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Lenovo ThinkPad P50 Mobile Workstation – 3 Month Review

The third in our line of Lenovo mobile workstation reviews serves up the Lenovo ThinkPad P50. It’s been a long time coming, and overdue to be honest. The upside of the delay is I’ve managed to use this device day in, day out for nearly 3 months during my day job as an CAD / CAM application engineer. So I’ve been running Autodesk Inventor, Inventor HSM, Solidworks, HSMWorks, Autodesk AutoCAD and Fusion 360 extensively. On top of that I’ve made use of it during my personal life and while travelling for work, so I’ve developed a pretty decent feel for how this unit performs in the real world.

My first impressions pulling the ThinkPad P50 out of its box upon arrival were great. I was immediately struck by the simple design, clean lines, how slimline & relatively weightless it was. But above all else it felt solid. The build quality and finish is great. Then when I discovered the specification of the unit Lenovo sent me, PCIe SSD’s & a Intel Xeon CPU instead of an i7!! I went weak at the knees, what a beast!

Thinkpad P50 Hero Shot

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 Design

The keyboard layout is spot on, with the exception of the odd decision to reverse the Fn & Ctrl keys in the bottom left hand corner of the keyboard, everything else matches convention. It has a dedicated Print Screen button, which I use ALL THE TIME for creating documentation and support cases. The Escape key doubles as a Fn key lock, allowing you to toggle the function of the F keys along the top of the keyboard to behave either as numbered F keys, or hardware keys. Using F1 as an example, with FnLk toggled on (achieved by holding down the Fn key and pressing the Escape key), it becomes the mute button rather than the key people universally press to access your applications help file. Ideal!! With perfectly weighted keys, this keyboard is a joy to use.

Thinkpad P50 Fn Escape Keys

The touchpad has a great feel, and the finish is lovely since it does have a bit of texture instead of being super smooth like a lot of its rivals are. I have to wonder though, how long will it last? The appearance of the touchpad exhibits a slight sparkle, which is the premium coating Lenovo refer to as ‘crystal silk’, so I would expect it to stand the test of time.


Lenovo have developed a new approach to mobile workstation heat management, branded FLEX performance cooling. It’s essentially a dynamic cooling system built around two fans, that allows the system to direct air flow to the system components in most need of it at any given time. From a reliability standpoint, this introduces a level of redundancy that I’ve not come across in another mobile workstations so far. What struck me the most about this cooling system is the noise it makes on start up, it sounds like a server booting up! There is a serious amount of power behind these fans, and as such when they are running under normal load its a walk in the park for them. As a result you barely ever hear the beauties.

Aside from the silence, what this practically translates to is a consistently cool surface on which to place your hands while typing and using the touchpad. Which in all but the coldest of climates is likely to be a bonus. Down here during the New Zealand summers I would certainly appreciate it, because my hands can get quite hot typing away on my usual mobile workstation.

Thinkpad P50 Cooling exhausts


So what about air flow? Where does all that hot air exit the unit? Well the bottom of the machine is like a sieve, there are intake slots everywhere, which is great. The two fans are positioned in the back corners, so all of the air gets ejected out the periphery of those corners. This frees up space along the back edge, between the rear exhausts, for connectivity.


Cable Management

I have a pet hate with laptops, cables. They end up sprawling out from the device in all directions, and often OEM’s don’t do a good job of positioning the connectors during the design of the system board. So how does the Lenovo ThinkPad P50 stack up?

Thinkpad P50 Cable Management

Well, they’ve done a better job than most. All the most common connections are at the back, which immediately gets the bulk of the cables out of the way. On the right hand side of this device, there are two USB connectors, the Mini-Display port and a headphone / microphone jack. I definitely agree with having a couple of USB slots on the side, so you can quickly pop a USB drive in and out of the machine easily or plug in your slimline wireless peripheral dongles. However, I would much rather see the audio jack on the front edge of the laptop and the Mini-Display port around the back of the device next to the HDMI connector. I ended up having to use the Mini-Display port to connect to my 23″ external monitor, and so it often got in the way of my CadMouse.

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 Mini DisplayPort location

Overall, I honestly feel like this is the best designed Windows based laptop I have ever used.

Day to day use

4k Ultra High Definition Screens

One of the elements I was excited to try out with this Thinkpad was the 4K panel it came with. I had no prior experience with Ultra HD, and was keen to see how my most used applications behaved at that resolution, as well as finally being able to watch some native 4K content. I was already aware that they would be issues, and that Windows 10 is still developing to support connecting monitors of varying resolutions. So I was pretty open minded about how the experience would turn out.

Using the Lenovo ThinkPad P50 by itself, with no other lower resolution monitors connected and modern applications that support 4k is a joy. It’s simply stunning. But at this point in time, that just isn’t practical. Microsoft Office 2013 & 2016 is fine, Autodesk Inventor 2017 is fine, Solidworks 2016 is beautiful in 4K, the Adobe Creative Cloud products are also fine. BUT, Snagit & Camtasia are hideous to the point of being barely useable. Prior versions of Inventor & Solidworks aren’t good. Autodesk Fusion 360 can just about manage it (but it depends which way the wind is blowing). HSMWorks & Inventor HSM are usable but don’t deliver 4k support like their respective CAD applications do. Not even Nvidia have updated their control panel software to support 4K properly yet either!!

