In 2013 I came in possession of the HP t5730 thin client which I’ve been using as a small desktop replacement at home and beefed up it’s specifications. The only bad part about the thin client was the integrated GPU, the X1250. With only 32MB of VRAM it’s nearly impossible to use 2 full-HD screens on it and have it run smooth.
Recently I came across a lot of 10 t5730’s on Marktplaats (Dutch) which is not uncommon to find. What I was fortunate to find was that the thin clients had the expansion module attached to them (and there was an option for the associated 20″ monitor as well) including the only GPU HP delivers with this thin client, a Quadro NVS290 from nVidia (with a PCI-e x1 connector).
I’ve ordered 2 units, 1 for myself and 1 for a collegue of mine and started to beef them up a bit. I’ve replaced the Sempron 2100+ for a Turion X2 TL-66 (dualcore 2.3GHz) and swapped the 1GB 533MHz RAM stick for a 2GB 800MHz RAM stick. I’ve switched out the 8GB DOM module from my old t5730 into this one and installed Manjaro on it with the non-free nVidia drivers.
The GPU performance is pretty good and although the Quadro card isn’t a powerful card (it’s basically a 2D accelerator) it does have 256MB of RAM, 16 CUDA cores and decent OpenGL support. The card has a DMS-59 connector which is a single connector which breaks out into 2x VGA or 2x DVI connectors, so it has proper dual-monitor support. The card still even works with the latest drivers from nVidia! I’ve tested the card using Blender with a demo project and the CUDA cores are working efficiently and give a nice render performance compared to the CPU itself.
As I have tried many desktop environments within Linux I noticed that XFCE, LXDE and Mate give the best experience on the device, especially Mate which seems very fast on the HP. The desktops named are not performing any 3D actions which works perfectly well on the HP as the GPU is only a 2D accelerator. I’ve tried Cinnamon and KDE for example which was terribly slow and hardly workable!
Should you replace the GPU for a Gigabit network card and leave the default CPU and Flash disk it would make an excellent gateway as well, because then you have 2 Gbit ports which can be used perfectly in conjunction with ClearOS for example with very low power usage.