As one decides on the optimum endpoint option for their VDI environment, 2 options tend to come up. You can either deliver a Thin client or a Zero client. Both can use the same hardware, although Zero clients often require little to no disc space because they are tailor-made for one app only (i.e. Citrix, VMware Horizon, Nutanix Frame, Microsoft AVD or Windows 365, etc…). Today, let’s focus on the Zero client and see how it stands out from the Thin client.

What is a Zero client?

A Zero client is a device specifically tuned to access remote or cloud workspaces. It is set up to support one specific application and remote desktop protocol (Microsoft RDP, Citrix ICA/HDX, Teradici PCoIP, VMware Blast, etc…) so, you boot right into the app that it is designated for. For example, if you run Citrix, you would boot right into the Citrix Workspace login screen. This makes it very secure and requires minimal hardware resources.

Does a Windows Zero client exist?

There is no such thing as a Windows Zero client. All Zero clients tend to use the lightest Operating System requiring low hardware resources. Zero clients tend to use Linux-based operating systems. While Windows 10 IOT exists as a lightweight version of Windows, it is actually a Thin client operating system and is much heavier than Linux-based options.  

How Flexible are Zero clients?

Zero clients are made for one application to run at a time. If, for instance, one needs to run both RDS and VMware Horizon from the same endpoint, this would require a Thin client operating system.

What kind of hardware does a Zero client use?

Zero clients got their claim to fame through the system on the chip hardware concept. This is when the operating system is actually on the chip. This is ideal from a security and boot speed perspective but does not allow for flexibility in terms of adapting the OS. One example would be the devices that run PCoIP with a Teradici chip. That said, having a system on chip means that the use case for the hardware is very limited. It only offers a specific protocol and software changes will not be possible later on. This is why many vendors began to release OS-based Zero clients which are not system on chip and not tied to a specific hardware. With hardware that is not tied to a specific use case, it makes it more flexible to support varying operating systems and protocols.

What are the hardware specs I need for a Zero client?

Just like a Thin client, Zero client specs depend on many variables such as the number of apps you will be running in VDI, the level of graphics you need and refresh rates, & whether or not communication and collaboration tools like Teams or Zoom will be in use, and more. While Thin clients are less resource-intensive than PCs, there is still a requirement for local processing. Zero clients tend to vary from raspberry Pi to quad-core processors, and 2GB to 8GB of RAM.  Depending on the use case, more or fewer resources would be needed. You also need to consider the connectors you need to plug into your peripherals: monitors, headset, webcam, keyboard, mouse, card reader, etc.

Can I make my own Zero client using my hardware?

Absolutely. There are desktop repurposing products out there that allow you to transform your PC into a Zero client. See how ZeeTransformer helps you achieve this.

Which is faster, Zero clients or Thin clients?

Zero clients are slightly faster to boot because there is only one application running, so the boot process tends to be very fast. With a Thin client, you may have multiple applications running so it may take longer. That said, many vendors offer a management tool that allows boot timings to be pre-programmed.

Is the form factor for Zero clients different from Thin clients?

There is no difference in the form factor between a thin and a Zero client. Generally, these are small devices that weigh a couple of pounds. They are fanless and very quiet. Typically they can be mounted on the back of a monitor to avoid crowding the desk space. Zero clients can also take the form factor of laptops or All-in-One devices  (monitor with PC combined). Even former PCs can be made into Zero clients. It really comes down to the operating system that is running on the device of choice. Depending on the device, there will also be varying peripheral options (USB, COM port, wifi, RJ 45, HDMI, Display Port, etc…).

Is a Zero client more secure than a Thin client?

Slightly. Because a Zero client has fewer applications, there is much less that can be targeted by hackers. However, A Thin client is also quite secure as both use read-only operating systems.

Apart from this, as the user does not have access to the local OS in a Zero client, he can not go to any malicious websites that might pose a security risk to the endpoint.

ZeeTim lets you choose!

With ZeeTim, Zero clients and Thin clients are possible via the same Operating System. With a few clicks via the ZeeConf Management tool, you can configure a device into a Zero client or Thin client. You can get even deeper to control the device’s application packages, keeping it lightweight and very fast to boot.

Watch this video to learn more.

Transform your PC into a zero client within minutes with ZeeTransformer. We offer 10 free licenses for testing.