Recently we wrote a review of the Lenovo ThinkStation P700 Workstation for Engineering.com. We tested several applications on that platform, but due to article size limitations, we chose to include only Autodesk Inventor and Simulation Mechanical 2016. We wanted to pass on the remainder of the evaluation, as well as the comparative benchmark data.
I don’t want to rehash what I already said in the first article, so we’ll skip the overview and point out the obvious benefits. In short: tons of USB ports, tons of room for upgrages on CPU, and with some strategy, RAM too. This beast will hold 768 GB of RAM, and 16 physical processor cores. It is THE engineering machine if you want to get in at a reduced cost, and have a vastly upgradeable platform for the next 10 years.
The review was successful, and I was quite pleased with the machine overall, especially from a high level CAD and mid-level engineering workstation. We didn’t have much time with Solid Edge ST8, and so we continue to evaluate that platform with the P700.
Figure 1: Lenovo ThinkStation P700 Workstation
Figure 2: P700 rear view.
As tested (* see the article for the complete list and max configurations)
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64 bit (Win 8.1 Pro 64)
- Dimensions (WHD): 446mm H x 175mm W x 485mm D
- CPU: Intel Xeon E5-2640v3 @2.6GHz
- RAM: 32GB DDR4-2133 RDIMM
- Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K5200 8GB GDDR5
- Storage: Intel Pro 2500 240GB SATA SSD, 2x Samsung 256 GB M.2 SSD striped
- Price: Starting at $1769 USD (~$7400 USD as tested
Figure 3: I love the modular, tool-free internal design of the ThinkStation line.
In the previous article we used the standard software industry benchmarks as well as certain CAD / CAE software to help convey a realistic expectation of the P700’s performance on daily tasks. In this article I will reference the Lenovo ThinkStation P500 from a recent review which had performed well with standard CAD tasks. It was a well-balanced, good working machine that should serve as a sound point of reference.
Lenovo P700 (Lenovo P500 reference)
- Mean performance*: 5266 (5088)
- CPU: 13786 (10279)
- 2D Graphics: 865 (1036)
- 3D Graphics*: 6917 (4688)
- Memory: 2544 (2784)
- Disk: 4377 (4135)
- OpenGL: fps 56 (104.00)
- CPU rendering: 1136 pts (731)
- Catia 04: 22 (69.58)
- Creo 01: 40 (54.57)
- Energy 01: 73 (3.03)
- Maya 04: 33 (57.72)
- Medical 01: 98 (21.23)
- Showcase 01: 00 (35.32)
- SolidWorks 03: 71 (94.04)
- Siemens NX 02: 53 (64.68)
* It should be noted that the Passmark benchmark would not complete the DX9 complex test in series with the overall video rating. It did fine standalone, however the baseline comparison for video and the overall mean have thus been compromised.
For CAD and day to day engineering workflows, this workstation performed well. Great graphics and plenty of processor power for:
- High level CAD
- Mid-level engineering and analysis
- General rendering
Here’s the rest of the test results that were not published.
Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D
Civil professionals largely deal with a hybrid 2D/3D platform. This has always allowed good performance at lower than expected hardware requirements. This marks one reason why there are so many civil engineers that don’t want to lose their perpetual software licensing; substantial increase in cost associated with the power to run the newer software. The result is that they are always hitting the performance wall.
That said, civil professionals should take a look at this workstation. Tons of power to run almost any level of engineering and design. More importantly, this unit has so much room for upgrade and expansion, that it should serve faithfully far into the foreseeable future.
So where are the expected problems? Very-complex surfaces, grading, large corridor model updates, and visualization.
Figure 4: AutoCAD Civil 3D during mass update.
I used an existing design file, flipped all the controls to auto-update, and made sure all pipe networks were attached to finished grade (FG) surfaces. Then I started tugging on alignments and profiles. The results were very stable, without a single instance of instability.
- 45 MB civil design file (12 corridor models & FG surfaces, 50K EG/70K FG surface triangles, compliment of sanitary and storm sewer pipe networks) – full resolution and update:<15 sec.
In one instance I ran across a damaged 12 MB drawing that I have to deal with on occasions. In the past when I would try to save the drawing, AutoCAD would freak out and eat every ounce of RAM on the Dell Precision workstation I often use, and offer nothing to any other processes. In short, I have to force the machine down each time. I wonder how the P700 would fare against this drawing:
The Lenovo saved the drawing in <20 seconds and continued to perform well.
Fusion 360 Ultimate
I think this is how Fusion 360 was expected to be. If you are used to Inventor, SolidWorks, etc. and AutoCAD, then you will likely have developed an expectation of comfort at a certain hardware capability, which Fusion 360 has always challenged. I finally ran free of that barrier, and the lagginess was gone.
Figure 5: Engine MK II rendering in Fusion 360
- Uptime: ~40 Sec.
- Sample engine model open: 6 Sec.
- Advanced Ray Trace Rendering: 282 iterations in 190 sec.
Siemens SolidEdge ST8
Solid Edge ST8 was well behaved on the P700, and performed quickly in almost every capacity. Most of the review involved general part modeling, large step file importation, and assembly manipulation. The only problem I had was trying to perform complex synchronous editing within the context of the full model. That is a lot to ask, so I don’t consider it a mark against the capabilities of the machine (I just wanted to see if it could pull a magic trick).
The graphics were clean and nothing unexpected was noticed.
Figure 6: Section view of Bettak’s mini-mill assembly in Solid Edge ST8
We really wanted to get a nice Luxion Keyshot rendering of the mini-mill, but we lost the previous dataset with all the materials and appearances setup. We’re trying to complete that currently on the P700.
All of the CAD and engineering software we tested performed above the bar, and as stated previously, everything should at this price tag. The Lenovo ThinkStation P700 is not an entry level machine, and should not be compared in that way. Add some RAM to the tested configuration and you have a very reliable CAD and analysis daily workstation.
I did want to say one additional thought about stepping beyond ‘making do’ with the lower level machines and investing in a moderate P700 configuration. CAD departments struggle with bugged out drawings and design files. In the past 2 months I have lost a collective total of a day’s productivity to buggy files sent from other teams, and that is just problematic files. That does not take into account all the time consuming workarounds that we perform in order to stay away from the ‘ragged edge of disaster’ that we know is waiting for us if we let the design process become too complex. This machine pushed right through the problems I had been struggling with, in less than a minute. It may not solve all your problems, but this machine evaluation definitely opened my eyes to what a mid-priced Lenovo ThinkStation P700 workstation can do for productivity.
The preceding article published on Engineering.com was requested by them, who also reimbursed us for our time. We were never approached by Lenovo or any software company in conjunction with this review. The contents of the preceding publication as well as this follow-up are the author’s opinions. A PDF copy of the the Lenovo ThinkStation P700 Workstation published review published at Engineering.com is added here as a courtesy.