HP Thin Clients vs NComputing

As I noted in my previous post about NComputing thin client terminals, HP and other vendors have been producing the thin client technology for much longer. In NZ, NComputing has been particularly effective at getting its name out there in the education community in a way that we haven’t seen with HP, in part because unlike the latter, I suspect, they haven’t got the conflict with their established marketplace for full computers. When you go to the HP website and look up thin client products, you see that they are considered by HP to have a place in education, but it is a fact that the resellers and agents in NZ aren’t actively promoting thin client terminals in the education marketplace to any significant extent that I am aware of.

Due to the well established nature of HP and other vendors in a number of sectors (not just education) where thin client hardware is commonly used, these brands of thin client terminal are widely available second hand. Therefore in order to get a reasonable comparison and evaluation opportunity before we decide whether to take the plunge into thin client computing, we have purchased a couple of second hand HP thin clients on Trademe. One point to be aware of when purchasing second hand (as with PCs) is that the vendor can supply all passwords needed to log in (as applicable). All thin clients I have encountered so far (including NComputing) have the ability to be locked down with passwords to limit the amount of end user configuration. If you can’t get these passwords when you buy a thin client, its usefulness to you could be very limited.


This is an HP T5510 thin client, which has a Crusoe processor, 128 MB of RAM, Windows CE shell, and supports various protocols, including RDP 5.2. It was manufactured exactly five years ago. In testing it was able to successfully connect so far to a Windows XP computer and a Windows Server 2003 server. I have been told this should be able to hook onto a Windows Server 2008 server, but so far I haven’t been able to do this. I suspect that Windows CE isn’t able to tell me that NLA might not be supported. We will try setting up a WS2008 virtual server to test with NLA turned off, since the risk won’t be that great for a server that is inside the network with no external access, or access only through the RD Gateway. Once I had figured out how to unlock the terminal from Kiosk mode it was very easy to get it going and connect to a remote desktop. Once we have a remote server set up for it to access we will be able to start testing to see whether it can do what we want.

A useful point of comparison is that the HP terminals (and others out there), unlike NComputing, can use standard protocols like RDP; NComputing makes you use their proprietary UXP system. This means you can use MS Terminal Server or one of the other supported session virtualisation technologies that are out there. The second point is being able to get cheap second hand terminals in the marketplace. Even although they are proprietary and could be expensive to repair, they are cheap enough that this isn’t such a big deal as it would be with a much more valuable PC. The third point is that, like NComputing, these terminals are also supported by MS Multipoint Server. Therefore, NComputing has no advantage in terms of Multipoint Server. The “shared resource computing” technology referred to by MS in the Multipoint publicity, incidentally, is somewhat weird, considering that it is just another kind of terminal server and this has existed for years. Multipoint is good, though, if you want to delegate administration of the server to a lesser skilled person, and this may be one advantage if we switch to thin client in our junior school. For now, I’ll just be testing this thin client in a classroom to see what use it is for a teacher and a junior class. It may well happen that we will go with HP thin clients instead of NComputing if we switch over our junior school to replace their old desktop computers with thin clients.