These limitations aren’t unique to Lenovo, and I certainly can’t blame them for any of it. It’s early days for 4K. If you only run software that already supports Ultra High Def, then go for it, get this screen. Otherwise just stick to 1080p.


For the last 3 months I’ve been taking this everywhere with me, along side my normal mobile workstation. To put it simply, I’d much rather be carrying around this ThinkPad P50 any day. It’s thinner, quieter, has a superior build and finish, and is way faster with MUCH better battery life.


Talking about battery life, what have I been doing with it and how does it perform? During the first couple of weeks, I barely used it while it was plugged in. I’d fire up Inventor & Solidworks several times a day. Outlook, Skype, Teamviewer, Edge, Firefox & Chrome were open all day. Excel definitely made an appearance several times, as well as running some virtual PC’s and Servers. The battery nearly always made it through a 9 hour day with a little to spare. Which is in stark contrast to my current machine. I’m never far from a plug socket though, nevertheless, it’s always nice to know you have that much juice available to you when you are away from the desk but still working. The battery life is made all the more impressive when you remember there are 8,294,400 pixels being lit up and manipulated that whole time.

Power management really did impress me, and it seems that Nvidia and Intel have nailed the balance of power consumption vs output with the Maxwell and Xeon based processors. Previous generations did a terrible job of switching between discrete and CPU based graphics processors. So you would invariably have to force the use of the discrete GPU 100% of the time, thereby saying goodbye to any reasonable battery life.

Build Quality

For a start it’s a ThinkPad… so it should be built well based on it’s long standing reputation. Lenovo have been wise to continue that trend from ThinkPad’s IBM origins. This P50, along with the the Lenovo ThinkPad P40 Yoga and the ThinkPad P70, have all passed MIL-STD 810G military certification tests. In the case of the P50, it passed 11 external certifications, demonstrating system durability and adherence to stringent government and military customer requirements. Jump over to the Beyond MIL-SPEC page to read more about tough this units are.

Thinkpad P50 Rear Shot

There is nothing fancy in appearance about this laptop, it’s clean lines, and the GFRP display cover and magnesium/aluminum chassis accentuate it’s solid build. It’s light enough to feel modern but heavy enough that reminds you it packs a punch.

X-Rite Pantone Color Calibrator

What a great idea!! I love the way this is integrated. The tool prompts you to calibrate the screen every fortnight. To get the calibration started, you click on the notification, then from the resulting dialog you choose the calibration standard. All you do then is start the test, and close the lid until the P50 has stopped beeping. I’ve always wanted an easy way to calibrate my monitors so I could get my colours as close to printing quality as I could. Does it work? YES! Using the Autodesk CAM website as an example, I’ve never seen the colour of that orange displayed correctly, it’s never come close to how the printed media looks, but after calibrating the screen for the first time it was absolutely bang on. I was really impressed.

ThinkPad P50 X-Rite Pantone Color Calibrator

However, the tool isn’t that reliable, it kept telling me the monitor had physically changed some how since the last test. To fix this error, you have to reinstall the utility each time. Which is of course a pain in the arse. With that in mind, I would still opt in on that sensor if you ever create any printed media from your workstation.


AJA System Test (PCIe SSD)

Using a 4GB test file size

  • File per frame: 960 MB/s (40 fps) Write & 1898 MB/s (84 fps) Read
  • Single file: 1450 MB/s (64 fps) Write & 2041 MB/s (90 fps) Read

In summary… from now on, every single new PC I spec, will have a PCIe SSD hard drive in them. Those numbers are unbelievable and the technology is only just getting started.


Cinebench  is a GPU & CPU focused test, it’s very simple with very few choices for configuration. It provides a handy series of reference specifications, giving you a good idea of where your hardware sits in the current workstation hardware scene.

  • OpenGL: 34.97 fps
  • OpenGL Reference Match: 99.6%
  • CPU: 719 cb
  • CPU Single Core: 144 cb
  • MP Ratio: 5.00

This ThinkPad P50 sat in the upper half of all the test results. Reinforcing it’s intended position within the workstation market. It would be nice if Maxon filtered the results between mobile & desktop based workstation hardware. Either way, the P50 performs excellently for its class.


SPECwpc V2.0

All the tests were performed with a window size of 1900 x 1060. I chose to only run the Media & Entertainment, Product Development and General Operations tests, with a focus on SSD/NVMe hard drive testing. The following Composite scores for their relative Viewsets are listed below.

  • Catia-04 = 4.34
  • Creo-01 = 3.92
  • Maya-04 = 7.73
  • Showcase-01 = 3.51
  • SNX-02 = 4.74
  • SWx-03 = 2.62
  • General Operations = 1.03

The way SPECwpc compiles results is different to how SPECviewperf 12 does. In my opinion it represents a better test for CAD workstation benchmarking, than the more heavily focused GPU testing in SPECviewperf. So any comparison to previous tests would be meaningless. However, this should provide a good base moving forward, assuming it won’t be changed again any time soon. SPECwpc’s tests are far more exhaustive, with multiple tests for each product, meaning the overall score for each product is a composite of all the test scores.

When you compare these results to reports on the SPECwpc results page, it’s clear to see that the mobile Xeon CPU & PCIe SSD are lifting the mobile workstation game significantly when compared to the Dell Precision M4800 & the HP Book 17 G2. It’s really quite impressive.

