This month is a massive rush of new hardware. Users fond of high-powered portables are probably losing their minds; while Windows 8 and RT are of questionable value to desktop users, hardware designed to take advantage of them is flooding onto the market. Likewise, the SoCs powering smartphones continue to advance at a breakneck pace that hasn't really been seen since the dawn of the Pentium era. It's easy to forget that for how powerful portable technology has become, the potential for desktops and desktop workstations is downright monstrous.

For the foreseeable future, there will always be a need for CAD, video, and 3D rendering workstations. Basic desktop users see grossly diminishing returns on performance after about four logical cores (eight threads), but workstation tasks can still soak up every last ounce of performance you can throw at them. For major businesses where time very truly is money, that means needing the fastest hardware you can find and maintaining uptime for as long as humanly possible. That, in turn, means finding a workstation that's both reliable and easy to service. Lenovo hopes to address these needs with the ThinkStation D30, a dual-socket workstation capable of sporting up to sixteen cores and dual NVIDIA workstation cards (including the Quadro 6000 and Tesla cards for Maximus support).

In Lenovo's lineup, the D30 really is as big as it gets. We've seen more modest workstations from Dell and HP and even tested Intel's powerful Xeon E5-2687W, but this is the first dual-socket monster we've gotten our hands on. Our review unit is configured with a pair of E5-2687W processors along with a single NVIDIA Quadro 5000 graphics card. I want to be clear: this level of performance is probably available from other vendors (at what cost is another matter entirely), and Lenovo does have to contend with Dell's excellent desktop workstation designs as well as HP's stellar enterprise-class notebooks.

Lenovo ThinkStation D30 Specifications
Chassis Custom Lenovo
Processor 2x Intel Xeon E5-2687W
(8x3.1GHz, Turbo to 3.8GHz, 32nm, 20MB L3, 150W)
Motherboard Custom C600 Board
Memory 8x2GB ECC DDR3-1333 (four per CPU)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro 5000 2.5GB GDDR5
(352 CUDA Cores, 513MHz/1026MHz/3GHz core/shader/RAM, 320-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Seagate Savvio 15K.3 300GB 15000-RPM SAS 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) TSSTCorp SH-216AB DVD+/-RW
Power Supply 80 Plus Bronze ATX PSU
Networking Intel 82574L Gigabit Ethernet
Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC662
Speaker, line-in, and mic jacks
Front Side Optical drive
Card reader
2x USB 2.0
Mic and headphone jacks
Top Side Handle
Back Side Serial port
8x USB 2.0
2x Gigabit ethernet
2x USB 3.0
Mic, line-in, and headphone jacks
2x DisplayPort
6-pin FireWire
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 8.27" x 23.7" x 19.09"
(210mm x 602mm x 485mm)
Extras Card reader
Warranty 3-year onsite parts and labor
Pricing Starts at $1,399
Review system configured at $10,852

I've reviewed beefy, expensive hardware before, but never anything that went into the five figures. Enterprise-class systems often have absurd premiums attached to them, though, and those premiums help cover the cost of onsite service as the need arises. The Intel Xeon E5-2687W has an OEM price of nearly two large on its own, a TDP of 150W, and is basically the most powerful workstation chip Intel currently produces. Lenovo shipped our review unit with two, and each has 8GB (4x2GB) of ECC DDR3-1333 attached to it running in quad-channel for a total of 16GB of RAM.

On the GPU side is NVIDIA's Quadro 5000. The Quadro 5000 is a cut-down GF100, but remember that big Kepler, the GK110, was just released into the wild as a Tesla card and still has no workstation GPU equivalent. It has a maximum rating of 152 watts, substantially lower than desktop Fermi ever really hit, and has a nearly $1,800 price tag at retail. For this card, Lenovo only charges a modest upgrade premium, while the Xeons are marked up roughly 1/3 more than they list for.

Interestingly our review unit came with a single 2.5" SAS mechanical hard drive instead of an SSD, and I'm not entirely sure why they went this route. The drive has a $300 premium on its own; SSDs with similar capacity can be had at a similar price, but Lenovo's SSD storage options are severely limited. On their configuration page, only a 128GB SSD is available, and that's $200 more expensive than the SAS HDD. If Lenovo wants to be more competitive, they need to offer better choices for the storage subsystem than one 128GB SSD. When editing video, storage speed can become very important in a hurry; if your system is bottlenecked by your storage subsystem, your CPU won't be able to stretch its legs, and I can see that issue exacerbated on a 16-core, 32-thread demon like this one.

