NComputing RX300 Exam: Accessing Windows 10 Through a Raspberry Pi-Based Thin Client

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Despite its low price of $ 35, most companies wouldn’t choose the Raspberry pie as a desk system for work. A big hurdle for businesses using the Pi is that it won’t run the full desktop version of Windows – a necessity for those whose line of business software requires Microsoft’s operating system.

Thin client specialist NComputing solves this problem with the RX300, which bundles the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B as a device that can run Windows 10 as a virtual desktop through the vSpace Pro 10 virtualization software.

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You can use the RX300 in two modes: for remote access to Windows desktop sessions through vSpace Pro 10, or as a Raspberry Pi 3 device with direct access to the Raspbian Linux operating system and local applications.

Image: NComputing

The good news is that the RX300 runs Windows 10 without significant issues, providing an almost indistinguishable user experience from my Windows 10 laptop with Intel Core i7 when performing everyday office tasks like word processing. , email and web browsing.

The bad news is that there is a very slight but noticeable lag when using the RX300 – nothing major, but I did notice a slight delay when typing or alt tabbing between Windows.

To be fair, the lag was so minor that I could probably get used to it, and it wasn’t pronounced enough to interfere with my ability to work for several days while testing the RX300.

Your experience using the RX300 may also vary. NComputing’s test setup streamed a virtual desktop instance over a 39 Mbps (max) internet connection that appeared to be hosted in London on a large T2 instance on Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Perhaps those who use the RX300 through an on-premises server would find it as responsive as a standalone Windows 10 machine.

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There’s a lot to like about the RX300, which starts up quickly in the login screen and logs you into the virtual desktop almost instantly – certainly faster than my regular Windows 10 desktop or laptop.

I was able to install programs on the machine and found that the files were saved and loaded as quickly as on my desktop computer. However, copying files to and from USB drives was significantly slower than on a PC. Several USB drives that worked fine on my Windows 10 desktop were not recognized by the thin client. And although a 1.5GB file downloaded in about six minutes, I gave up trying to copy this file from the Downloads folder to a USB drive – after seven minutes it was still zero percent complete. It also took a little over two minutes to transfer a 45MB file to the stick, again much longer than on my laptop where it finished in seconds. This can be understandable given that this is a remote office, but the experience can still be frustrating for the end user.

And if the overall performance was good, the operating system overloaded more easily than on a local machine. For example, opening 15 Chrome tabs running ZDNet in quick succession caused the browser to freeze and the rest of the operating system became largely inaccessible, ultimately causing the whole system to crash.

On the plus side, unlike many thin clients running virtual desktops, the RX300 is capable of smooth HD video playback, supporting resolutions up to 1920 by 1200.

This is possible thanks to a vSpace Pro 10 premium feature called vCast, which streams video directly to the vSpace client (the RX300), bypassing the host vSpace server. It is true that playing a Full HD (1920 x 1080) video on YouTube through Chrome was smooth, with no audio out-of-sync and only one instance where I noticed a small piece of screen tearing.

Unfortunately, vCast does not support non-YouTube content. Non-HD videos on TechRepublic and ZDNet suffered from audio loss and out of sync with video, video freezes, and screen tearing. Streaming video over Microsoft’s Channel 9 network caused similar issues.

vCast can also speed up playback of videos stored on the local drive, and playback with 1280 x 544 video was smooth, although we did notice a slight tearing in the screen.

To start

Setting up the RX300 is relatively straightforward, although I struggled to get the RX300 to work initially. My issues were with an option not being selected in the network settings – which I’m sure an administrator would be able to resolve fairly quickly.

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The $ 99 NComputing RX300 has USB, Ethernet, HDMI, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity

Images: NComputing

Each RX300 thin client has four USB 2.0 ports, with full USB redirection and server-side device drivers to support a range of devices. The Genius branded USB keyboard and mouse that I used with the RX300 worked without a problem, although as mentioned not all USB drives were detected.

For network connectivity, the RX300 has an RJ-45 10/100 Ethernet port and 802.11 b / g / n Wi-Fi, alongside Bluetooth 4.1. It is powered by an ARM Cortex A53 quad-core processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage on MicroSD card. Each RX300 consumes less than 5W of power – another factor that might be of interest to companies considering a large-scale deployment.

The RX300 can also be switched to function as a local desktop, running the default Raspbian operating system of the Raspberry Pi 3 with the Pixel desktop. It works reasonably well as a desktop, as long as you moderate your expectations and don’t try to run multiple browsers with dozens of tabs open at once. However, the RX300’s Windows 10 desktop offers significantly better overall performance than Raspbian, which is understandable given that Raspbian runs on a $ 35 machine, rather than a more powerful server.

Windows 10 desktop is streamed to RX300 using vSpace Pro 10 virtualization server software. ZDNet’s review of vSpace Pro 10 praised the platform for its quick and easy installation, but also noted that its multiple management interfaces were confusing.

Unlike some competing platforms that use virtual machines, vSpace Pro 10 uses Windows Remote Desktop Services (RDS) to virtualize only the desktop. This requires a single copy of Windows on the host server, which allows for faster deployment and easier management, although users don’t have as much independence and flexibility as with a full virtual machine setup. The result is a platform suitable for use cases such as schools, colleges, and small businesses.

Conclusions

I have found that there are limitations to the RX300, including slight lags, USB performance, and the fact that it’s easier to overload the system than a desktop or laptop.

But if you want a thin client that delivers 99% of the experience of running a Windows 10 PC, there’s a lot to recommend the RX300, especially to schools and small businesses looking for a way. affordable and easy to deploy a centrally managed Windows desktop.

Server pricing and requirements
The RX300 costs $ 99, including a free one-year subscription to vSpace Pro 10 and a six-month trial of premium features. Each subsequent year will cost $ 49 per user of the RX300. VCast video acceleration is a premium feature that will cost an additional $ 99 per year per server.

vSpace Pro 10 can stream a Windows desktop to a single client from Windows 7, 8.1, or 10. To stream to multiple clients, vSpace Pro 10 must be running on Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 R2 U1, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Windows Multipoint Server 2011, or Windows Multipoint Server 2012. Organizations will also need to purchase the appropriate unique Microsoft Client Access Licenses (CALs).

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