To find out more about SPECwpc check out their SPECwpc V2.0 Benchmark page.

HSMWorks Performance Test

This is a pretty handy real world test of pure CPU compute power, combined with hard drive and memory performance. The utility just through a bunch of standard surface extraction and toolpath generation routines, then reports on CPU & memory usage, and the time taken. The P50 ranked as 676.2 overall (higher is better) against their database.

Task Description CPU Memory Time Elapsed
Surface Initialization 27.2% 358.3Mb 3.6s
Pocket 47.3% 427.8Mb 13.7s
Pocket Rest 51.4% 463.8Mb 16.2s
Horizontal 72.1% 307.5Mb 24.1s
Contour 83.1% 400.9Mb 27.5s
Parallel 52.7% 889.3Mb 15.8s
Parallel Rest 84.6% 359.9Mb 25.5s
Radial 61.9% 1018.7Mb 16.9s
Spiral 75.4% 1.9Gb 27.9s
Pencil 51.3% 749.2Mb 4.9s
Scallop 32.0% 359.7Mb 15.2s
Silhouette 20.8% 289.8Mb 9.5s
Contact area 79.7% 941.3Mb 9.9s
Rest area 84.9% 424.3Mb 85.0s

That’s a lot of toolpath data, processed in a pretty short space of time!

HSMWorks Performance Test tool Download

Petrikas P2 – Autodesk Inventor 2017

In the same way I did with the HP ZBook 15 review a couple of years ago, here I’m going to perform the same basic test using Gus Petrikas’ Petrikas P2 Inventor model:

  1. Load a ‘normal’ sized model from Windows Explorer, cold starting Inventor while we do so.
  2. Run a ‘Good’ quality Ray Tracing job within Inventor. Best often takes too long

While not a massive model, the Petrikas P2 does have a reasonably high level of detail using 644 file references of which 312 are unique. And it looks really cool.

Right now for the Ray Trace test. I used the following settings & Environment:

P2 RayTrace Settings

Ray Tracing has changed somewhat between Inventor 2014 & 2017, previously I’ve let it run to complete the ‘Better’ ray trace quality. However, Inventor 2017 will keep ray tracing infinitely based on a lighting and shadow quality setting. So I just let it run on draft quality for 307 seconds, so we can compare the quality to my last ray trace test with this model. It’s a bit of a cheat, because Ray Tracing is so much better in Inventor these days. However, on balance, the ThinkPad P50 is ray tracing a near 4K image here instead of 1080p.

Petrikas P2 Ray Trace - Thinkad P50 - Inventor 2017

Inventor 2014’s result

Test Unit Hardware

  • Intel Xeon E3-1505M v55 (2.8GHz)
  • NVIDIA Quadro M2000M (4GB), with the Intel HD 530 chip integrated on the Xeon CPU
  • 16GB 2133MHz DDRR4, non-ECC
  • 15.6″ 4k IPS (3840 x 2160), 300 nit, 100% NTSC Gamut
  • 512GB Samsung NVMe PCEe M.2 Solid State Drive
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 8260 + Bluetooth 4.1
  • 6 Cell (60WHr) Lithium Polymer battery
  • X-Rite Pantone Color Calibrator
  • 720p low light sensitive, fixed focus camera (I did a few international Skype calls with it, and it worked flawlessly)
  • 14.86″ x 9.93″ x 0.96-1.16″ weighing in at 5.9lbs
  • 377.5 x 252.2 x 24.4-29.5 mm weighing in at 2.8kg


  • 4 USB 3.0 (one Always On), two at the back and two on the side
  • 1 USB Type-C / Thunderbolt 3 (very useful for my new Nexus 6P mobile phone)
  • 1 Mini DisplayPort
  • 1 HDMI (There are some issues with some HDMI > DisplayPort cables/monitor combinations)
  • 1 Ethernet (RJ-45)
  • 4-in-1 reader (MMC, SD, SDHC, SDXC) supports UHS-II SD card
  • 1 ExpressCard/34
  • Dock connector

Lenovo allow you to significantly customize your ThinkPad P50 within a fairly broad range of specifications. Nip over to their eStore and have a play with their product configurator. I would go with the spec of this machine as a base, but got with the 1080p panel, 32GB of RAM and then buy a 3rd party 512GB SSD to drop in for extra storage & installation of less critical applications. All in all, bang for buck, Lenovo offer great value with excellent quality.

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 Review Conclusion – Would I buy it?

Yes…. I don’t want to give it back. The quality and performance of the ThinkPad P50 is right up there, and it’s priced competitively. If Lenovo has a good distribution network in your country, then you should definitely be considering Lenovo alongside the Dell’s & HP’s.

Some additional random comments I thought I should share are:

The BIOS has some really neat features that I will miss. It’s not like you go into the BIOS all that often, but when I’ve wanted to see if something was there on previous systems I’ve used, I’ve often been disappointed. The Lenovo BIOS had me impressed.

From a personal usage point of view. It was nice watching pure 4K content on the P50 and the built in speakers have a decent amount of grunt with good sound quality. It’s not really something you would think is needed in a workstation, but they actually suck quite badly in the HP ZBook. Having good speakers means you can play content for people to watch during presentations, without having to hook into an external audio source. Finally I quite enjoyed being able to Cast any video and audio content to the new TV in our bedroom, without the nightmare of having to deal with iTunes, that is a win for Windows 10 though rather than the P50.



