NComputing L230 Thin Client Terminal

Several years ago, NComputing released a series of thin client terminals suitable for the education market. These are of two types, the X series connect to a PCI card in the host computer and there can be 3 or 5 terminals connected. The L series connect over a network to a remote host server. The photo below shows the L230 terminal interface attached to the rear of a typical LCD monitor.


As you can see it is pretty compact, a lot more than the computer that it replaces. The keyboard, mouse, display, network cable and power adapter connect to the sockets on the sides of the unit. You can also connect microphone and speakers and one USB device.

There is nothing particularly new about thin client hardware, but most of it is industrial and has not attempted to address the low end of the market before now. Our review unit was supplied by Insite Technology, who are now the main distributor of the product in NZ, a very insightful choice due to their heavy market penetration in education. There is not much in the box, basically the unit, its power adapter and the bracket to mount it to the back of an LCD screen. Once it is all connected up, download the Vspace software from and install it on the host server. When this is running the client will automatically find the server and the client’s setup menu can be used to do the most relevant level of configuration.

One thing to be aware of which I noticed straight away is that not being Windows Terminal Server, the Start menu of a logged on user is not adjusted to remove the Shutdown option. In a Windows RD/TS session this option is removed to the Windows Security dialog which is off the Start menu. However in any case you should configure your users to remove the Shutdown option in a GPO.

A very useful feature built into the client setup is a kiosk mode, in that instead of loading the desktop it can run an application which is effectively the shell interface. For example you can load a web browser. I did find limitations in what you can enter as command line parameters for this though, for example no quote marks which some applications require to be included when there are spaces in the command line. When you close the web browser it would then log you off automatically.

It is natural that there will be some limits of performance according to what the host computer can deliver. One of these limits could well be in the area of video playback, as normally this is resource intensive enough that it is not possible to do in a RD/TS session. I am guessing though that provided the host computer is powerful enough it should be able to run a number of sessions of lower powered software like word processing and so on.

Pricing for the L230 currently sits somewhere below $300 but check with Insite as bulk pricing options are available. You have to provide a keyboard, mouse and screen but these are easy enough to obtain new or used. One useful feature of the L230 is that it is supported by Microsoft’s new Multipoint server, which is a stripped down version of Terminal Server designed especially for thin client applications. Multipoint Server has within it the advantage of providing a simplified configuration interface specifically with classroom usage in mind. Although there is a cost to set up the server, a classroom with 30 of the L230 terminals and the server would be a very compact and cost efficient setup with a huge space, power and heat saving, no reliability problems with old computers and no need to maintain these computers.