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Review: Lenovo ThinkStation S20

Designed for intensive tasks such as computer-aided design/engineering, scientific applications, and digital content creation, Lenovo's ThinkStation S20 is a powerhouse. This desktop workstation packs a whopping amount of power into an affordable price point for any organization.

For the purpose of my review, Lenovo provided me with its latest ThinkStation S20 and an accompanying ThinkView 24" LCD monitor. Lenovo's S series comprises the company's single-processor systems, whereas its D series comprises the dual-processor systems. Even with just one processor, this workstation positively screams: The test system boasted Intel's W3540 Bloomfield 64-bit processor, which presented four cores and eight logical processors to the pre-installed Windows Vista Business OS—each clocking in at 2.93GHz. Needless to say, the ThinkStation S20 is more than up to any number-crunching tasks, and the system's support for up to 32GB of DDR3 memory will ensure that you've got enough room to work with your largest data sets.

In terms of graphical support, the test system included Nvidia's Quadro FX 4800 video card—a powerhouse of its own with its 192 CUDA parallel processing cores and 1.5GB of onboard memory. The Quadro card—paired with the Bloomfield processor—delivers impressive results in SPECviewperf v10 benchmark tests, putting the Lenovo's single-threaded processing scores on par with the latest equivalent systems from competitors Dell and HP. When I ran the four-thread version of SPECview's performance test, the numbers went through the roof. I was quite impressed with the Nvidia Quadro 4800, but Lenovo also sells the S20 with an ATI FirePro card if the Quadro card won't meet the needs of your application.

The system's physical form factor is about what you'd expect from a desktop tower. From the outside, my test system came configured with a CD/DVD burner, one additional 5.25" drive bay, eight USB 2.0 ports (six in the rear, two in the front), two FireWire ports, memory card reader slots in the front for most of the major formats (SM XD, SD/MMC, MS/MS Pro, CF), optical audio input and output, 5.1 audio outputs, an external SATA (eSATA) port, a DB9 serial port, and a gigabit Ethernet connection. If you're often moving your workstations around, you'll find the case's removable "carry-handle" convenient.

Lenovo ThinkStation S20
PROS: Xeon “Bloomfield” processor paired with Nvidia Quadro graphics card delivers top-notch performance at an affordable price; built-in RAID; expandability to 32GB of DDR3 memory
CONS: Only three physical expansion slots are left after addition of Quadro card, potentially limiting some applications
RATING: 4.0 out of 5
PRICE: Starts at $1,254
RECOMMENDATION: Test this powerful system in your environment against compute-intensive apps to see how well it does with the workloads that your high-end users (CAD, video production, scientific apps) need to process.
CONTACT: Lenovo • 800-915-1728 •

On the inside, the system provides two PCI Express (PCIe) x16 “Gen 2” graphics slots, so you can drive up to four high-resolution displays at once—and the S20 will certainly be facing multi-monitor scenarios. In addition to the two expansion slots for graphics cards, there are three more available slots on the motherboard, should you need to expand your system further.

The evaluation unit I was shipped came with a pair of Seagate Barracuda 250GB 72000 RPM drives set up in a RAID-0 configuration, and an empty third internal drive bay. The SAS controller in the system will allow you to set up RAID-5 configurations, and Lenovo offers the S20 in configurations with drives up to 300GB in size and with speeds up to 15,000rpm.

I was also impressed by the unit's number of onboard sensors and instrumentation. A quick installation of System Information for Windows ( revealed a host of voltage, temperature, and fan-speed sensors on the motherboard, as well as temperature sensors on the Quadro card and in the Xeon processor. I'm a bit of a telemetry and system-monitoring geek, so I appreciate the ready availability of so much system-level information.

I feel confident giving the ThinkStation S20 a solid recommendation for any organization. Whether your business is digital-content production, oil and natural gas exploration, computer-aided jet engine design, or anything else requiring a high level of desktop computing power, the ThinkStation S20 is worth a serious look.

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