Bringing Intel Xeon to notebook PC’s

Studio Image credits – Lenovo

Disclaimer: Lenovo provided this ThinkPad P50 to Design and Motion free of charge and had no influence over the content of this review.

Lenovo ThinkStation P700 Workstation Review Follow-up

Recently we wrote a review of the Lenovo ThinkStation P700 Workstation for 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.

Lenovo ThinkStation P700 Workstation Front View

Figure 1: Lenovo ThinkStation P700 Workstation

Lenovo ThinkStation P700 Workstation Rear View

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

Lenovo ThinkStation P700 Workstation Internal View

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)

Passmark PT8:

  • Mean performance*: 5266 (5088)
  • CPU: 13786 (10279)
  • 2D Graphics: 865 (1036)
  • 3D Graphics*: 6917 (4688)
  • Memory: 2544 (2784)
  • Disk: 4377 (4135)

Cinebench R15

  • OpenGL: fps 56 (104.00)
  • CPU rendering: 1136 pts (731)

SPECviewperf 12

  • 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.

CAD/CAE Performance

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.

Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D Model View

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.

Autodesk Fusion 360 MkII engine rendering

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.

Siemens Solid Edge ST8 Mini-Mill section rendering

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 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 is added here as a courtesy.

Life Without the 3Dconnexion CadMouse

After testing 3Dconnexion’s new CadMouse for a substantial time, I started to get comfortable with it. Previously I had noted that the way I hold the mouse and which fingers I prefer to use where, etc. has made me quite picky about mice. The 3 button experience was difficult for me to start off with.

The #1 reason I didn’t just push it aside was panning. With the middle button panning separate from the scroll wheel, the effort to push down on the scroll wheel continuously is substantially minimized. I could tell that this would be a benefit if I could get the hang of it, and it did pay off.

Now that I am back in school, my non-office schedule doesn’t offer a lot of time for design work, and I haven’t used a ‘regular’ mouse for CAD lately. I wanted to see if the benefit of the 3Dconnexion CadMouse was real, or merely perceived. So during a recent machine review that I was performing, I had to bounce back and forth between workstations, and occasionally work from my dedicated workstation, which only had a ‘regular’ mouse; A perfect opportunity.

What a difference

Not having the CadMouse suddenly was like waking up late for work. Everything is confused and disorganized; you just bump into everything until you power through and get moving. I kept hitting the right-mouse button to pan, and after realizing it, have to pick my panning finger up higher and force the scroll wheel push in order to pan. Screw that!

Then, as you might expect, I got used to having a couple of functions at my fingertips (on the 4-quadrant function button), such as AutoCAD’s magic paintbrush. Not on the regular mouse…grrrr.

3DConnexion CADMouse Radial Menu in Autodesk Inventor

The reality is that the smooth action and cool radial shortcut menu are genuine benefits in day to day CAD work, and I wanted mine back within an hour.

There’s still more on that CadMouse

I still haven’t dedicated myself to learn to take advantage of the side buttons, the zoon-in/zoom-out buttons. Sure, they can be configured to do other things, but I wanted to lean to use them as they had been envisioned. Besides, the CadMouse can do cool stuff in non-CAD applications like Microsoft Excel, wherein it zooms to the top of the page, and to the lowest entry on a page. I like that because I have some ugly-long spreadsheets.


Don’t get me wrong. I am a professional and can use anything if that’s what I have to do to get the job done. I still use a nice mouse from ‘that other company’ because, well, I paid for it and I have numerous CAD and engineering stations that I use simultaneously. However, I will continue to use my CadMouse as the primary pointing device in my daily CAD work.

Chris Rock once said, “Just cause you can steer a car with your feet, don’t make it a good ________ idea.” Skimming 30 bucks to get a cheaper off-the-shelf mouse is like that. A decent mouse is not less than $50 USD, and is something that you hope will be of sufficient quality to last you long enough to get your money out of it. I’d rather step up and pay the extra for a clearly well-designed CAD tool that I will use more than any other. That’s a good investment.

3D Connexion CADMouse

3Dconnexion CadMouse… for Everything!

I’m a big fan of the 3Dconnexion CadMouse, in fact, I proclaimed my love for it back in August… Why I Love My CadMouse when using AutoCAD & Inventor. If you haven’t heard about the CadMouse you should start with Scott’s review 3Dconnexion CadMouse – Hands On Review

The name doesn’t really do it justice though. The CadMouse name gives you the impression that its only good for CAD. I know that’s where the 3Dconnexion development was focused, but there is so much use for it outside CAD.

3Dconnexion CadMouse - 3 button mouse

Outside of the great ergonomics, the comfort while using, and its overal robustness, the ability to customize the buttons really makes in shine. With the CadMouse, all the buttons are customizable – including the Gesture menu. The Gesture menu basically extends your mouse to include 4-additional “virtual” buttons.

“Effortless Access To Your Favorite Commands”

“The gesture button opens an application or environment-specific radial menu so you can access your favorite commands with a simple mouse gesture”.

Generic CadMouse Gesture Menu settings

So, if you can access the application feature via a keyboard shortcut, it can be made into a button on your CadMouse.

