By Kane Fulton January 07, 2020
The best thin clients for business
Thin clients? In 2020? We can almost hear you asking the question – didn’t they die out years ago? Well, not quite – thin clients remain easier to deploy, manage and maintain than their full-fat PC counterparts.
Not only can you update and maintain all the thin clients on your network from a central server, you can also push application updates and manage antivirus without having to physically attend to your workforce’s machines.
Thin clients are marginally more interesting than they were 10 years ago, today arriving in several different shapes and sizes – from unique triangular chassis designs to mini HDMI sticks that are plugged into TVs or monitors.
Of course, you may be looking for a traditional plain black box, and we’ve also listed plenty of those below in our list of the best thin clients of 2020.
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On paper it’s the best mini PC yet
CPU: Intel Core i3-5005, 2C/4T, 2GHz, 3MB | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5000 | RAM: 8GB DDR3 | Storage: 256GB | Ports: 3x USB3.0, 1x USB-C, 1x HDMI, audio jack, RJ-45 gigabit Ethernet | Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Dual-band WiFi 2.4GHz/5GHz , Dual wireless antenna, Bluetooth 4.0
• Capable CPU
• DisplayPort plus HDMI
• Dual Gb LAN ports
• No card reader
• USB 2.0
If you’re in the market for a capable thin client/mini PC combo, the L55 from Chinese vendor Beelink, which runs a bloatware-free version of Windows 10, has a few tricks up its sleeve. Even before lifting it out of its box, its spec sheet makes for great reading – a Core i3 PCU and 512GB is included in a sub $300 package. It shines in the connectivity department, with a pair of 4K-capable video ports couple with two LAN ports and more system memory and storage than you can shake a USB stick at. Speaking of which, its outdated USB 2.0 ports are one of only a few annoyances to be found.
Read the full review: Beelink L55 thin client mini PC
Sports a unique triangular design
CPU: Intel Celeron N3450/4C/4T, 2MB, 1.1GHz | Graphics: Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 500 | Storage: 64GB + 128GB SSD | Ports: 3x USB3.0, 1x HDMI, audio jack, RJ-45 gigabit Ethernet | Connectivity: Intel Wireless-AC 3165, Bluetooth 4.0
• Excellent value for money
• Unique design and finish
• No user-accessible parts
• No card reader
The only thing more interesting than this mini PC’s name is its design, which is more akin to something you might find in an art gallery than a server room. Despite its gorgeous design and quality finish, the Acute Angle AA B4 is actually pretty good value on the back of the, on paper, relatively modest specs inside. We just wish that the SSD inside was used to accommodate the Windows 10 operating system as that would have made it a real steal.
Read the full review: Acute Angle AA B4 desktop mini PC
Can drive a pair of 4K monitors using USB Type-C
CPU: Intel Pentium Silver J5005 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 605 | RAM: 4GB DDR4 | Storage: Samsung BHTD4R 32GB 128GB Minix | Ports: 3x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C, 1 x HDMI, audio jack, RJ-45 gigabit ethernet | Connectivity: 802.11ac Dual-Band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
• Powered by USB-C
• Expensive for what it offers
• No card reader
A well-balanced and smartly-designed workstation, the portable Minix NEO stands apart from the crowd in its ability to drive a pair of 4K monitors – a boon for productivity fans who have multi-monitor setups in various locations. It can also be powered by a USB Type-C connection meaning that you could feasibly power it using a battery charger or smartphone on the road, which would be handy for using it at trade shows or conferences. It ships with Windows 10 installed which thankfully isn’t slowed down too much by the eMMC storage it’s installed on. We’re hoping for an SSD upgrade in the future.
Read the full review: Minix NEO J50C thin client PC
A Mini Mii that doesn’t break the bank
CPU: Intel Celeron J4205 quad-core up to 2.6GHz | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 505 | RAM: 8GB LPDDR4 | Storage: 128GB SSD | Ports: 4 x USB 3.0, 2 x HDMI, audio jack, Gigabit LAN, SD card slot | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
• SSD rather than eMMC
• Excellent connectivity
• Can’t open the case
The Mii Mini PC is a thin client that looks like a typical Android or Windows TV box, but it offers much more under the hood. It ships with Windows 10 installed on its SSD drive, which instantly makes it feel snappier than rival devices in its category that rely on eMMC storage instead. That was reflected in our benchmarks, where the Mii Mini shone with read and write SSD speeds that almost hit SATA theoretical transfer limits – reaching an impressive 515Mbps and 530Mbps write speeds.
