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Lenovo ThinkStation S20 Workstation, Tested, Burned-In

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News Posted: Mon, Sep 28 2009 3:36 PM
Today we have a new Intel Xeon W3540-based Lenovo workstation – the ThinkStation S20 - on our bench for some testing. Some of you may be wondering what a “workstation” really is. Well, it’s a term more commonly used in a business environment, especially one in which CAD/CAM design, 3D rendering or high performance computing occurs, and it basically just refers to a higher-end desktop or laptop. In the environments we’ve worked in, we’ve heard workstations referred as high-end desktops or laptops, tech PCs, and technical workstations. In this context, workstations (at least the desktop variety) are frequently comprised of components you typically see in servers.



In particular, the motherboards, memory and processors are often server class. It is also not uncommon to find workstations sporting high-end storage controllers and hard drives. The ThinkStation S20 we are evaluating today sports a 2.93GHz Intel Xeon W3540 processor, 4GB ECC DDR3 memory, a 500GB SATA hard drive, and an NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 video card. This Lenovo workstation is definitely packing some serious horsepower. Keep reading to see just how well this powerhouse performs.

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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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hko45 replied on Tue, Sep 29 2009 6:44 AM

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 replied on Tue, Sep 29 2009 6:55 AM

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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shanewu replied on Tue, Sep 29 2009 9:03 AM

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

"Everyone always wants new things. Everybody likes new inventions, new technology. People will never be replaced by machines. In the end, life and business are about human connections. And computers are about trying to murder you in a lake. And to me, the choice is easy." - Michael Scott (The Office)

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hko45 replied on Tue, Sep 29 2009 9:16 AM

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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shanewu replied on Tue, Sep 29 2009 1:51 PM

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.

"Everyone always wants new things. Everybody likes new inventions, new technology. People will never be replaced by machines. In the end, life and business are about human connections. And computers are about trying to murder you in a lake. And to me, the choice is easy." - Michael Scott (The Office)

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hko45 replied on Tue, Sep 29 2009 3:30 PM

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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