Here are three commonly used applications, which I thought I’d share my current mouse configuration. One thing that I’ve found in the 3-months of using the mouse is that initially I did tweak the options fairly regularly as I was looking for the perfect setup. This is not a bad thing, it just highlights how easy the customization process is.

My 3Dconnexion CadMouse with Microsoft Word

For Microsoft Word, I’ve configured the Quick Zoom buttons for page up and page down. This has actually reduced the amount of scrolling I do as it turns out my workflow is more page-centric than typewriterish (constantly scrolling with the text).

CadMouse - MSWordConfig

The Gesture Menu has also proven its worth within MS Word. By adding Save, I’ve reduced the use of the keyboard. This has allowed me to drink more coffee as I’m able to keep the coffee cup in my hand longer… I call this a win!

I was also able to add inserting page breaks (which I do often) and menu options to quickly go to the start and end of the document.

CadMouse - MSWordMenu

3Dconnexion-n-fy Adobe Acrobat

With Adobe Acrobat, I’ve adjusted the Quick Zooms for Page Up and Page Down, very similar to my MS Word setup. With Acrobat though I’ve configured the middle mouse button to be Ctrl, meaning I can hold the middle mouse button and roll the wheel to zoom in and out. This leaves the default rolling the wheel to scroll up and down the document.

CadMouse - AdobeAcrobatButtonConfig

The Gesture menu is still a bit of work-in-progress. I’ve added Zoom to Page Level and Zoom Fit to the right-left gestures, which is awesome. I just haven’t found the right tools for the other spots. For now I’ve reverted those spots back to the defaults of Undo and CadMouse Properties.

CadMouse - AdobeAcrobat

Google Chrome with the CadMouse

I’ve left the out-of-the-box Google Chrome buttons. Having Go backwards and Go forwards as the quick zooms rocks

CadMouse - ChromeButtons

I did build up my own Radial Menu, as the default one didn’t cut it (at least for me). I should probably rename #4 “Home” as it is not go to the home page, but invoke the home key. in Chrome the home key takes you to the top of the page.

F11 toggles full reading mode on / off which I didn’t use much before, but now enjoy using it. Show Bookmarks does as advertised and turns on the Chrome Bookmarks bar. I don’t prefer to have the bookmarks bar visible unless I’m using them. So having the shortcut on the mouse provides a nice happy medium – the bookmark bar doesn’t take up real estate, yet I can still get to them when I need them.

Now just to find something for #2 as I’ve already got Go backwards on the quick zooms… hmmm.

CadMouse - GestureMenu

The Take Away…

The 3Dconnexion CadMouse is a great piece of hardware, designed for CAD, but really applicable for everything installed on your system.

Lenovo ThinkStation P500 Review

After recent review with entry level machines, we decided that it would be great to get some information out to companies about the hands-on performance of a mid-level, all-day performance engineering workstation. Lenovo sent us a ThinkStation P500 Tower, and assured us the RAM was filled up adequately. We didn’t ask about price, but instead concerned ourselves with the comfort of the engineer using it.

The unit that was delivered was built in the lower-middle range of its capabilities: included a nice quantity of RAM, a good processor, a nice graphics card, and room to grow. We planned for some smoking hot CAD, good FEA and visualization, and in our typical fashion, used the machine with day to day practices in order to give you, our readers an understanding of how this beauty will actually perform for you. The following is a summary of that experience.

Article Outline

Overview of the Lenovo ThinkStation P500



CAD/CAE Performance

Wrap Up

 Lenovo ThinkStation P500 Front Review Image


Overview of the Lenovo ThinkStation P500

The Lenovo ThinkStation P500 is the middle ground muscle of their line of ThinkStation desktop products designed to fit into any design team’s budget. The cost and performance points for the machine are not entry level by any stretch of the imagination; this machine was built for performance and generating ROI.

The P500 graphics supports 3 independent displays as well as connecting 16 independent monitors with 1.2 stream cloning mode. (I still want to see this in action). The 2 upper/side bays of the chassis may contain a DVD drive or the new FLEX module, which the company indicates 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 nice connections are duplicated up front, including the Headphones, Card readers, DVD drive, and (4) USB ports for easy access.

I love this case! Clean lines, simple red highlights on a black background, and beefy, with carry handles and tabs built in for 2 different positions of carry. The black exterior may not be powder coated, but it’s definitely more robust than many machines I see.

The side panel is engaged and disengaged by a stout steel lever, complete with a keyed lock. The main case is comprised of a nice gauge steel, giving the unit a very firm and stable feel, which meets my safety margin, that is, I could stand on it with no damage.

Lenovo ThinkStation P500 Rear Review Image

Enough of that! The internals are well laid out, and most everything is MODULAR!! The power supply which is secured by a steel lever (which acts as a carry handle as well) pops out in about 2 seconds if you are being gentle; no wires to disconnect. There is a removable cooling channel cover to segregate the CPU from the remainder of the unit, which seemed to do its job well. There is lots of elbow room and expansion slots, making this expandable, tool-free chassis a dream to maintain, provided you do all your shopping at Lenovo.

