Lenovo ThinkStation S20 Workstation Review - HotHardware

Lenovo ThinkStation S20 Workstation Review

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The Lenovo ThinkStation S20 arrives like any other system - safely tucked in a cardboard box, surrounded by styrofoam for protection. The S20 feels solid and is heavy but not surprisingly so. Just like the Lenovo ThinkStation S10 and IBM workstations that came before it, the S20 is a plain black box with a very simple, clean, corporate and industrial "feel" to it. While some people may want more flare in their design, many others prefer the understated and practical approach that Lenovo takes with its business-oriented devices. Right off the bat, you can see evidence of Lenovo's practical approach with that big handle on the top, front of the case. It is removable, but you'll be glad it's there when you have to move the machine.

Just as you might expect, Lenovo offers standard, no-frills peripherals to go with its workstations. For an extra fee, you can get the Lenovo keyboard and mouse shown below. Both are very capable devices. In addition to the mouse and keyboard, Lenovo also includes a power cord, a couple of guides/manuals, and a driver CD.

Gaining access to the S20's insides is very simple thanks to the cleverly-designed side panel, which by the way is lockable. If it's unlocked, all you have to do is pull up on the blue handle and then pull the panel off. We wish other manufacturers made their cases this easy to get into to. This is the type of design that on-site field technicians really appreciate. Tool-less design makes working on machines easier and faster, which means less downtime for end-users. Another thoughtful inclusion by Lenovo is the "System Service Information" diagram on the inside of the side panel. This shows the layout of the motherboard, lists Lenovo's support web site URL and includes a scannable barcode.

Once you've opened up the S20, you get a good look at the clean layout and decent effort at cable management. We've definitely seen more immaculate and "stealthy" wiring jobs, but going overboard in this case would make fixing problems take longer. You can also see the simple-to-use hard drive rack-mounting system on the right in the second picture below. The third image shows the tool-less 5.25" bay in action.


At the back of the S20, you can see the provided rear I/O options: 1 eSATA port, 8 USB 2.0 ports, 1 serial port, 1 SPDIF in, 1 SPDIF out, 1 RJ45 LAN jack, and 6 analog audio jacks.

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The Quadro FX 4800 is a mainstream equivalent of a GeForce GTX 260. Yes, that is some serious horsepower in a workstation. Still kinda confused what a workstation, but know enough to see that I don't want to use this as a gaming rig, lol.

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And just about any serious workstation provider will allow you to employ dual FX 4800 cards (or even two FX 5800), as well a two Xeon 5500 series cards, and require the appropriate memory configurations.

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Why didn't you include other workstations for your comparisons? Is this your deliberate choice or ignorance?

Xi, Colfax, Polywell, Puget -- and Dell, HP.

Please do a serious workstation review!

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hko45 - we didn't have other workstations available, but that's a good idea for the future.

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Your article gives the impression that Lenovo is a major (significant) workstation player and the box you're reviewing is a good representation of the workstation offerings. At the very least, you might have put your review in a proper context by listing some other workstation builders as places your readers can do their own research.

BTW: a good review might be to compare configurators at different sites. As far as workstations are concerned, the HDD selection section at Dell is a real weak spot. For example: This is what I want (dream) my HDD setup to look like: HD1 - two SSD (SLC) in Raid 0 for OS & programs, HD2 is a moderately fast drive (scratch disk) and HD3 - (4) 1-1.5 TB SATAs in Raid 10 for storage. (Yes, this is optimozed for PhotoShop)  You can't do that on Dell's site, while the Colfax site lets you do that (close, anyway). Money wise, I think Xi, Colfax, & Polywell have the best value for workstations.

 

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I believe Dell and HP are the biggest workstation providers by far, but Lenovo is one of the bigger names after that (thanks in large part to its IBM heritage). I had intended to mention at least Dell and HP as other workstation vendors, but I forgot to do so. I saw one of the new HP Z workstations in person several months ago, and it was one of the coolest machines I've ever seen. The design is incredible...the tool-less features are awesome.

I have heard of most of the other vendors you mentioned. I'm not sure how other companies work, but I work for a pretty big company and I'd have a hard time selling lesser known (unknown to most people) names to my management. I work for a company with 2,000-3,000 workstations for engineers, and I'm 99.9% sure I'd get a few raised eyebrows for suggesting Xi, Colfax, Polywell or Puget workstations over Lenovo, Dell or HP (we use Dell's by the way for workstations and Lenovo for portable workstations). We have to consider price, support processes and ISV certifications before many other factors.

Good feedback on the configurators. That is an important thing for buyers to be aware of. But, another thing to keep in mind is that Dell may work wih you to configure your workstation as you mentioned.

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While Dell & HP may be the largest (units or $$) (in the tradition of the super gaming machine), you might ask which vendors are providing really top-end workstations for video, photo, & design houses. I.e., who are the elite workstation vendors? I still like Xi or Colfax here.

As for configurators, yes I expect Dell to tell me that they can configure my HD setup the way I want once I start talking to a sales person. But I want a tool that helps me compare comparable systems without having to get to the sales pitch. And lest you think I was wholly enamored of Colfax's configurator, it falls down in the area of memory selection. It's tool allows you to choose just about any combination of modules, so much so that you can really mess up your system. (Give me my memory options in matched increments of 3GB; double if using dual CPUs -- enough versatility without letting you screw up too much).

As for Lenovo, once I heard the rumors about the possibility of planting hardware malware, I swore off having anything to do with a mainland China vendor.

 

 

 

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