A little while ago the guys at Axel let me borrow one of their M80 thin clients to try out with Citrix VDI-in-a-Box and also Microsoft RDS (Server 2008 R2) and I’m happy to say I can easily see this as a good thin client to use in the office although I have my reservations about use in classroom.
This review takes a look at some things that wern’t in the video (also makes some corrections to the video) and should help to give you a better overview of what the Axel M80 thin client can do.
RRP and goodies
To start off I’m told this thin client has a RRP of about £169, this covers the thin client, VESA mount, short VGA lead (I love this idea!), 5 year return to base warranty and software/firmware updates for the life of the device – certainly one of the most comprehensive packages I’ve ever seen.
As thin clients go the M80 isn’t just thin but almost tiny! Weighing in at 330g and with dimensions of just 105x135x27 mm this thin client is small enough to be discretely hidden behind any VESA monitor (VESA mount is included as standard) with easy access to the top power button and USB ports. If basic VESA mounting isn’t enough for you then its also possible to buy a separate security mount that uses torx screws to prevent anyone running off with your thin client.
The one factor that brings this thin client down hardware wise is its lack of a built in 3.5mm audio port for headphones, yes its possible to use a USB sound card with a 3.5mm port however in a classroom I could only see these being stolen (small USB thingy plugged into the front would make its self an easy target). The other option is to use USB headsets however you would then be looking at how does a student use their own headsets with the thin client?
OS? What OS?
The M80 dosn’t come with a OS in the traditional sense but instead runs off pure machine code, this leads to exceptionally fast boot times (no BIOS/Windows/Linux to load) and indeed in the video you can see the client going from power on to RDS session ready to login to in just 17.1 seconds! Since the thin client runs off code that is specific to Axel devices it would be highly unlikely that anyone has even considered writing malicious code for it – thus making a highly secure device.
A key point the Axel guys are keen to mention is they do support their devices for a very long time – by hardware design the M80 is a little over 4 years old (2008) however it quite happily works with the latest technologies like Citrix VDI-in-a-Box and RDS in Server 2008 R2.
Although not Citrix certified (yet) the M80 will quite happily connect and run connections to Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop and VDI-in-a-Box. The video shows the colour depth as quite poor (I describe it as blotchy in the video) however in speaking with Axel it was more likely that I just had the colour depth turned down to 16bit instead of 32bit (something to check if you are looking to trial one yourself). General performance of the session when looking at basic office applications was no more or less than I would expect from any other thin client. Video playback in a window was on par with most modern devices however the M80 lacks in full screen playback (as part of HDX) as it doesn’t support media redirection (Flash or WMV) which many modern Windows/Linux thin clients do.
Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) on Server 2008 R2
I feel that the M80 truly shines as a good office use thin client the moment you point it at a RDS server, with time to power on and displaying a login screen as low as 17.1 seconds it is hard to find anything to complain about. Performance when running common office applications was similar to that of Citrix but again with video performance at anything greater than in a window being below what I would expect for a more ‘full fat’ thin client.
With its wide range of goodies (VESA mount and VGA lead), low overall cost and long life span the Axel M80 is a perfect addition to any office environment that looks to run Microsoft RDS sessions with basic office tasks – say in a call centre or on factory floor where concerns like dust and vibrations make using conventional PCs impossible. The drawback of no 3.5mm audio port makes it hard for me to see this being used in classrooms (with students) as most IT courses involve some form of media element.