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Pros & Cons of Zero and Thin Clients – and What Nerdio Recommends

Tony CaiPartner Sales Executive
Windows Virtual Desktop
March 07, 2019Articles

We often get asked by MSPs what brand of thin clients we recommend for Nerdio and the answer is, it doesn’t matter to us.

If the thin client supports remote desktop services (RDS) for Nerdio for Azure, it’ll work. Nerdio doesn’t officially recommend any specific brand, but just like a PC, there are many options to consider when it comes to thin client specs. How many USB ports does it have? How many monitors does it support? What are the monitor connectivity options? Does it come with wireless options? 

There are two types of “non-fat” clients. There’s the zero client and a thin client - but what are the real differences between the two? Why should you pick one over the other? 

Zero Clients

Zero clients come with tiny hardware embedded OS (firmware) that rarely need updates and are typically not prone to viruses. They have a very specific function: to boot right into the VMWare Horizon, Citrix, or RDS session.

This is usually accomplished in seconds since there isn’t much to it, but keep in mind that most zero clients only support certain VDI protocols. So, make sure it supports RDS if you are using Nerdio for Azure. Once the connection broker settings are configured, it takes just seconds to boot up and you’ll see your desktop sign-in screen almost immediately.


Pros of a zero client

  • Optimized. Hardware is optimized for specific connection protocol (mostly for Citrix and VMware Horizons, but some support RDS), but make sure the one you pick supports your desired connection type.
  • Setup is a breeze. There are just a few settings and you’ll be connected to your VDI.
  • Fast and simple. Since there isn’t any operating system, it boots up within seconds from being powered on.
  • Centralized management. Many manufacturers have developed software to help manage your fleet of zero clients.
  • Simple. A zero client is as simple as it gets, so the costs are bare bone as well.

Cons of a zero client 

  • Flexibility. Since a zero client typically doesn’t support all protocols, you’ll have to pick which one to go with and you’re likely stuck using that specific protocol for the life of the unit (some manufacturers allow you to switch protocols but will require a firmware flash to do so).
  • Lack of OS. Since there’s no OS, you can only manage them through the manufacturer software, not with your RMM solution.

Thin Clients

Thin clients, on the other hand, are a bit more flexible. They typically boot into a Windows 10 IoT environment which is a locked down Windows 10 environment. Here, you may be able to use Chrome or install an RMM agent, but it’s not designed to be used as a bare bone desktop.

You’ll have the option of creating multiple connection brokers and connection types. Thin clients will likely support all the common protocols including PCoIP, VMWare Horizons, Citrix XenDesktop, and RDS10. Since it’s more flexible than a zero client, it tends to be a little more expensive. However, because an actual operating system is installed, management and patching the thin client will be required a bit more often than the zero client. 

Pros of a thin client

  • Flexibility. Multiple protocols are supported: RDS, VMware, Citrix, etc.
  • Can be updated. Increase support for peripherals and update protocol specifications.
  • Management. Easily manage and push out templates.
  • Windows 10. You can install RMM to perform simple management of the thin client.

Cons of a thin client 

  • Management. There are patches and updates that need to happen few times a year.
  • Booting. It boots into the thin client OS, possibly confusing the end user (though this can be resolved by setting to boot directly into the specific session).
  • Timeliness. Since it needs to boot into the thin client OS first, it adds a few more seconds compared to the zero client.
  • Cost. Not as economical as a zero client.


HP Thin Clients (Only Win10 IoT OS Compatible with WVD) 
t430 | t530 | t630 | t730 

Dell/Wyse Thin Clients (Only Win10 IoT OS Compatible with WVD) 
Wyse 3030 | Wyse 5020 | Wyse 5070 | Wyse 7020 | Wyse 7040  

IGEL Thin Clients (The only Linux based WVD Client)
IGEL Certified Hardware

StratoDesk (Repurposing Software with Compatibility with WVD)
NoTouch OS

HP Zero Clients (Compatible with RDS Only)
t310 G2 | t310 AiO G2 

Dell/Wyse Zero Clients (Compatible with RDS Only)
Wyse 5030 | Wyse 7030 


When considering zero client vs, thin client, make sure to select the Windows 10 IoT OS for best compatibility with all connection broker types. For maximum flexibility, select a thin client with Windows 10 IoT OS. For a lower-cost zero client, make sure to pick one compatible with RDP for Nerdio for Azure. Zero clients do not support Windows Virtual Desktop at the moment.

DISCLAIMER: Windows Virtual Desktop requires a Windows 10 IoT device, any linux based thin clients with the exception of IGEL and StratoDesk clients will not work with WVD.


Best of all, enjoy the freedom of ditching your fat clients forever! Welcome to the world of virtual desktops - welcome to Nerdio!