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  • colonelciller - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    Let's have a review of a true powerhouse from BOXX

    i have a feeling that a high end workstation from BOXXwould put other big name manufacturers to shame
  • just4U - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    They'd have to send in a review sample..
  • theduckofdeath - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    " That's not a knife. This is a knife."
  • kkwst2 - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    Umm, no. They're basically more overpriced than Lenovo for essentially the same hardware. Why do you think it would be significantly faster?

    When I'm shelling out that much money for a workstation I stick with HP, Lenovo, or Dell. I've gone with smaller vendors before and their support level just isn't there. Dell workstation support is actually pretty good, as opposed to their crappy consumer support.
  • afkrotch - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    Dell's Enterprise Gold Support is fabulous
  • creed3020 - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the review of another enterprise workstation. I really appreciate keeping up with what this market to has. Having worked a previous company that was in bed with HP it is nice to see what the other big guys are up to.

    I totally agree about the wiring nightmare. I can give this an F- for wiring, especially at this price point! I would expect, yes expect, a very clean system inside to maintain airflow, remove extra surface area for dust to collect, and to make system maintenance/hardware upgrades painless. The inside of this case looks like a system that someone just learning how to assemble PCs for the first time.

    A government entity I recently worked with had procured this same chassis with a slightly different configuration and I was confused at the lack of redundancy within the storage tier of the solution. A single 150GB WD Raptor drove the solution. The lack of RAID 1 really surprised me considering the reduction in potential downtime this simple addition could make. There are clearly many single points of failure within this system, I'm not saying this machine needs dual PSUs. etc, but a little more value in the storage tier would make this compute crunch look that much more like a contender.

    Last thought, 2GB ECC modules are direct cheap and moving to a higher density 4GB module seems like a no brainer to hit the entry mark of 16GB of RAM. I really hate it when OEMs take this route with a brand new machine. It just screams cheap.
  • kkwst2 - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    There is a performance hit for going RAID 1 unless you have a really good hardware solution. You're generally better off with a separate hardware RAID solution for your data and keep the RAPTOR or SSD as a single drive. Especially with an SSD, failure is very unusual. Just keeping weekly backups of the system is sufficient for me. If you really can't tolerate downtime, you're better off cloning the drive periodically than going RAID1. RAID1 is to prevent data loss, not prevent downtime. You're going to have downtime while you rebuild the array anyway.

    I do all my compute on an SSD and then have an external SAS storage box attached to a good hardware RAID controller in RAID10 to store all my input/output files.
  • Taft12 - Friday, November 16, 2012 - link

    "RAID1 is to prevent data loss, not prevent downtime. You're going to have downtime while you rebuild the array anyway."

    For someone using such awesome hardware, I don't know how you got this exactly backwards. RAID1 is not going to save you from deleting the wrong directory or mirroring OS corruption. It *WILL* allow the system to keep running when one of the drives fails, and even terrible software RAID won't force downtime while you rebuild the array, where did you get that notion from?
  • kkwst2 - Sunday, November 18, 2012 - link

    With respect, I didn't get anything backwards. The comment about deleting a file is silly and irrelevant. No RAID mode will prevent human error.

    RAID1 prevents data loss from a single drive failure. That is what it is for. So for me, from experience, my compute performance is degraded 5x during a RAID rebuild.

    So I switched to having a cloned drive, which will get me back to full performance very quickly. I'll lose the last compute job I was working on, but that is usually not a big deal. I stand by my recommendation.
  • edlee - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    I have a thinkserver ts130 at home, and I have to agree that the cabling is less stellar than my dell poweredge servers in the office, but lenovo has much superior quality caps than the dells.

    I am constantly getting service requests to swap out motherboards on the dells, due to one small component getting fried. I know its not the power, because we have line conditioners smoothing out the voltage.

    If you want less hassles in life, buy lenovo servers and workstations.

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