The long-awaited Raspberry Pi 4 is here. But just how good is it as a thin client?

The answer? Very good.

It’s hard to believe that it has been more than five years since I first experimented with Raspberry Pi as a Citrix thin client. Back then, I wrote an optimized decoding and rendering plug-in for Citrix Receiver solely aimed at making the best of what was available on the Pi. This prototype eventually got productized, along with a Pi-zero-based second monitor dongle, and is available today from a few select Citrix partners.

Fast forward five years and the Pi 4 has arrived. Produced in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, it offers native dual HDMI output, which the previous generation boards lacked. What’s more, it can do dual 4K, which is quite astonishing considering the size and specs of the thing! I received my 2GB model recently and spent a few hours seeing how it fares as a thin client.

Raspberry Pi 4 as a Thin Client

To begin with, I installed a version of Citrix Workspace app 1903 and launched a Windows Server 2016 desktop to establish baseline figures. Performance was mediocre, but this was likely due to having no HDX optimizations in place. Also, the session was limited to a single monitor. I soon discovered that some window manager limitations meant that a dual monitor was not going to be possible, even though the native desktop was dual-monitor aware.

Having seen similar problems in the past, I managed to convince the the Citrix Workspace app to “see” both monitors, and I was soon able to launch dual-monitor sessions. The performance was still poor, and whilst older Citrix Workspace app/Receiver HDX optimization plug-ins could be made to work, there were still some major improvements that could be done, especially around dual-monitor support. I ended up writing a new plug-in, which initially focuses on optimizing full-screen desktop scenarios.

I’m quite chuffed with the results, and shot a quick demo video:

(Apologies for the amateurish mobile phone video. I’m not set up for multi-monitor HDMI capture. At least not yet. 🙂)

I also tried a dual 4K session, and whilst it isn’t as smooth as a dual 1920×1200 session, it’s still perfectly usable, provided you have your DPI set correctly!

As always, let me know what you think, good or bad. I’ll be working with others here at Citrix to see where we go from here.

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