HP Compaq t5720 Thin Client

  • Editors' rating
    7.8 Very good

Pros

  • Fast AMD processor
  • low heat output
  • silent
  • good video support
  • Altiris management software
  • optional quick-release mounting bracket

Cons

  • Bulky for a thin client
  • little documentation included

The latest addition to the HP Compaq family of thin clients, the t5720 is the first to deploy an AMD processor. Not that the CPU is anything particularly fancy -- just an AMD Geode NX 1500, which majors on power saving (6 Watts) rather than performance. Still, the Geode NX 1500 is pretty nifty compared to competing thin client silicon, and its 1.0GHz clock speed puts the t5720 firmly at the top of the range in terms of performance.

The t5720 is a very smart-looking device, but one of the first things you notice about it is its size, which is actually quite big for a thin client. In fact, it approaches the size of a small desktop PC, but don’t let that put you off. A small stand allows the t5720 to be used vertically, or it can be positioned horizontally and -- using a monitor stand -- placed under a screen. Alternatively, an optional quick-release bracket allows the unit to be clipped on behind a flat panel monitor, wall mounted or fixed beneath a desk.

Power comes from an external AC adapter and there’s no internal hard disk or cooling fan so, like most thin clients, the t5720 is almost completely silent. That can be a bit spooky to start with, but you soon get used to it and wonder why other devices can’t be that way.

As well as the new processor, the t5720 comes with either 256MB or 512MB of DDR RAM (bear in mind that most applications will be run remotely, so huge amounts of RAM aren’t needed) plus a further 512MB of flash memory to hold the system settings and other local data.

An integrated SiS741GX controller looks after the video, using 16MB of available system memory. Although a monitor isn’t included, you can use most VESA-compliant LCD or conventional CRT screens, the t5720 supporting an impressive maximum resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 with full 32-bit colour.

Network attachment is via an integrated 10/100Mbps Ethernet interface with a set of six USB 2.0 connectors to connect printers and local storage devices. Audio, serial and parallel ports are also to be found on the back panel with a choice of PS/2 or USB connectors for the keyboard and mouse, both of which come as standard. Plus there’s an optional expansion module to allow add-on PCI cards, such as a wireless network adapter, to be fitted.

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The only control is an on/off button. Switch this to the on position and the hardware goes through the usual BIOS checks before loading the OS -- an embedded version of Windows XP (XPe) complete with Service Pack 2 -- from an image held in flash memory. Auto-logon is set by default so you’re catapulted straight into a familiar XP desktop.

However, as you might expect, you’re limited in what you can do. There are very few local applications beyond Internet Explorer, as thin clients are designed to run desktops and applications on remote host servers. Support for both Microsoft RDP and the Citrix ICA protocols, therefore, comes as standard, enabling the t5720 to be used with both Windows Terminal Server and Citrix MetaFrame hosts. Added to which there’s a conventional terminal emulator for access to mainframes and other legacy systems.

You also get a licence to use the Altiris Deployment Solution, to remotely manage thin clients and other network devices from a single console. A pre-installed HP Sygate Security Agent is also included, to protect against worms, spyware and the like. Plus there’s built-in support for VNC remote control and optional virus protection too, if needed.

Thin clients, of course, are very much a specialist purchase. But, with that in mind, the t5720 makes a good impression. It’s quick and, as with most products of this ilk, the lack of heat and noise make a welcome change compared to the conventional PC experience. It’s also well configured and the video support is excellent. However, it’s not perfect.

To start with, the hardware is bulky compared to other thin clients we’ve looked at ,which could be an issue for kiosk deployment. Moreover, apart from a brief Getting Started guide, you get very little documentation with the product, and that will be a real pain if you’re just starting out. Indeed, to get detailed notes on deploying -- and, more importantly, customising -- the t5720, you have to go looking on HP's Web site. Fortunately much of what you need is there, but it takes some finding and we’d firmly recommend buying from a specialist reseller who can help with deployment and setup.

Other than that the t5720 is a welcome addition to the HP Compaq Thin Client line-up and is worth considering both by companies upgrading their existing setup and those buying into thin client technology for the first time.

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