The Muscle-Car of Workstations
One thing that stays with me about the Lenovo ThinkStation P900isn’t the fact that it blew through tests with real world work programs like Studio Max, Houdini, Nuke, Blender, Marvelous Designer and the usual array of creative applications. Nor was it the fact that it never gave me any problems even when fracturing meshes into thousands of pieces or running fluid simulations. What impressed me was that I did all of this in remote desktop using a USB wireless stick.
Now that may not seem like much to those that don’t use remote desktop or work with scenes that tax any computer but from my experience it was like working directly on the machine even though it was across the studio from my desk. This was supposed to be a temporary setup for downloading and installing the test software. This dual Xeon super workhorse was so smooth over the network that I never moved it until… sadly… packing it up to send it back home after the reviewing process. I’ve long used workstations dating back to the ephemeral Silicon Graphics days. Like a lot of the Renderosity community I have built my own white boxes but eventually settled on mainstream workstations due to stability. For my taste there is something to be said about engineered systems versus putting parts together in a white box.
The Workhorse Lenovo ThinkStation P900 Crunching a RealFlow Simulation – Muscle Car Computing Power
In the past few years I’ve drifted from pure workstations to powerful gaming platforms since a lot of my work involves real time engines. After working with the P900… I may just drift back. I can’t say it was that much faster but it was so smooth that I can’t find enough clichés to describe the experience .Keep in mind this was over wireless remote desktop which is something my i7 work pc refuses to without a union rep… it’s that abusive.
My workstation is no slouch but it doesn’t function well in remote with 3D work and the Lenovo P900 flat out ate its lunch. No comparison. The only drawback to working in remote is the lack of testing on the Quadro video card but the rest of the machine was put on a high speed treadmill with no problems.
ThinkStation P900 Features
Before we go any further let’s review the major mechanics of the machine and why the Lenovo ThinkStation P900 is such a beast. A more complete list of the Lenovo ThinkStation P900 Features is available here.
- CPU(s): 3.1 GHz Dual Xeon E5-2687W v3 processor – 10 cores / 20 Threads, 25MB Cache
- Video: nVidia Quadro K5200 (8GB) (Up to 3X nVidia K6000)
- Power Supply: 1300 W 92% Efficient
- Memory: 128 GB RAM (16 DIMM slots, up to 2133 MHz)
- Hard Drive: 512GB SSD (Max Storage Devices: Max 3.5" = 6 (24TB)1, Max 2.5" = 10 (7.4TB)1, Max M.2 = 4 (1TB)1
- Optical Drive: DVD +/-RW
- Media Reader: 9 in 1 Media Card Center
- Audio: RealTek ALC662 codec
- Network: 2X Gigabit Ethernet
- Ports: 8X USB 3 - one Always On, 4X USB 2, 2X DisplayPort, 2X DVI, Ethernet, Serial, Mic, Headphones
- Dimensions (WxDxH)=7.87" x 24.4" x 17.5"
The P900 is a tool-less, modular construction workstation with plug-in components that snap in and out for quick and painless upgrades or repairs. It is so quick to change out it includes a security lock on the side to keep those high end components where they are supposed to be. One con if you can call it that is that this puppy is massive. The shipping box says 75lbs and I believe every pound of it. In fact… you could probably prop up the foundation of your house on it. You soon forget about all that after you get it setup and running. Plus… I’m not one to really care about these things… but it looks nice and fast, just sitting there. Maybe Lenovo should consider adding a racing stripe.
Day in and day out the P900 stood up to whatever I threw at it. Mostly high poly work in Studio Max and fluid dynamics with RealFlow that really taxes any machine.
I’m not going to go into benchmarks on this beast as we all know they will be stratospheric including the KD 5000 Quadro video card. This review was undertaken in more of a practical workday sense. A journeyman’s view of the hardware in a real world work environment. Day in and day out the P900 stood up to whatever I threw at it. Mostly high poly work in Studio Max and fluid dynamics with RealFlow that really taxes any machine. My work pc slows considerably when creating scenes of destruction or flooding a city and the ThinkStation P900 not only kept on working but did so without a crash which is a rarity with this type of work.
In the freelance world no crash means no lost work, no wasted time… more importantly… no unbillable hours on the clock. In a workday where accomplishing goals is a fundamental aspect of the job a stable workstation like the Lenovo P900 is a definite advantage to its user.
I fractured models into thousands of pieces with Rayfire and Studio Max MassFX tools achieving some fantastic results based on pure computing power. Results I had never been able to achieve on my work machines. This was very eye opening. The fluid simulations using RealFlow were the fastest I have experienced. I did manage to slow it down to a crawl at one time with millions of polys after converting a large fluid test to mesh but it continued to function. A few waterfalls and a flooded city later the Lenovo P900 is still impressive in its power.
In video editing the P900 is a dream. Sony Vegas ran as well as I have ever seen it and I’ve spent thousands of hours staring at Vegas… sometimes even working.
At this point I have to make a confession. I’m a chronic previewer when it comes to editing. To the point of preview abuse. If there is a 12 step program then I need to be there but I won’t be alone. A lot of you will be there with me. Not only was the preview fast but I was able to set it to higher quality than I usually work with which was a nice touch.
Smooth previewing is no joke to experienced editors. You wait hours sometimes for a render to finish only to find out it had a skip or a jump that you didn’t see in the preview. Why? Most likely because the frames were dropped as the application struggled to present the preview. The glitch was only visible in the final render. That’s not just frustrating… that’s money lost in terms of wasted hours.
The process to restore the computer to factory default was fast and flawless. After power up and selecting the option to interrupt the boot-up I was taken to an easy to follow group of prompts that had the system quickly restored. In fact it only took a few minutes to see the familiar Windows Setup dialog box ready for the next user.
In summary the Lenovo ThinkStation P900 is every bit the workhorse it’s made out to be. The only real negatives in this entire review process were the weight and footprint of the computer. Considering the hardware inside and the tool-less compartmentalization this was to be expected. One other drawback was the noise. While not distracting it can be noisy at times. Horsepower requires cooling so again not sure this is a true knock against it.
This is one machine I really hate to see go back home. One of my previous laptops was a Y-570 which was my first Lenovo. After taking the P900 down in the trenches with me for a few weeks of grunt work… I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last.
The Lenovo ThinkStation P900 starts at $1,826.10 if you purchase through their website. You can customize your ThinkStation as much as you can afford. The price of the model we are reviewing here is $18,155, because it is a highly customized model. You can find out more information at the main Lenovo P-series website here. I made a short video of various simulations I used to test the P900 which you can view below.
My thanks to Lenovo for providing the ThinkStation P900 for review.