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.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • Haribol - Monday, November 26, 2012 - link

    Shop around on eBay, Google, Amazon for the best deals. Never pay retail !!!
    I bought a Brand New System on eBay for 50% off's website. Same system at was close to $15,000 without taxes and fees. I bought it for $4200 dual xeon 2650, 5 SSD Drives (LENOVO Drives) and 64GB Factory ECC 1600mhz Memory and mid-range Quadro. So please don't get ripped off by paying factory pricing. Search on Google, Amazon, Ebay for the best deals.

    Hope this helps.
  • icuimp - Saturday, November 17, 2012 - link

    Just thought i would point out a Sandforce based SSD is not suited for video encoding especially a slow 60GB model.

    SSD was probably holding back the encoding results due to slow transfer rates (~60MB/sec write speeds).

    Try something non sandforce based and retest please!
  • Oscarcharliezulu - Saturday, November 17, 2012 - link

    I haven't used a real workstation class PC since the Dell I had in 2000 (remember rdram?), but it was truly awesome, internal design alone made it worth the money. I've had a dozen PC's but that is the one I remember most. Man was it stable and fast. This article made me nostalgic for it, so thanks.
  • Wixman666 - Sunday, November 18, 2012 - link

    In the future, it would be nice to see how these multi thousand dollar workstations compare to a single CPU overclocked enthusiast box with a high end video card.

    An i5 3570k or 3700k at 4.6+ and a geforce 670 or 680 just so we can get some perspective. Pretty sure that it would be middle of the pack and at 10% of the cost.

    I see that you have a puget in there with the i5 2500k, but it has the on chip video. That's a pretty worthless addition to the charts when we're talking about high end graphics workstation performance.
  • alpha754293 - Monday, November 19, 2012 - link

    ....and the SSDs that ARE rated for enterprise usage puts another $2000 or so on top of the cost of a $10k system.

    That's why they don't use SSDs.

    The plus side though - if it did - the SSD might be a PCIe card rather than SATA 6 Gbps.

    I would have LOVE to have seen some HPC benchmarks performed on this system in order to figure out what it's real performance would be like.

    And 16 GB of RAM for a system like this is really nothing. Considering that you can get Alienwares now with that much RAM...*shrug*...

    (The most memory I've used is somewhere around 96 GB range...on a system that had 128 GB.)
  • dtolios - Monday, November 19, 2012 - link

    Modern games have little to do with cores...very few of them will care for the 8-threads a 2600K/3770K has to offer over a 2500K/3570K. In case some should (happens in some cases and extreme resolutions, Tri-Quad SLI and the works), a 3930K would beat most Xeons (1P, 2P, 10P - w/e).

    Single threaded performance is still very important in most fields. CAD, CG and video editing included.
    Again, fast i7s (and sometimes fast i5s) will beat Xeons due to faster clocks. Add O/C to make multithreaded performance of a s2011 hex-i7 unrivaled even by mid-range 2P systems.

    16GB of RAM and 60GB SSDs are a joke - period. So are the monies asked to upgrade them (over market prices) when building to order such workstations by Lenovo, Dell, HP etc.

    Ppl that believe that 2P is a limiting factor, think again: which Windows OS distribution you think allows you utilize more than 2P systems? Def. not Win 7 64bit ;-)
  • Haribol - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    I saw one for sale on eBay. Which has 4 X Lenovo SSD Drives and 2TB. Has 64GB of memory. I might just give an offer to that guy see how much he takes. I used the D20 and I really like these machines. They are not pretty like the dells but they are rock solid.

    How much you think that is worth?
  • Haribol - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    Why DDR3-1333 memory. The ones I have been looking on CDW and Ebay say it comes with 1600 Memory.

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