Lenovo ThinkStation P500 Internal Review Image


As tested

  • OS: Windows 7 Professional 64 bit
  • Dimensions (WHD): 175 mm x 440 mm x 470 mm
  • CPU: Intel Xeon E5-1630v3 @3.70GHz

(up to Xeon E5-2643 v3 @3.40 GHz)

  • Intel C612 chipset
  • RAM: 32GB DDR4-2133 RDIMM

(6 slots – 96 GB Max [not verified))

  • Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K4200 4GB GDDR5 (Up to Quadro K6000 – 12 GB Max)
  • Dual link DVI-I DL + 2x DP1.2
  • Max Resolution: 3840×2160 (DP 1.2)
  • Storage: Samsung 256 GB SCSI SSD (4 slots – 24TB Max., 512 GB SSD, RAID 0/1/5/10 available)
  • FLEX module support: (up to 4 devices)
  • Media Card Reader
  • 16x DVD +/- RW DL
  • USB Ports: 8 (4-USB 3.0 Fore, 4-USB 3.0 & 4-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 $1502 USD (~$4100 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 P500’s performance on daily tasks. Additionally I referenced the Lenovo ThinkStation P300 from a recent review that performed fairly well with standard CAD tasks. It’s an entry level engineering workstation, and should act as a good reference.

Lenovo P500 (Lenovo P300 reference)

Passmark PT8:

  • Mean performance: 5088 (2765.1)
  • CPU: 10279 (9384)
  • 2D Graphics: 1036 (1020)
  • 3D Graphics: 4688 (2902)
  • Memory: 2784 (1818)
  • Disk: 4135 (767)

Cinebench R15

  • OpenGL: 104.00 fps (56)
  • CPU rendering: 731 pts (762)

SPECviewperf 12

  • Catia 04: 58 (38.35)
  • Creo 01: 57 (34.45)
  • Energy 01: 03 (0.67)
  • Maya 04: 72 (32.53)
  • Medical 01: 23 (12.50)
  • Showcase 01: 32 (22.77)
  • SolidWorks 03: 04 (69.71)
  • Siemens NX 02: 68 (36.89)

CAD/CAE Performance

For CAD and day to day engineering workflows, this workstation performed well.

  • Mid-High level CAD
  • Moderate range of engineering
  • Low-level analysis

This workstation was just that: WORK-station. It really plowed through stuff, with numerous background applications running simultaneous to foreground work. Processor kept up with the tasks given, and the graphics were good! The NVIDIA K4200 really did well.

Here’s how the unit performed in different computer aided drafting and engineering CAD/CAE settings.

Inventor Professional 2016 – Great

Wow, this was nice. The responsiveness of the assembly workspace was impressive; panning was roller-bearing smooth, and graphics and anti-aliasing were great. Highlighting of components as the cursor passed over them in the graphics window was instant and assembly manipulation was smooth with the MK II Engine sample model. There was a hint of hesitation in the highlighting while passing the cursor over the components in the browser, but that is normal.

Autodesk Inventor Studio Render for Workstation Review

In the Static Stress environment, setup and manipulation were very sharp and fast. We only ran one linear static analysis, with a limited configuration, and the results were extremely fast, in fact too fast for meaningful times:

“Hit run, grab coffee, sip, analysis complete”

Obviously, the analysis model depicted here is small, and the Degrees of Freedom (DOF) were limited, but still, I was happy with the results.

The responsiveness between various results displays was instantaneous; much crisper than the previous test setup.

Autodesk Inventor Stress Analysis Plot for Workstation Review

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: 8 sec.
  • MKII Engine Sample load and update: 5 sec.
  • MKII Engine Ray Tracing (shadows, textures, reflections) Interactive: 6 sec. /Draft: 119 Sec./ Fine: 615 Sec.
  • Sample parts meshing of 75453 elements: ~ 3 sec
  • Sample linear static stress solution time (3 Contacts, 2 constraints, 1 Load): < ~5 Sec.

Fusion 360 Ultimate

The experience with Fusion 360 was acceptable. The display of components was sharp, and the interface as well. Unfortunately, I continue to see the same lagginess navigating between environments, but the manipulation of the model was smooth; the smoothest I’ve ever experienced with Fusion. I suspect the navigation problems lie inside Fusion 360’s build.

Rendering was nice though, I mean really nice. The rendering engine inside Fusion 360 seemed to get along very well with the NVIDIA Quadro graphics card. The  results were beautiful.

Autodesk Fusion 360 Rendering for Lenovo Thinkstation P500 CAD Workstation Review

  • Uptime: 18 Sec.
  • Sample engine model open: 5 Sec.
  • Advanced Ray Trace Rendering: 282 iterations in 270 sec.

SolidThinking Inspire 2014

Inspire behaved much better than previously tested. SolidThinking had mentioned that we try more RAM in our tests, and they couldn’t have been more on target; Inspire perked right up. Setups went as usual, but in our test on the P500, the translucent design controls responded instantly, without the slightly sluggish behavior we experienced in previous tests. As usual, the great shading tones associated with Inspire came through.

We tested one of Inspire’s supplied sample files, and applied a reasonable amount of constraints and shape controls prior to performing the optimization. The results came through faster than expected; The P500 is a great match for this application.

solidThinking Inspire 2014 Compression Plot on Lenovo Thinkstation P500 CAD workstation review

Luxion KeyShot 5.2

I wanted to get some more perspective on software for readers, and knowing how popular KeyShot is, I thought it would be great to try here.

