Cstation offers users fat and thin computing

The compact Cstation had no problems communicating with a server by Category 5 cable up to 80 yards in length.

The hybrid Cstation has some of the advantages as well as some of the limitations of thin-client architecture.

Standard thin clients save space and money but they can overwhelm a server, just as the old-fashioned dumb terminals did when they sent too many mainframe requests at once. Also, thin-client users are more or less locked out of anything except authorized software. This is a security advantage, but it frustrates users who need to save a file to disk or burn a CD-ROM.

Compared with a conventional, 'fat' PC client, the hybrid Cstation delivers greater system security with lower upgrade costs. It also makes for easier network administration, lower heat generation and reduced cable clutter.

The GCN Lab tested a Cstation C1000 with an embedded 350-MHz processor, 128M of RAM, a keyboard, mouse and monitor. It connected by a Category 5 lifeline to the server, which handled the higher-end functions.

The Cat-5 cable was rated for 100 yards maximum, and we experienced no problems up to 80 yards from the server. The higher-end Cstation L1100 model uses a fiber connection instead, for a maximum distance of 880 yards from the server.

We ran several higher-end applications, including Adobe Photoshop, which generally bog down a thin client. The Cstation had no trouble, however, and colors looked good thanks to an 8M video chip. We were glad to find two Universal Serial Bus ports plus microphone and speaker jacks. For highly secure installations, these could be disabled via jumper settings inside the box.

The Cstation had several shortcomings. The $1,195 price tag would mean little or no initial cost savings over a conventional PC. And the box itself took up as much real estate as some Celeron computers.

For all its expandability, the Cstation had no serial or parallel ports. There was room for them, but disabling them for security reasons might be difficult. The standard 120-volt power supply would not guarantee much energy savings. And the Cstation generated heat in use, though less than a full client.

Offices whose users need USB peripherals would get the most benefit from the Cstation.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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