HP has been quietly but steadily building its portfolio of thin clients, upping the ante last year by acquiring Neoware and its range of Linux-based solutions. The latest Compaq t5735 aims to deliver the performance of a desktop PC but in a slimline, low-power package.
The t5735 is endowed with a good specification, offering six external USB ports and a couple more hidden underneath the removable top cover. The cover is held in place with a single screw, but you can add an optional lock to keep it secure. Underneath the main side cover you also have a PCI slot, plus PCI and PCI Express riser cards, although we can’t see how you’re going to fit anything in it as there’s a hefty heatsink in the way.
More ports are on the rear panel, including serial, PS/2, VGA and DVI, plus a 10/100 port for the network connection. Graphics are also handled well, as the embedded ATI Radeon X1250 chipset with 32MB of video memory offers resolutions up to 2,048 x 1,536, 32-bit colour depth and dual-monitor support.
The preloaded image boots the system swiftly into Debian Linux. This has the big benefit of speed and responsiveness, but you lose the familiarity of Windows XP Embedded. A Citrix presentation server client provides options for adding and configuring connections to Citrix ICA servers, while HP’s connection administrator allows you to manage connections for ICA, RDP, XDM and browsers. The open-source IceWeasel web browser is based on Firefox and TeemTalk handles terminal emulation for connections.
Businesses that could run hundreds of these devices need good remote access for configuration, general support and deploying updates and images.
For these functions HP includes a complimentary copy of the Altiris Deployment Solution (ADS), which supports all t5000 series thin clients and HP’s blade workstation clients. Each HP thin client receives a perpetual licence when they connect to the ADS console.
ADS requires an existing local or remote SQL Server, but for smaller installations it can use the bundled MSDE2000. The console provides a tidy interface where you can run an auto-discovery routine to locate and add all HP thin clients running the Altiris agent.
These can be organised into groups where you view their members in a pane alongside, while beneath are your preconfigured jobs. To run or schedule
a job, just drag it onto the relevant group or system. These can range from loading or removing applications to migrating specific user settings. The Altiris RapiDeploy feature can also remotely capture and deploy thin client images.
Thin clients have a lot to offer as they provide tight security, have no moving parts and, with the t5735 consuming a mere 18W in our tests, cost less to run than standard workstations.