KeyShot navigation was smooth, and menus appeared without delay. Raytraced preview panes updated within 0.5 seconds of a new environment selection, and normalized (greater 80% of the preview render completed) within about 3 seconds.

The final rendering process was quite smooth and faster than expected.

Luxion Keyshot Render

Truly sorry about the watermarks

  • Import sample engine assembly: 15 sec.
  • Raytracing: 1600×1200 @ 300 DPI –  9 sec.

Autodesk Simulation Mechanical

Simulation Mechanical functioned smoothly and without any video or performance anomalies. I would have liked to spend more time with this platform on the P500, but we saw enough to understand what how the software will behave on the ThinkStation.

The following are an account of timeframes during work activities (No comparisons given):

  • Open ready load time: 5 sec.
  • Standoff mount solid meshing: 34268 elements: <10 sec
  • Mechanical Event Simulation (90° sine sweep, 0.2mm displaced clamping load, 25 iterations, 45470 DOF): 2h 8m

Note: For whatever reason, which I cannot fathom, we didn’t perform a comparable linear static stress analysis. My apologies; we’ll do it on the next review.

Wrap Up

The Lenovo ThinkStation P500 was impressive. The Xeon processor and a good supply of RAM permitted us to see the machine in a real work environment, complete with simultaneous background and foreground applications running. We had asked for a great workhorse CAD and analyst preparation station, and that is exactly what we received. Fast solves, smooth delay-free CAD, great graphics, and an attractive, expandable chassis.

I wouldn’t upgrade this RAM loadout without a processor upgrade in most CAD applications. The 32 GB of RAM were well matched to the level of CAD we tested and the processor provided. In all the tests, the RAM usage was never maxxed, even when we were performing simultaneous FEA solves in the background and CAD in the foreground. The system did use 100% of most of the processor threads at will, but continued to maintain the system tasks smoothly, without having to wait on CAD, FEA, or Rendering tasks. What I would suggest upgrading is the storage. The tested machine was supplied with a fast SSD, but we maxxed out the 256 GB storage capacity just installing the software listed, and performing the FEA solutions. Get the RAID array!

The NVIDIA K4200 was right at home in this configuration as well. It might be an expensive addition, but well worth it especially if you will experience any complexity of graphics in your work.

I adored this machine and they had to beat me repeatedly to get me to let go of it. Well, actually, their team is quite lovely, but I didn’t agree to send it home without pouting a lot.

I would recommend this machine to any company using CAD to make a living, as well as many engineering applications where there is a reasonable amount of calculations being performed in the background while continuing to work in the foreground. As for FEA, analysts know what level of hardware they need, so I will simply say that this machine is solidly into the lower end of meaningful productiveness, and handled single, non-multi-physics runs for us with no problem.

3Dconnexion SpaceMouse® Pro Wireless Review

SpaceMouse Pro Wireless Female hand

Around a month after 3Dconnexion announced their latest product, I received a test unit of the new 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse® Pro Wireless. I’ve only ever owned and used the entry level 3Dconnexion devices in the past and always thought the professional series, although nice to have, really were a little bit over the top. Admittedly, if I’d had some spare cash lying about or I could have written off the purchase cost against my business taxes, I probably would have at least purchased the SpaceMouse Pro. I am a tech geek after all. With that in mind, I was keen to see how this shiny new toy? shaped up over the next couple of months. I decided on roughly two months, since that was the stated battery life. So how does it stack up?

Stated Benefits

  • Complete Wireless Freedom — Real-time 2.4 GHz wireless connection and a two-month battery life. When it does need recharging, for uninterrupted productivity simply connect one of the supplied USB cables.
  • Professional Performance — SpaceMouse Pro Wireless automatically recognizes your application environment and based on your personal configuration, maps commands to its four Function Keys.
  • View Your Work From Every Angle  Detect errors, explore alternatives, and present your work more effectively for review with SpaceMouse Pro Wireless’s 6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys.
  • Minimize Hand Movements —Conveniently positioned keyboard modifiers provide quick and easy access to Control, Shift, Alt and Esc functions, reducing the time you spend moving your hand to the keyboard.
  • World-Class Ergonomics And Build Quality  Full sized, soft-coated hand rest for maximum comfort.15 tactile, fully programmable buttons.
  • Flexible Connectivity  With a choice of two USB cables, either plug the USB receiver directly into your workstation or use the included Twin-port USB Hub.
  • The 3Dconnexion Experience – 3DxWare® 10 allows you to customize and optimize your SpaceMouse Pro Wireless for peak performance. Easily tailor settings and buttons to your application and needs.


The wireless benefits are clear, if needed I can re-position the device anyway on my desk unconstrained. I have enough cables kicking around my desk as it is, so this was a welcome addition. As it was with the SpaceMouse Wireless when it landed on my desk. I did find it curious that 3Dconnexion provided the Twin-port USB Hub, they mentioned it would come in handy during meetings in the board room where the PC being used for the presentation maybe be stashed away somewhere. The 1.5 meter cable would to expose the USB receiver in those instances. I honestly have never had any issues with connectivity, although to my surprise a couple of CADPRO’s clients have suffered some issues. They were each solved by moving the USB receiver away from the metallic casing of their workstations. I’ve since heard of people having connectivity issues with 2.4 GHz wireless keyboards and mice as well, again extending the receiver away from the case solved the problem. I’ll chalk that up as a win for 3Dconnexion.

