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.
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.
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.
- 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)
- Mean performance: 5088 (2765.1)
- CPU: 10279 (9384)
- 2D Graphics: 1036 (1020)
- 3D Graphics: 4688 (2902)
- Memory: 2784 (1818)
- Disk: 4135 (767)
- OpenGL: 104.00 fps (56)
- CPU rendering: 731 pts (762)
- 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)
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.