Product Review: ViewSonic SC-T45 Thin Client PC
Large organizations are finding benefits to moving from a “one PC for everyone” model to servers that support a number of users logged in through virtualization services such as Microsoft’s Remote Desktop or Citrix. The user’s local system is just a means to access the server—applications are not installed locally. This reduces support requirements by centralizing the systems that actually need software installed on them.
For users who need no local software installed and only access servers in this fashion, a number of venders have produced “thin client” systems—computers with just enough power to run the remote access software that often have no local storage installed. One such system is the ViewSonic SC-T45, which we’re looking at today.
Packaging and Hardware
The SC-T45 is physically tiny and light-weight, weighing in at 1.2 pounds (0.5 kg), and 1.6x5.6x4.1 inches in size. It uses a power-supply “brick”, moving the additional bulk and weight of the power supply to the power cable. It can be placed on the included stand, or mounted to the back of a monitor as the stand serves dual-purpose as a VESA bracket.
The system is powered by Intel’s Atom N2800 dual-core processor running at 1.87 GHz. Graphics is provided by the Intel NM10 chip (which also provides the networking, USB and audio support for the system), with a maximum resolution of 1920x1200—plenty of screen real estate for most business users. Utilized in tablets and phones, this processor is designed with low-power and portability in mind, and makes sense for use in a thin-client box where local processing performance isn’t a strong concern. This system uses only 36 watts of electricity – about a third of the power consumed by just the processor in my desktop system.
It includes 2 GB of memory, and no local storage system to speak of – there’s just enough built-in flash storage for the operating system and a little local cache space. Installing local applications is not intended.
For external ports, four USB 2.0 ports are provided (two in front, two in back); a DVI-D port; an RJ-45 jack for gigabit Ethernet; Microphone and headphone jacks; and the power jack. The system is not equipped for WiFi, but as a thin client for remote access work, I wouldn’t want to do that through WiFi anyway for performance reasons.
For software, the SC-T45 comes with the Windows 7 Embedded operating system, with Windows RDP 8 (including RemoteFX), Citrix ICA/HDX 13.1 and VMWare View 5.01 preconfigured.
The system also comes with the ViewSonic Client Setup application, which lets you configure things like Remote Desktop sessions to remember, and whether USB devices are allowed to be shared with remote connections. It also comes with file based write filter enabled by default, which causes any changes to the system’s storage to be cached in RAM instead, and is lost when the system reboots to ensure the system always starts in a clean state. It also helps protect the system from the effects of viruses—any damage that a virus tries to do to the storage system gets rest when the system is rebooted. This can also be configured from the ViewSonic Client Setup application.
The SC-T45 is designed to work excellently with the remote access applications mentioned above, and this it does well. It boots up in 53 seconds and is ready to go; shutdown took 13 seconds. Internet Explorer runs well locally, and I had no problem surfing the web with it. As I use Remote Desktop a lot at home to access my main work computer from other locations in the house (such as the screen porch on nice days), I used this as my primary test.
The Remote Desktop Application worked quite well on this system, and there was no obvious lag in responsiveness. I was able to share a USB drive connected to the SC-T45 through the connection to the remote machine, and access it from my remote session without a problem. Copying a 30 MB video file across to it took longer than I would have expected, but it did work just fine.
All said, the SC-T45 is a nice little box, and with an MSRP of $379 I expect it would serve an organization well for a thin-client solution.