Thin clients are small and affordable, and many of them have enough hardware (and expandability) to act as servers.
These thin clients can be obtained for just under $50 on eBay as of 2021. The basic specs are:
- AMD GX-420GI - quad core, 2.0 GHz base clock, 2.2 GHz boost clock, with Radeon R7E graphics
- DDR4-1866, SODIMM, 2 slots, populated with one DDR4-2133 4 GB module
- M.2 2242 slot
- M.2 2242/2260/2280 slot
- M.2 WiFi/fiber card slot
- 8 GB or 16 GB storage
My t630s each came with a 8 GB M.2 2242 SSD. The 16 GB configuration is common, and I've seen 32 GB configurations as well.
These machines come with 512 MB of memory reserved for the video card by default, which is significant given that they generally have 4 GB total. Follow the instructions in "reserved memory settings" link above to change the reservation amount in the BIOS.
The M.2 WiFi slot is in top left and has the VGA cable running over it in this system.
The VGA cable, and the associated port, are optional. My t630s don't have them. My t630s have this configuration:
Below is a variant of the t630 with the dual-port fiber card:
These thin clients can be obtained for $35-$40 on eBay as of 2021. The basic specs are:
- AMD GX-217GA - dual core, 1.65 GHz, with Radeon HD 8280E graphics, or
- AMD GX-415GA - quad core, 1.5 GHz, with Radeon HD 8330E graphics
- DDR3-1600, SODIMM, 2 slots, populated with one DDR3-1600 4 GB module
- mSATA slot (not always present)
- M.2 2242/2260/2280 slot
- Half mini PCI-E WiFi slot
Although the specs claim that both mSATA and M.2 slots are always present, I've received t620 thin clients that only had the M.2 slot. I bought all of my thin clients used therefore I don't know whether they were configured originally with the exact hardware I received, but I've had the following configurations:
- GX-217GA (dual core), mSATA populated with 16 GB SSD, M.2 present and empty
- GX-217GA (dual core), mSATA present and empty, M.2 populated with 16 GB SSD
- GX-415GA (quad core), mSATA absent, M.2 populated with 16 GB SSD
The absence of mSATA was disappointing as I like separating the device that stores the operating system from the device that stores data, and one reason why I like the t620 and t630 machines is that they support two storage devices. But, for some of the t620s this isn't the case.
There are other hardware variations as well. The specs state that the WiFi cards are made by Broadcom, but I have both GX-217GA and GX-415GA thin clients with Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 WiFi cards.
The gigabit Ethernet on my systems is provided by Realtek RTL8168g/8111g.
These machines come with 512 MB of memory reserved for the video card by default, which is significant given that they have 4 GB total. Follow the instructions in "reserved memory settings" link above to change the reservation amount in the BIOS.
The GX-415GA thin client is capable of playing 480p YouTube videos under Linux. It struggles with 1080p videos depending on the content (fast motion and scene changes, requiring more bandwidth, produce momentary freezes). These thin clients are suitable as desktops but not as HTPCs. With that said, the fact that 480p video works acceptably well seems to indicate that the Radeon video hardware (8330E) is supported by the Linux kernel, and likely used for accelerated video decoding and/or playback.
I haven't owned these because they have only a single storage device.