We were hoping to try a dependable, low cost CAD/CAE workstation and Lenovo suggested giving their ThinkStation P300 Tower a try. The P300 is an entry level professional workstation, with a very attractive lower end price.
The machine delivered was built within the middle range of its capabilities: included a small amount of RAM, but with a good processor, and a very nice graphics card. Not knowing exactly what to expect from this combination, we selected a lower tier of CAD, visualization and engineering software, and in our typical fashion, using the machine with day to day practices in order to deliver a realistic feel of the system. The following is a summary of that experience.
- Overview of the Lenovo ThinkStation P300
- CAD/CAE Performance
- Wrap Up
Overview of the Lenovo ThinkStation P300
The Lenovo P300 is part of the Lenovo line of ThinkStation desktop products designed to fit into any design team’s budget. The cost and performance points for the machine are at the entry level, but the expandability of the machine permits it to perform somewhat into middle tier of CAD tasks.
The redesigned P series workstations look similar to the old E-series (without the carry handle), with a similar performance profile as well. I suspect this line was revamped and renamed.
The P300 graphics supports 3 independent displays as well as connecting 16 independent monitors with 1.2 stream cloning mode. (I’d love to see this in action, but where will I get 16 monitors? Hell, where will I put 16 monitors?). The 2 upper bays of the chassis may contain a DVD drive or the new FLEX module. I don’t have the full grip on how the FLEX module works yet, but Lenovo states that it allows users to customize the I/O ports in order to add what you need in those slots: ultraslim ODD, 29-in-1 media card reader, Firewire, and eSATA – up to 8 configurations among an ODD, HDD, and Flex Module.
All the basic connections are duplicated up front, including the Headphone and Mic, Card readers, DVD drive, and (2) USB ports for easy access.
It is styled in the typical Lenovo manner which is quite appealing to me. Simple, straightforward, robust while remaining attractive and well designed.
Sufficient heat sinks appear to do their job as he unit never seemed to get too warm. While I like some of the internal features contained in the upper P-series machines, the P300’s expandable, tool-free chassis still represents a good value.
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64 bit
- Dimensions (WHD): 175.26 mm x 429.26 mm x 424.18 mm
- CPU: Intel Xeon E3-1276v3 @3.60GHz
(up to i7)
- Intel C220 chipset
- RAM: 8GB PC3-12800 uDIMM
(4 slots – 32 GB Max)
- Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K4000 3GB (Max)
- Dual link DVI-I DL + 2x DP1.2
- Max Resolution: 3840×2160 (DP 1.2)
- Storage: WD 1TB SATA 7200 rpm 3.5” Drive (4 slots – 4TB Max., 512 GB SSD, 24 GB mSATA, RAID 0/1/5/10 available)
- FLEX module support: (up to 4 devices)
- Media Card Reader
- 16x DVD +/- RW DL
- USB Ports: 8 (2-USB 3.0 Fore, 4-USB 3.0 & 2-USB 2.0 Aft)
- Wireless optional: N 7260802.11 b/g/n, 2 x 2, 2.4 GHz WiFi + Bluetooth® 4.0 (none supplied)
- Price: Starting at $729 USD (~$2300 USD as tested)
In this review we used the standard software industry benchmarks as well as certain CAD / CAE software to help convey a realistic expectation of the P300’s performance on daily tasks. Additionally I referenced the Lenovo E31 from a recent review that performed fairly well with standard CAD tasks. It’s a good match, and should act as a good reference.
Lenovo P300 (Lenovo E31 reference)
- Mean performance: 2765.1 (2275.2)
- CPU: 9384 (9281)
- 2D Graphics: 1020 (754)
- 3D Graphics: 2902 (703)
- Memory: 1818 (2147)
- Disk: 767 (881)
- OpenGL: 118.56 fps (24.48)
- CPU rendering: 762 pts (6.23)
SPECviewperf 12 (reference v11 not comparable)
- Catia 04: 38.35
- Creo 01: 34.45
- Energy 01: 0.67
- Maya 04: 32.53
- Medical 01: 12.50
- Showcase 01: 22.77
- SolidWorks 03: 69.71
- Siemens NX 02: 36.89
For CAD and day to day engineering workflows, this workstation performed well.
