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Lenovo ThinkStation S20

<p> The market for high-end workstations to run CAD/CAM and other graphically demanding applications has long been dominated by the likes of Sun, HP and Dell. Lenovo, however, is hoping to get a look in with its new <a href="http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/gbweb/LenovoPortal/en_GB/catalog.workflow:expandcategory?current-catalog-id=FD6DB49790C7411D933567FC361231FB&current-category-id=583E12B6FA4F42429095CAF88F3CD6D9&tab=1#tab-container-7">ThinkStation S20</a>, which can be fitted with Intel quad-core processors based on the latest 45nm <a href="http://reviews.zdnet.co.uk/hardware/components/0,1000001694,39539047,00.htm">Nehalem</a> technology. </p>
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Written by Alan Stevens on
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7.7/10

Lenovo ThinkStation S20

Very good
Pros
  • Choice of 45nm Xeon quad-core processors
  • Up to 12GB of DDR3 memory
  • Nvidia or ATI video cards
  • Supports up to four monitors
Cons
  • Limited storage options
  • Monitor not included
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

The market for high-end workstations to run CAD/CAM and other graphically demanding applications has long been dominated by the likes of Sun, HP and Dell. Lenovo, however, is hoping to get a look in with its new ThinkStation S20, which can be fitted with Intel quad-core processors based on the latest 45nm Nehalem technology.

First impressions are good, the S20 showing its IBM pedigree in the form of an exceptionally sturdy tower case, tool-free access and a very neat internal layout with plenty of cooling. Despite the latter, the S20 is very quiet in use, becoming almost eerily silent when idle. It also has a lot of green credentials, conforming to the latest Energy Star specifications as well as being made from over 50 percent recycled plastic.

The ThinkStation S20 has a sturdy tower case, tool-free access and a neat internal layout with plenty of cooling.

A number of different Intel Xeon processors can be specified, mostly quad-core but with the odd dual-core also available if preferred. Our review system came with a mid-range E5506 — a quad-core chip clocked at 2.13GHz, with an 800MHz DDR3 memory controller and 4MB of cache. For really demanding applications, however, you can specify the 2.53GHz E5540 with a 1,066MHz memory controller and 8MB of cache, or the even quicker 3.2GHz W5580 (1,333MHz and 8MB).

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DDR3 memory is the order of the day, with 4GB of installed on the review system occupying two of the available six DIMM sockets. Up to 12GB can be supported altogether. There's a choice of dual-display video cards — Nvidia Quadro, with ATI FirePro if preferred. If need be, you can fit two graphics adapters in the PCI Express x16 expansion slots provided for this purpose, and support up to four monitors altogether.

The storage options are reasonable if a little disappointing, with a choice of 250GB or 500GB SATA hard disks on the base models. Ours had just one 500GB drive (a 7,200 rpm Seagate Barracuda), leaving two 3.5in. bays for expansion. RAID is more or less a must-have on this type of workstation, and there's support for Level 0,1, and 5 setups on the motherboard. However, with a maximum of three internal disks you're a bit limited and might need to add a plug-in host bus adapter and external drives to beef up this part of the S20 offering.

The ThinkStation S20's back panel offers a serial port, up to two Gigabit Ethernet ports, analogue 7.1 audio ports, an eSATA port, an S/PDIF port and eight USB ports.

On the plus side, you do get an eSATA port for external storage expansion, together with the usual DVD burner plus space and an interface for one other drive, if needed. A Gigabit Ethernet port is also built-in, plus eight USB 2.0 connectors, a 20-in-1 flash card reader and comprehensive analogue and digital audio connections.

On the software front it's either Vista or XP, 64-bit implementations of which can be factory installed with minimal 'bloatware' beyond backup and security utilities, plus a trial version of Office 2007.

The keyboard and mouse are nothing special and there's no monitor unless otherwise ordered. The S20 compares well on price with other workstation vendors' offerings, and if you have deep pockets there's even a dual-socket version — the ThinkStation D20 — that also supports SAS storage. The price includes a three-year next business day warranty.

 

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