Read the full review: Mii Mini PC
Affordable thin client is suitable for dual-screen setups
CPU: Intel Celeron J3455 quad-core 2.3GHz | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 500 | Storage: 64GB eMMC Samsung CJNB4R | Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 2 x HDMI, audio jack, Gb Ethernet, TF card reader | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
• Excellent value for money
• Two HDMI ports
• Noisy in operation
• Still uses USB 2.0
If you ignore the whirring sound that comes from its internal fan, this affordable thin client is a winner for fans of multiple-monitor setups. Its ports include two HDMI interfaces located around the back for hooking up multiple monitors. Inside is an integrated Intel HD Graphics 500 GPU, which at the very least would be capable of driving one 4K monitor and another of a lower resolution. The AK7 comes free of bloatware, which his always a bonus, and is titchy enough to be picked up and chucked into a bag, or placed inconspicuously in the corner of an office.
Read the full review: AcePC AK7 thin client PC
Flaunts an eye-catching fanless design
CPU: Atom X7-E39504C/4T, 2M, 2Ghz | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 505 | Storage: 64GB eMMC Sandisk DF4064 | Ports: 2x USB2.0, 2x USB3.0, 1x USB-C, 1x HDMI, audio jack, RJ-45 gigabit Ethernet | Connectivity: Intel 3165, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Dual-band WiFi 2.4GHz/5GHz, Bluetooth 4.0
• Modern design
• Can add another HDD
• Expensive for what it offers
• Poor CPU performance
The CHUWI Gbox Pro finds itself going up against a number of solid competitors on its list, so you should only check it out if you haven’t seen anything else that’s caught your eye. It has arguably one of the best-looking designs of any thin client PC, it runs silently and comes with no bloatware installed. We also liked its legacy VGA port. But all of that is let down by its Atom CPU’s poor performance, none of which is helped by its 64GB eMMC onboard storage which suffers from sub-par read and write speeds.
Read the full review: CHUWI Gbox Pro
Only consider if the form factor is a must
CPU: Intel Celeron J4105 quad-core 2.6GHz | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 600 | RAM: 4GB LPDDR4 | Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, microUSB, audio Jack, Gigabit LAN, microSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
• Relatively cheap
• Surprisingly powerful CPU
• Flawed form factor
• 32GB of storage far too small
Remember HDMI sticks? Yes – they’re still around. Unfortunately the Azulle Access3 Mini PC is one that leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s a feasible option if you absolutely must opt for this format. It’s whisper quiet in operation due to having no fan inside, and the device is small enough to slip into a pocket for taking on the road and it’s robustly built to withstand knocks and scrapes. So, what gives? Unfortunately, its CPU and storage performance are very poor, and we hate the way that the stick dangles in the air in absence of a VESA mount. Added to that, its short power cable makes for a frustrating ride.
Read the full review: Azulle Access3 Mini PC
(Image credit: Dell)
Dells smallest and lightest thin client
CPU: Intel Atom X5-Z8350-2 1.44Ghz | Graphics: Integrated | RAM: 2GB LPDDR4 | Storage: 8GB flash memory | Ports: 3 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x audio-mic combo jack, 2 x DisplayPort, 1 x RJ45 | Connectivity: 10Mb/100Mb/1Gb Copper RJ45 (Wired Ethernet)
• Excellent connectivity options
• Supports two monitors
• Strong security features
• Modest CPU
This is Dell’s smallest entry-level client, and despite its compact design comes with a slew of connectivity options. You can hook up two monitors making it ideal for certain scenarios where you need a lot of screen real-estate without requiring bags of computing power. It comes with ThinOS installed, which is a security-conscious OS, and there’s plenty of computational grunt inside to perform in a wide range of use cases.
(Image credit: HIRUNS)
A PC in a stick that can display 4K content
CPU: Intel Z8350 1.44GHz up to 1.92GHz | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 4GB DDR3 RAM | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Ports: 2 x USB 2.0 and 3.0 | Connectivity: Built in 2.4G/5G AC WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2
• 4K video support
• 5GHz AC Wi-Fi support
• Chunky design
• 4K occasionally stutters
The second PC in a HDMI stick on our list, we stand our aforementioned comment that the form factor can prove irritating at best. However, looking past that, this one at least shows that good things can come in small packages. Its integrated graphics onboard are capable of displaying 4K video, making the T5 Mini PC an interesting option for streaming (or showing pre-installed) content on a monitor or TV, which could come in handy at a trade show. It provides ample connectivity grunt too, with built-in 2.4GHz and 5GHz AC Wi-Fi for streaming content from nearby.
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