Thin Clients vs Thick Clients

As the trend of taking on companywide virtual transformations becomes more popular and necessary, many companies are faced with the daunting task of deciding what type of endpoint device is best suited to meet their needs and create the best virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for their business. This selection is far from simple as decision makers are faced with an abundance of variables that they must take into consideration and effectively contrast between multiple devices. Here at ClearCube, we are experts in crafting custom solutions that best fit each of our customers. This expertise makes us more than qualified to assist companies in making the intimidating decisions that come along with company virtualization advancements.  

One comparison that many companies must engage with in order to zone in on the solution that is right for them is thin clients vs thick clients. Understanding what these endpoints are and how they are different from one another is essential to creating your company’s virtualization plan.  

What is a Thin Client? 

A Thin Client is a lightweight, low-cost device that is easy to integrate and scale within your virtual desktop infrastructure. As the name suggests, it is a more compact and thinner version of traditional boxy desktop PCs. Even though the physical appearance of these products are far more modest than those of the typical PC found at the end user’s desktop, the same cannot be said about the capabilities of thin clients. These energy efficient devices have an impressive PC-like performance and allow employees to work just as, if not more, efficiently on a daily basis.  

What is a Thick Client?  

Thick Clients, also referred to as Fat Clients, Heavy Clients, and Rich Clients, are full featured computers that are able to properly function whether they are connected to their central network or not. These devices are equipped with their own hard drives and other local resources. A thick client can often be thought of as quite similar to the traditional box PC that historically has been placed at the end user’s workstation. Although thick clients can be used offline without continuous communication to the central server, their connection must be utilized for certain functions such as downloading programs, data, and updates to the operating system. 

Compare Thin Client vs Thick Client 

Now that we know the basics about both thin and thick clients, we can compare the two in order to better understand how they measure up against each other.  

Form Factor 

Starting with the more obvious difference, the physical size of the devices, there is a clear distinction between thin and thick clients. The small form factor of thin clients creates advantages that simply cannot be matched by the larger, more obtrusive form of thick clients. Thin clients are more compact and therefore take up less space on the employee desktop. This frees up room on the desktop that can be used to accommodate other necessary resources or can serve as mechanism for increasing worker comfort and ability to work efficiently.  


Another factor that can, and should, be used to contrast thin and thick clients is the level of data security that they offer. Security threats have recently become a top concern for many companies as increases in cyberattacks and data theft begin to impact more and more businesses. Thick clients house their hard drives and other resources locally instead of in a secure data center like thin clients do. Hosting resources in one centralized location minimizes the security threats that could otherwise attack each individual device that is placed at the physical desktop.  

IT Requirements 

Utilizing a single, ultra-secure data center in a company’s virtual desktop infrastructure also benefits the IT staff. When thick clients are being used, IT personnel must travel to each desktop to perform any necessary maintenance on the individual devices. In contrast, when thin clients are used and programs, applications, data, and memory are stored in the data center, the requirement for IT to travel to dispersed locations is eliminated. IT administrators and staff can work on individual devices from the single location of the data center. This cuts out unnecessary IT costs, travel time, and interruption of employee work time.  

Deployment & Maintenance  

The process’ of deploying and maintaining thin and thick clients are also notably different. Thick clients not only require more downtime during their deployment but also require more maintenance to keep them running at efficient and effective rates. Thin clients can be deployed quickly and easily in order to minimize the interruption to the workday. Thin clients are simple to manage and decrease the need for interfering device maintenance. 

Upfront & Running Costs 

While the infrastructure costs associated with virtual transformations are not inexpensive, the initial purchase price of thin client endpoints are typically less than the cost of obtaining thick clients for your end users. The costs associated with sustaining thick clients also present a more expensive average for companies. Thin clients are a less expensive endpoint device option that does not compromise the effectiveness of the solution. Choosing thin clients as the device for your VDI progression is a low-cost solution for reaping the benefits of a technological upgrade. 


The longevity of your investment is yet another aspect of the important decisions that must be made when searching for your company’s VDI solution. In order to get the most out of a solution, decision makers should seek out the devices that will last the longest and require the least amount of money to be spent on endpoint replacement. Thin clients come out on top in the battle between the lifespan of thin and thick clients. With a longer expected life, thin clients are the solution that grants the greater return on investment for business that are virtualizing their processes.  

External Device Connection  

Yet another area in which thin and thick clients provide users with different experiences has to do with the device’s ability to interface with external devices. Thick client users are free to connect to extraneous devices, such as printers, and communicate with them. Since thin clients function as a part of a virtual desktop infrastructure, governance over end user abilities can be stricter and more limiting in terms of external device connection. These stronger lock down abilities lead to greater prevention of harmful situations where a flash drive, for example, is connected and used to carry out data theft or corruption. Thick clients supply more freedom in communicating with other devices, but thin clients offer a more solid cybersecurity system.  

The Advantages of Thin Clients Over Thick Clients 

It is clear that the differences between thin clients and thick clients are plentiful and vivid. The end user experience can be quite different depending on the decisions that are made in selecting and creating a company’s virtual desktop infrastructure. Selecting thin clients as the endpoint device that will be deployed throughout the expanse of your business’ virtual environment will introduce a multitude of benefits to your work environment. ClearCube Thin Clients are the perfect solution for those that are looking to virtualize their work, minimize their technological footprint, get the most out of their money, simplify the work of their IT professionals, and still receive high quality, PC-like functionality. These products, that also come in ruggedized versions that are fit for harsh environments, benefit many of our customers, including government agencies, military bases, healthcare facilities, oil & gas companies, and financial institutions.  

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Author: ClearCube Technology

ClearCube Technology invented the centralized computing industry with the first blade PC and continues to drive centralized and virtualized computing innovation with the broadest set of specialized PCoIP desktop zero clients that connect to optimized SmartVDI compute/storage host platforms for task/knowledge users and PCoIP Blade PCs and engineering workstations for power and highly-specialized users. Many of the world's largest financial services companies, health care organizations, and government agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Energy and Homeland Security, rely on ClearCube centralized computing solutions to equip their users with secure, efficient and manageable computing resources.

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