AMD G-T56N/1.6GHz Marvell ARMADA PXA 510 v7.1
Chipset Via VX900 Via VX900 AMD A55E AMD G-Series A50M PXA 510 v7
Graphics processor Via Chrome 9, integrated Via Chrome 9, integrated AMD Radeon HD 6250, integrated AMD Radeon HD 6320, integrated Integrated/SoC
Graphics memory Up to 512MB 128MB 256MB 384MB 256MB
Flash 1GB 2GB 2GB 8GB 0GB
Speaker Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Card reader No Yes Optional No No
PCI slot No No Optional Only with Z90DE7 No
PCMCIA slot No No No No No
Power supply Fanless, external Fanless, external Fanless, external Fanless, external Fanless, external
Power draw Active: 11W; sleep: <1W Active: 9W; sleep: 1W Active: >10W; sleep: 1W Active 10-15W; sleep: 0.86W Active: 7.2W; sleep: 1.8W
Size (LxWxH): 140x42x198mm 227x82x231mm 191x97x266mm 225x47x200mm 119x25x177mm
Weight: 1.2kg 1.44kg 1.3kg 1.12kg 0.455kg
Operating system RangeeLinux IGEL Linux eLux RL Windows Embedded ThinOS
Kernel 3.3.2 3.2.30 6.01 SP 1 Firmware 7.1_207
X server X.Org 7.5 X.Org X.Org 7.7.1 -
Session protocols
Browser Firefox Firefox Firefox Internet Explorer No
ICA Yes, S-Model Yes Yes Yes Yes
NoMachine NX Yes, X-Model Yes No No No
RDP/FreeRDP Yes, S-Model Yes Yes Yes Yes
VMware View client Yes, S-Model Yes Yes Yes Yes
Citrix HDX Yes, X-Model Yes Yes Yes No
XDMCP Yes, X-Model Yes Yes No No
Thinprint No Yes Optional No No
SSH Yes Yes Yes No No
USB 5x USB 1.1/2.0(1) 4x USB 2.0 8x USB 2.0(2) 4x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0 4x USB 2.0
PS/2 1x 1x 2x Optional No
Serial No Optional via Connectivity Foot 2x Optional No
Parallel No No No Optional No
CRT/VGA Via adapter Via adapter Via adapter Via adapter Via adapter
LAN 1x 10/100/1000-Base-T 1x 10/100/1000-Base-T 1x 10/100/1000-Base-T 1x 10/100/1000-Base-T 1x 10/100/1000-Base-T
Microphone Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Line out Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Network options
IP via DHCP Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
WLAN Optional via USB stick Optional via Connectivity Foot Optional Optional Optional
VLAN Yes No No Yes No
Active Directory connection Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Mounting NFS shares Yes Yes No Yes No
Mounting SMB shares Yes Yes Yes Yes No
(1) One slot under the top cover. (2) Two of which are internal

Dell Wyse T10

The small device by Dell Wyse costs about US$ 335 and thus costs less than any other device in this test; however, this entry-level device does not fare well in feature comparison with the better-equipped candidates. However, the 500-gram lightweight unit can be mounted easily on the back of the monitor and can be retrofitted with WiFi.

Our test unit had a conventional Gigabit LAN port, a DVB-I port, and four USB 2.0 ports, as well as audio in and out. That's not overly generous, but it is adequate for many purposes. Additionally, this frugality benefits power consumption, which is amazingly low at about 7 watts in normal operation.

The Thin OS graphical user interface seems a bit spartan (Figure 1) and does not offer many options, but it's functional and easy to use. The supported session protocols are ICA or RDP but include nothing more exotic and no browser.

Figure 1: The Thin OS graphical interface seems a bit spartan.

Interaction with a Citrix XenServer or VMware View Connection Broker is possible, and the thin client also supports the Quest Software or Leostream VDI brokers and Windows Terminal Server.

Even the small Wyse T10 client can be managed using the Wyse Device Manager (WDM), which can handle thousands of thin clients from a central location.

IGEL UD3-740 LX Advanced

The interface of the IGEL, Linux version, is divided into the Setup and Application Launcher sections and offers well-structured menus with a wealth of options (Figure 2). They include the obligatory ICA and RDP protocols, as well as support for the Horizon and vWorkspace clients for Leostream and the NX and 2X clients and SAP sessions for the PowerTerm and IBM iSeries terminals.

Figure 2: An elegant Linux interface: the IGEL client.

Java Web Services or the Linux ThinLinc remote desktop server also can be supported. A built-in browser is provided, of course, along with a VoIP client that transforms the thin client into a phone.

IGEL Linux also provides detailed hardware information and configuration options for locally attached peripherals, such as storage or printers with tools similar to those found in the desktop environments of popular distributions. Diagnostic tools are available for troubleshooting network problems. On the hardware side, the device from IGEL impresses with an integrated smart card reader that allows any user to log in securely, quickly, and conveniently via two-factor authentication.

In addition to a DVI-I port, the current model also has a purely digital DVI-D port, so you can run two monitors at the same time in a dual-view configuration. An optional special foot contains a serial interface and can accommodate wireless technology.

Most thin client vendors provide centralized management tools with which large numbers of their clients can be updated and configured centrally. In the case of IGEL, this tool is called the Universal Management Suite, and you can use the suite to manage this versatile device, too.

Rangee S-L700-L

Like the IGEL, the Rangee comes with two DVI ports and is thus particularly recommended for workplaces where you want to work with two monitors. The model we tested did not have a card reader, unlike the IGEL, but the fairly wide Rangee product portfolio also includes devices with smartcard readers.

The rest of the hardware equipment is largely consistent with the common denominator in our test: four externally accessible USB ports, Gigabit network, audio in and out, one PS/2 for keyboard or mouse. A special feature of the Rangee is a fifth USB port inside the box when you remove the top cover. You can connect a WLAN stick here.

The Rangee's GUI (Figure 3) feels somewhat minimalist, but it is straightforward and lends itself to intuitive operation. Just as with the hardware, it is also important in terms of Rangee's software features that you buy the right product for your needs: Although you can find an answer to almost every need, you will find no all-arounders; instead, the options are distributed across multiple specialized devices.

Figure 3: Rather simple appearance but functional: The Linux interface of the Rangee S-L700.

Rangee's management solution goes by the name of Thin Client Management Server (TCMS), and it successfully managed the device we tested. TCMS itself can be installed on a thin client or on a virtual machine and works over WAN if needed.

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