3Dconnexion USB-Hub Right-Iso_Receiver

But, there is a less obvious, albeit inconvenient benefit, of 3Dconnexion providing this Twin-port USB Hub. I now have access to two 3Dconnexion space mice, this puppy and the SpaceMouse Wireless I received last year. While I’m at my primary desk I now use the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless exclusively, but with the SpaceMouse Wireless hard sided Carry Case, I’m able to safely cart that about with me on my travels each week. So what’s the inconvenient benefit? 3Dconnexion haven’t managed to unify their USB receivers yet, and although there are a decent number of USB ports on my HP ZBook 15 mobile workstation, they aren’t in abundance and certainly not enough to justify taking up two slots for 3Dconnexion. I need to keep one USB port spare so I can plug in devices Ad-Hoc. This is where the Twin-port USB Hub comes in handy for me. I have both receivers plugged into that, then it plugs into the slot which used to be exclusively occupied by the SpaceMouse Wireless receiver. A bit of a pain yes, but all I have to do is hide it around the back et voila, no big deal. Of course, 3Dconnexion’s well established attention to detail dictates they wouldn’t be happy about this either, I’m sure they have their reasons and I have no doubt they are working to rectify the situation in the not too distant future.

Alright, enough of the moaning. There are two great things I have discovered about using a Professional 3Dconnexion device. They are both the reason why the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless has earnt it’s permanent space on my desk, it’s not small, so it does need a right to be there.

6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys

SpaceMouse Wireless 6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys

This collection of buttons were the ones I was most eager to get my thumb on. While the Autodesk view cube is pretty handy, there are times I find it fiddly to get to the view I need. I’ve been using SolidWorks a bit as well recently as a result of supporting Autodesk’s CAM product in Australia and New Zealand. So this has been my savior, because, well, the SolidWorks view cube sucks in comparison to Autodesk’s. However, it wasn’t any of the four peripheral buttons in this set that I have found the most useful. It’s the Axial Rotation lock button which sits proud, all important like, just above all those around it. That self confidence justifies this little buttons power… I’ve often found myself having to go back to my keyboard, or regress to the orbit command just so I can rotate and pan my 3D view or 2D sketch without tumbling the view away from the orthogonal elevations. It really does break your train of thought, you don’t realize quite how much, until you are able to tap that button and nudge the puck to pan around the sketch you’re trying to manipulate.

Keyboard Modifiers

The next major realization I had with the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless was the collection of four buttons on the left side of the device. The Keyboard modifiers. Honestly, I haven’t used 3 of them all that much… yet. SpaceMouse Pro Wireless Keyboard Modifier ButtonsI’m sure I will get to using those more as time goes by and my hand relaxes into using it more naturally. But it’s the very real benefit of using the CTRL modifier button with Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks when orbiting around your model and selecting multiple and possibly random objects. In the past I would orbit my model, then move my hand to press the CTRL key on my keyboard, left click on my mouse to add that object to my selection set, theeeen back to my 3D mouse… urgh. It’s hard to read, let alone do. The crazy thing is I thought it was acceptable until I’ve experienced this first hand in a few different situations. Not only is it more productive (the most important part after all), but I can now create way cooler tutorial videos for Inventor, Inventor HSM and HSMWorks. I only have to pause orbiting momentarily now, just enough time to position and click my mouse, then immediately start orbiting onto the next object. I love it, and so will you, if you get to sit down and use it this way for an hour or so.

Battery Life

I’ve had this productive belle sitting on my desk now, for just over two months. I think I’ve turned it OFF a few times overnight. I didn’t put it on charge as soon as I received it and started using it immediately. I’m NOT designing 8 hours a day, but I’m in and out of Inventor and SolidWorks a number of times a day and generally that means I’ll have a fiddle and poke. So in all reality, I’m not using it anywhere near as much as a full time drafter should be. I’ve charged it twice. So my particular version isn’t really meeting the numbers stated by 3Dconnexion, but it has been on, albeit inactive, 24/7 for most of that time. In all reality, I still think that is quite impressive and it seems to recharge pretty damn fast. It just hasn’t bothered me in the slightest.

Final Words

Once again 3Dconnexion have turned out a fine product. The versatility of having a wireless device is a no brainer, you can move around the office with it far more easily, either collaborating with colleagues or presenting in the boardroom. The SpaceMouse Pro wasn’t a broken product, it’s proven and well designed, there really wasn’t a need to deviate too far from that. So would I pay for one out of my own pocket now? Yes! The prices have come down for these devices compared to a few years ago and I think once you have spent a little time with one, most people will realize a ROI pretty quickly. If not it simply makes using CAD more fun and precise. For those bouncing between multiple CAD products, the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless means they can force a consistent navigation and interaction experience across all the applications, when the standard user interface methods are completely different from one another. That’s a huge boost and has certainly proven useful for me now, switching between Inventor and SolidWorks so often.

It still surprises me that most CAD users still have no idea these things exist! Virtually every time I go to see a customer, one or more of their staff will be immediately intrigued by my SpaceMouse Wireless when I pull it out of my laptop bag and place it next to my workstation with a satisfying thud. We need to find ways to get the word out there further and get more CAD users buying and making use of these wonderful tools.

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