This thin-client device offers high performance

Windows-based terminals are easy to set up: You plug one in; configure its video, mouse, and network connectors; and the device is ready to use. The ThinSTAR 200 Windows-based Terminal from Network Computing Devices (NCD) is no exception. Except for a few bugs, this terminal is simple to set up and fairly idiot-proof.

A New Member of the Family
The ThinSTAR 200 is a promising addition to the Windows-based terminal family. The device is small, but it provides good video support.

The ThinSTAR 200 weighs 2.6 pounds and measures approximately 8" * 10" * 2". I set up the device next to a Wyse terminal in an area less than 1' deep and approximately 3' long. The area was big enough for both terminals and a keyboard. I placed the monitors on a shelf above the terminals (the ThinSTAR 200 isn't that small). If you can't spare the minimal amount of space the ThinSTAR 200 requires when you place the device on its side, you can mount the terminal on a small rack provided with the unit.

The ThinSTAR 200 is easy to set up. When you first turn the terminal on, you receive a prompt to run the setup wizard. During the setup process, you receive prompts to supply the Domain Name System (DNS), Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS), and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server IP addresses. You also receive prompts to choose a refresh rate and display resolution. When the setup wizard finishes, you need to reboot. After you reboot, you can set options, such as user account names and the type of client and connection you want to use. You can also set the terminal to display the entire desktop or just one application.

The ThinSTAR 200 provides good video support. Among Windows-based terminals, standard refresh rates range from 65Hz to 75Hz. The ThinSTAR 200 supports 1024 * 768 resolution at an 85Hz noninterlaced refresh rate that creates a steady image to minimize eyestrain. You have to adjust the settings on all computing devices to find the rates that the video card and monitor can support. The ThinSTAR 200 has a testing mechanism that lets you determine whether certain settings work before you accept them.

Special Features
Other Windows-based terminals are lightweight and provide good video support, but the ThinSTAR 200 is one of the first Windows-based terminals to support Windows CE 2.1, the latest version of Microsoft's lightweight Win32 operating system (OS). In addition, the ThinSTAR 200 release version will support Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and Citrix's Independent Computing Architecture (ICA). The beta version I tested supported only RDP. Thus, you can run the terminal with Windows NT 4.0, Terminal Server Edition; Citrix's MetaFrame add-on; or Citrix's WinFrame. The ThinSTAR 200 supports Display Data Channel (DDC)-2, and higher refresh rates than most terminals. DDC-2 is a Plug and Play (PnP) monitor standard that lets the monitor inform the video card of its maximum resolution and color depth.

High Performance
Because the beta version I tested only supported RDP, I couldn't compare RDP performance with ICA performance. Using RDP, the ThinSTAR 200 booted in about 30 seconds and logged me on in 53 seconds. (The logon time includes the time required to reenter the password when the system didn't recognize it initially.) The ThinSTAR 200 required slightly longer than 5 seconds to refresh a graphics-intensive page on a local intranet. Refreshing the same page on an NT server or workstation on the intranet required approximately the same amount of time.

When I browsed the Web on the ThinSTAR 200, I accessed graphics-intensive pages as easily as I do with a PC. As for the ThinSTAR 200's word processing performance, the terminal displayed characters as quickly as I typed them.

A Few Improvements
The ThinSTAR 200 was still in beta at press time. As with all beta products, this device needs improvement. For example, a more easily accessible setup program would be helpful. Before I tested this terminal, someone at the Windows NT Magazine Lab ran the setup program (which begins automatically when you run the terminal for the first time) and entered parameters appropriate for the Lab. Obviously, those parameters don't work in a location with different account and server parameters. Hence, I had to run a new setup program for my test terminal. However, there's no easy way to access the setup program. After you run the setup wizard one time, you can't easily bypass the screen that lists valid accounts to access the setup program when you boot the device again. (Hiding the setup program from the user is understandable; hiding the setup program from the systems administrator is not.) After some experimentation, I discovered the trick. I pressed Alt+Shift+Pause at the logon screen, which opened the setup wizard and permitted me to restore the terminal to the factory defaults. You can also run the setup wizard to edit the terminal settings.

The ThinSTAR 200's ability to recognize username and password combinations needs improvement. During my test, I created two user accounts. These accounts consistently required two logon attempts. Each time, after the first logon attempt, I received a message that said I had entered an incorrect password and needed to try again.

I recommend that NCD change the ThinSTAR 200's default display option from DDC to 640 * 480. DDC is a PnP monitor standard that automatically configures the highest resolution settings possible. Windows-based terminal users often use recycled monitors, and recycled monitors don't typically support DDC. If you accept the default settings and your monitor doesn't support DDC, you can't read the display when the computer reboots. If this situation occurs, press Ctrl+F5, Shift+F5, or Alt+F5 to boot the ThinSTAR 200 into video-safe mode (which runs the device at a 640 * 480 setting). You can then run the setup program to choose a resolution and refresh rate that works with your monitor. If you choose DDC, the setup program should offer to test the settings the same way the setup program tests other refresh rates and resolution combinations.

Thumbs Up
The ThinSTAR 200 has a few setup and logon glitches. However, after you set up the ThinSTAR 200, the terminal is easy to use. If NCD works out the setup and logon bugs, I'll recommend this device to anyone who needs a small, high-performance Windows-based terminal.

ThinSTAR 200 Windows-based Terminal
Contact: Network Computing Devices * 650-694-0650 or 800-800-9599
Web: http://www.ncd.com
Price: $695