- Low to Mid-level CAD
- General Engineering
- Not for the analyst
Processor kept up with the tasks given, and the graphics were good! The NVIDIA K4000 really did well.
Here’s how the unit performed in different computer aided drafting and engineering CAD/CAE settings.
Inventor Professional 2014
The graphics were crisp and the anti-aliasing was good. Highlighting was instant and assembly manipulation was smooth with the MK II Engine sample model. I would say that CAD work was definitely a comfortable experience.
In the Static Stress environment, setup and standard manipulation were snappy and the graphics were acceptable. We only ran one linear static analysis, with a limited configuration, but the experience was well within expected behavior, and comfortable. Solve times and meshing were reasonably fast; quite surprising actually, considering the RAM limitation. No unreasonable delay was experienced when switching between results and other graphics display modes.
A portion of the Sample model shown in the results environment.
The following are an account of timeframes during work activities (No comparisons given):
- Start Screen Load time, including local host Vault login: 6 sec.
- MKII Engine Sample load and update: 4 sec.
- MKII Engine RayTracing Interactive: 6 sec. /Good: 82 Sec.
- Sample linear static stress meshing of 74860 elements: < 3 sec
- Sample linear static stress solution time (3 Contacts, 2 constraints, 1 Load): < 10 Sec.
Fusion 360 Ultimate
The experience with Fusion 360 was acceptable. The displayed components and interfaces were good, and I witnessed no visible anomalies. It did exhibit the slightest hesitation on occasion when rotating the view; not constant, but occasionally present.
- Uptime: 14 Sec.
- Sample grill model open: 25 Sec.
- Advanced Ray Trace Rendering: 80 iterations in 200 sec.
SolidThinking Inspire 2014
Inspire behaved well on the P300. I guess you could say that it was middle of the road performance. Setups were just fine and smooth, no glitches, and great view and shading tones.
We tested numerous supplied sample files from their tutorials, and found under those conditions the performance to be acceptable in speed, not tedious. However under more substantial complexity, the processor seemed to take a little longer than I would have liked. After speaking with Inspire’s tech team, they indicated that the 8 GB of RAM were really holding the software performance back.
Autodesk Showcase 2015
We decided to see how Showcase would perform in the context of the P300. Showcase is a resource hog, and we expected it to bog down a bit.
Panning and interaction behavior was better than expected. While there is always some delay of response in Showcase, those experienced here were not unnerving. The appearance quality was very nice: lighting clear, material styles were appealing. I was impressed by the brushed stainless.
- Opened MK II Sample file: > 14 sec.
- Raytracing: 6 levels: 1 min. 14 sec. / 10 levels: 4min. 38 sec.
I give the Lenovo ThinkStation P300 good marks for its overall performance and behavior in the lower range of CAD tasks we asked of it. Furthermore, it handled the engineering and visualization tasks fairly well, placing it into a range of performance that is consistent with its build price. Had the unit contained the maximum 32 GB of RAM, I expect the performance to cost ration would have been higher (considering 8GB uDIMM are only ~$100 USD each).
The P300 entry level cost and good performance per dollar does exactly what Lenovo had hoped it would: allow companies to configure a low-cost machine to fit their basic day-to-day needs while having more dependability and performance than your run-of-the-mill workstation.
The NVIDIA K4000 and the Xeon E3-1276v3 processor really shined in this configuration. The only odd thing is that we could not find the K4000 available online, and as a result could not establish the cost of the furnished machine accurately.
I would recommend this machine to most companies needing CAD workstations for entry level professionals whose capabilities and needs are expected to grow. Outfit the machine at its middle configuration and cost level: 16GB of RAM and a solid state drive, and you will be well served while reserving some room to expand its capability in a pinch.