The NCD ThinSTAR 300 has a 133MHz Intel Pentium CPU, 16MB of RAM (upgradeable to 64MB), 8MB of flash memory, 2MB of video RAM, and Windows CE 2.1. Outside, the NCD ThinSTAR 300 is reminiscent of a skinny desktop computer's pizza-box motif. In front are two small speakers. In back are two COM ports; an LPT port; two Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports; network and keyboard/video/mouse (KVM) I/O ports; and power. The complete set of ports supports a wide array of devices locally, more than other Windows-based terminals (WBTs) that support only an LPT or COM port or have no additional I/O ports. The only catch to these extra ports is that you can't use them without NCD ThinPATH Plus (or other port-mapping software) installed on the terminal server.

The biggest drawback to the NCD ThinSTAR 300's design is its flat physical look and large footprint, which encourage you to put the monitor on top of the device. An advantage of a WBT, such as the NCD ThinSTAR 300, over a desktop computer is that the WBT is smaller and can fit into a cramped space. However, the NCD ThinSTAR 300's monitor placement is clumsy and awkward when you plug devices into the back or when you need to verify your connections. The power switch is also on the back, which doesn't make sense. You can rarely hurt a WBT by turning it off while it's running a session, and users will likely shut off WBTs when they're finished, so the power switch should be in front.

The NCD ThinSTAR 300 is easy to set up. The device walks you through a nearly self-explanatory setup wizard that prompts you to accept the license agreement, choose a display protocol (select RDP to use the WBT with NCD ThinPATH Plus), and provide the name of a DHCP server (if the setup wizard can't find one). The management information that the setup wizard requests pertains to the Windows NT server with the NCD ThinSTAR Management Service (TMS) installed—you'll need this server to update your NCD ThinSTAR's flash ROM to support NCD ThinPATH Plus.

The only potential danger when setting up the NCD ThinSTAR 300 is choosing a video output scheme. The default is Display Data Channel (DDC), which is a Plug and Play (PnP) standard for detecting the highest resolution your monitor can handle. However, choose DDC only if you're using the terminal with a new monitor that you're positive supports DDC. A test option for DDC doesn't exist, and if your monitor doesn't support DDC, you won't be able to read the display when you reboot. This problem isn't crucial (you can start the terminal in 640 x 480 mode by pressing F5 when you restart the unit), but it's a pain nevertheless. I recommend that you choose the resolution and refresh rate that you want and click Test to verify the terminal supports the resolution rather than use DDC.

Setting up connections with the NCD ThinSTAR 300 is similar to setting up an NT 4.0, Terminal Server Edition client session. You define the server name and provide the name or IP address of the server you want to connect to (a browse function to detect terminal servers doesn't exist, but you're not connected to the terminal server when you're setting up the connection), and you're ready to go.

NCD ThinSTAR 300
Contact: Network Computing Devices * 650-694-0650 or 800-800-9599
Web: http://www.ncd.com
Price: $799
System Configuration: Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition or Windows 2000 Server TCP/IP on server