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Lenovo's Workhorse : the ThinkStation P500

If your company needs a standard workstation which can be customized for each engineer, then a system like the ThinkStation P500 can be the perfect choice. This ThinkStation can be tailored for a basic CAD configuration or upgraded to handle demanding demanding simulation, analysis and rendering workloads.

It's a workstation which offers more capacity than the entry-level ThinkStation P300 yet remains extremely affordable. The ThinkStation P500 offers a fully flexible workstation for nearly any requirement.

The ThinkStation workstation family has been completely redesigned for higher reliability and ease of maintenance. The P500 model fits into the mainstream CAD and design category. We look at the configuration options which make it an attractive workstation to standardize on and present the performance data from our test system.

Flexible configuration options

The system has impressive specifications. It supports third generation Intel Xeon E5 processors – either the high-speed 1600 models or the many core 2600 versions. Memory capacity is 256 GB. The ThinkStation P500 can have as many as 11 storage devices. And graphics options include ultra-high-end graphics like the Quadro K6000.

Our system is configured with a 6 core Intel Xeon E5-2603 processor, 16 GB of memory, 1TB of storage and an NVIDIA Quadro K2200 graphics card. This configuration can easily support a wide range of CAD and 3D modeling applications.

Our testing includes interactive 3D modeling, 3D visualization, and computing intensive rendering. The interactive 3D performance remains excellent across all tests for medium sized models. With our configuration, the performance dips as we would expect for extremely large data sets, but for the most part remains at an acceptable level for normal, productive work.

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Below we show you the performance results and add information on the workload placed on the system's CPU and GPU. This allows you to understand where performance limits occur. With this information, you can adapt your ThinkStation P500 configuration to the demands of your projects.

Performance results of the ThinkStation P500

If we look at the results above, then our configuration looks perfect for interactive 3D design and CAD with medium-sized models. Our 3D modeling measurements and 3D visualization tests all deliver 100 frames per second (FPS) or better. For ray-tracing, we are less concerned about interactive performance. The applications Showcase and VRED allow us to easily maneuver the model with a low-level of ray-traced rendering while moving and then converge rapidly with a high-quality image when we stop.

Once we move to a complex model, the interactive 3D performance drops. 3DS MAX runs at just under 10 FPS which is acceptable from time-to-time. With our visualization applications, the large models have noticeably longer load times. The performance remains interactive, but it begs for a system upgrade.

Ray-traced rendering with large models is always a very demanding scenario and we see that in our results. Switching from a hardware rendering to a ray-traced rendering mode takes much longer than we normally would want to wait. The interactivity is very low, but this would not be a realistic working environment.

When to upgrade?

For interactive 3D modeling with large models we see the same effect across all three applications. These applications use one core of the CPU and saturate it while the GPU still has a workload under 50%. This clearly points to a quad-core E5-1600 CPU with a speed higher than 3 GHz and a memory upgrade to 32 GB or more.

The GPU has some additional capacity, however once the CPU and memory are upgraded and no longer causing a bottleneck, you can expect to saturate the GPU as well. This would point to an upgrade of the GPU to a Quadro K4200 or faster graphics card which is a configuration that the ThinkStation P500 easily supports.

The ray-tracing tests with our large model stress the system as it is configured. The loading times are very long and responsiveness of the system is very slow. Because this is an extremely demanding workload, there are several configuration upgrades to consider. For the CPU, we recommend selecting the newest E5-2600 processors with many cores – up to 18 at this writing – with the fastest clock speeds possible. To complement this powerful CPU, you should increase the system memory to 64 GB or more. What can also provide a boost in system responsiveness would be fast SSD storage.

SPEC Viewperf 12 results measure the graphics performance

Below are the results from our Viewperf 12 tests for reference. The results are similar to our tests using the Quadro K2200 in a ThinkStation P900. There is a slight difference in results due to the faster CPU that was used in the ThinkStation P900 system. Viewperf 12 is an excellent test for measuring the relative performance between graphics cards. For this review, we prefer to focus our analysis on the application testing.

SPECviewperf 12

ThinkStation P500: the swiss army knife of the Lenovo family

For CADplace it is clear : the ThinkStation P500 is the workhorse of the ThinkStation family. With, perhaps, the widest range of configuration possibilities of any ThinkStation, the P500 model allows you to standardize on a single workstation which, in turn, can address many different needs in your engineering and design departments through custom configurations.

Please take a moment and sign up for information directly from Lenovo on the ThinkStation P500 and the entire family of Lenovo workstations