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Lenovo ThinkStation S30: Power, Performance and Stamina

By Srihari Gangaraj, October 29, 2012

The good people at Lenovo sent me the ThinkStation S30 desktop workstation. They wanted me to take it out for a spin into my world of CAD and CAE.

Figure 1: Lenovo makes the S30 desktop workstation look like a handsome brute.

As I pulled the computer out of the box, the first thing I noticed that it had 2 DVI ports – which meant that I could finally hook up both of my monitors without fiddling with adapters. (I had been using for nearly two years an HP Z800 desktop with a pair of HP LP2465 monitors.) With the HP, I had thought I had the latest and greatest CAE workstation -- until I started this test drive on Lenovo's ThinkStation S30.

I soon found that the Xeon E-5 processor with the Quadro graphics card in this machine was like my second set of limbs, translating my thoughts into SolidWorks parts and assemblies without the annoying hour-glass and white-screen delays. I soon ran amuck with the S30, opening several large assemblies in SolidWorks, rotating and zooming with 3dconnexion's SpacePilot, all the while editing the parts, and then exporting some of them to Parasolid files. This activity drove the processor and the graphics card hard, and I clearly heard the whirring of the fan, which until then was quiet.

As a CAE (computer-aided engineering) analyst, I couldn’t resist the temptation to run some stress analyses and thermal simulations on my new toy. I fired up SolidWorks Simulation. To review some stress plots, I opened up an analysis model of a motor. Stress plots are colorful plots with bands of green to red; they help me appease managers and help me convince customers of my designs. To me, it is important to be able to open up these large results files very quickly. I need to show off the stress plots and to zoom into “hot spots,” or rotate the model, or demonstrate cut-sections -- without having to wait for screen refreshes, or to embarrassingly show a blank screen. The S30 did not disappoint me in these areas, and I could see that it was built to move polys and pixels aplenty.

OK, now it was time for some extreme number-crunching, a.k.a. finite element analysis. I opened up my motor model in SolidWorks Simulation to set it up for linear elastic static stress analysis, and then hit the Run button. That’s when the Xeon’s big fat brain really stepped up, firing up the eight gigs of DDR3 RAM while spewing out tons of data onto the 7200 rpm hard drive. The mesh generation and intense matrix/vector operations showed that the S30 really packs a wallop. Oh, while running this decathlon, I also opened up a PowerPoint file to prepare for a presentation, and edited the analysis report. The S30 held strong and did not crash on me – a definite sign it has the stamina to be in my world of CAD and CAE.

S30 Specifications

Lenovo designed the S30 desktop computer as a single-CPU, mid-range workstation. It is mid-range, because more powerful workstations boast multiple CPUs and more capacity for RAM, while less powerful ones use a single Core CPU and have room for fewer add-ons. The S30 fits in the middle, by running just one of Intel's most powerful CPU, the Xeon, yet has room for two graphics boards, three hard drives, and 16GB RAM.

Figure 2: Ports on the rear of the S30 desktop workstation from Lenovo.

When it comes to graphics boards, you can choose from quite a range of models, but only from NVIDIA:

The computer I had boasted no fewer than 12 USB ports, two of them of the much faster USB v3.0 variety. The optical drive can be DVD read-only, DVD read-write, or a BluRay burner. A 25-in-1 memory card reader is optional, and FireWire is available.

Current models of the S30 run Windows 7, and it is already certified for Windows 8.

The base price is just $899, but quickly escalates as you add features. The model I ran with came to $2,626.x

Final Thoughts

If you are CAD/CAE professional, you will want to take a good look at the S30, and I think that you will be pleased with its power, performance, and stamina. Whether you use CAD as a tool to bring your concepts to life, or FEA to check the design, or CFD to make the air flow smoothly, you will find that this S30 is like a well-made race car of workstations.

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Additional Information

Lenovo s30 Workstation - corporate product page

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About the Author

Srihari Gangaraj is a design engineer, currently serving as a supervisor & technical lead. He also worked at SolidWorks. He has an aerospace engineering degree from IIT. More…

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