Just the other day, I was talking with a science teacher who was bemoaning the underpowered thin clients in her school. She felt hobbled by them and was talking about some of the simulations and 3D visualizations that she couldn't do with her students because of them. Enter HPs new Z210 workstations.
Most of us in ed tech have heard the siren song of thin clients. There are lots of ways to go about thin computing, some better suited to certain applications than others. There are virtualization options, PC over IP, remote desktops, you name it. But unless you invest in PCoIP or an extremely robust virtualized setup with one heck of a network infrastructure to go with it, there will be compromises. Sure, the average remote desktop, simple desktop streaming, or low-end VDI solution is relatively inexpensive, very easy to manage, and easier to set up than an old-school computer lab. The computer and networking hardware required to simulate the desktop experience are often prohibitively expensive for schools.
Which leads too many schools to eschew thin clients completely when, in fact, they can be a considerable source of cost savings. On the other hand, there are simply applications in both K12 and higher ed settings that beg for some desktop horsepower. Photoshop, CAD, video editing, and mathematical modeling are only a few of the applications that will happily eat up whatever hardware you throw at them.
In response to this need, HP introduced the Z210 yesterday in convertible mini-tower and highly compact small form factors, calling them "ideal for use in education." I have to say that I agree. Obviously you don't need a workstation on every desk. But a lab or two of these compact, low-power-consumption, expandable, high-performance desktops can be had at fairly reasonable prices. In part, this is enabled by Intel's new Xeon E3 processors and P3000.3 HD graphics embedded chips. The latter gives schools access to considerable 3D power at a much lower cost than discrete cards (although the systems can be expanded with discrete cards as needed).
The small form factor, in particular, will fit nicely into the space constrained setting of the average school computer lab or classroom. While HP has set pricing starting at $569, expect the Xeon E3, discrete graphics cards, and bumped up RAM to increase the price considerably (options pricing isn't available at this time). However, with pricing competitive with well-optioned PCs, latest generation Intel chips, and native 3D performance (not to mention highly usable form factors), the HP workstations should be on your short list for computer refreshes this summer. In fact, this is about as thin as you can get and still have certified workstation performance.