The Wyse Network Terminal 5355SE is a self-contained Winterm thin client, residing at the higher end of Wyse’s lineup of such clients. The idea of thin clients is attractive for a number of reasons, not least the lower cost of the client versus a regular PC. Usually designed for accessing 32-bit Windows applications, Java applets, and HTML-based applications, thin clients often lack only a hard drive and floppy. In general, most companies rolling out thin clients find that not only do they save money but by centralizing all users on a server better control of the applications and environment is also possible. Support for clients is easier than with PCs, and the ability to upgrade software and hardware across a corporate-wide network is enhanced. For SCO-based systems, access through a thin client requires the use of a terminal or X emulation package, but this allows both operating systems to be used in a heterogeneous network. The Wyse 5355SE is designed to allow much easier access to UNIX servers than typical thin clients through direct support of both X and 3270e protocols, as well as specific support for SCO’s Tarantella application broker.

Physically the Wyse 5355SE is a gracefully designed, curved unit designed to stand vertically. It’s about ten inches tall, two inches wide, and eight inches deep. The front panel has only a power button while the back panel holds all the usual connectors: power socket, two serial (both DB9 and PS/2 style connectors) and one parallel port, as well as two USB ports, a VGA display out, an RJ45 network port, and two mini-sockets for headphones and microphone. Everything you could ask for, in fact. The operating system used by the Wyse 5355SE is Linux.

Connecting the Wyse 5355SE was easy: plug in the network, monitor (you can buy monitors from Wyse or use your existing monitors), mouse and keyboard (both supplied in the WinTerm package) and turn on the power. The Wyse 5355SE self-boots. After a self-test, a login dialog lets you enter the configuration routine or start work as a regular user. Configuring the network client requires supplying the network parameters and then the system is available. Both 10Mbps and 100Mbps Ethernet is supported. The built-in X support means you don’t need a third-party package to access UNIX systems, although we did use Hummingbird’s eXceed as part of the testing with no problems, loading off an NT server.

We tested the Wyse 5355SE on a network with both SCO UnixWare 7 and SCO OpenServer 5 servers, along with Windows NT 4.0 servers. Accessing any of the servers was easy. Performance of the 5355SE was very good considering all application and data loads had to be transmitted over the network. As we artificially loaded the Ethernet cables performance dropped off, of course, but still remained good. We had no trouble accessing a Tarantella application broker. The supplied software load includes a POP3 e-mail client although we ended up using Outlook loaded from an NT server. Multi-window support allowed the Wyse 5355SE to access NT and UNIX servers at the same time, switching between the operating systems as we needed.

The cost of the high-end Wyse 5355SE is about the same as a low-end PC. If you have a fast network (either 100Mbps Ethernet or a lightly-used 10Mbps Ethernet) you will find the performance of the 5355SE to be as good as you could wish for. When network traffic causes slow-downs, though, the low-end PC has the advantage of being able to run self-sufficiently for local applications. Wyse is aiming the 5355SE specifically at the UNIX market though, and as such they have a very capable product. The multi-session browser’s support for X provides much faster loads from a UNIX server, while Tarantella support means minimal delays for network application loads.

We are impressed with the Wyse 5355SE’s built-in capabilities, which exceed those of other thin client systems we’ve tested over the years. While the 5355SE is expensive for Windows-only network use, if you need access to UNIX or both UNIX and Windows, this is an interesting way to go. Your setup and maintenance costs will be lower, application updates and security are enhanced, and network administration becomes much easier than a similar setup with PCs or UNIX workstations. This all seems like a winning combination.