Review: Lenovo's High-End Desktop, The ThinkStation S10


Higher-performing PCs and workstations continue to be a critical tool for engineers, graphics designers and other professionals who commonly run resource-intensive applications. Until recently, Lenovo hadn't addressed this space. But the company is now aiming at the higher end of the desktop PC segment and first shots come in the form of the company's ThinkStation D10 and S10 models.

Lenovo sent the Test Center their ThinkStation S10 model for review. The S10 is a single-processor machine equipped with Intel's Core 2 Extreme processor Q6800, 2 GB RAM with DDR3 memory and a 1 TB SATA HDD. The S10 can support up to three, single TB drives as well as RAID 0, 1 and 5. This model was also shipped with dual, Broadcom GB NICs and NVIDIA's Quadro FX4600 graphics card.

For now, the inclusion of a full TB of storage in one system is nice to see.

One of the first observations about this machine is how quiet it is when powered on and how quiet it remains while running. The noise level of the S10 was more akin to the noise emitted by a tiny notebook, rather than a high powered 30 pound plus PC's usual aircraft-during-takeoff noise level.

This lack of noise is achieved by using larger fans that spin more slowly rather than high-spinning, smaller fans. These fans fire downward as opposed to most fans that direct air toward the back of a computer. Additionally, the internal architecture has a direct channel for cooling the processor so air that hits it is not already heated by other components. The decibel level generated by the S10 never rose above the ambient noise of the Test Center lab.

Geekbench's performance test result for this machine running Windows XP Pro SP2 was an impressive 4783, one of the highest of scores registered in the Test Center lab in the past several months. Response times for application usage were consistent with Geekbench's score. A full install of CoreDraw Graphics Suite X4 took a scant 3 minutes. Testers forcibly stopped the initial CorelDraw mid-way through the install process to see how it would respond. The install came to a halt instantly, without seizing up the machine and with nary a "Program Not Responding" message in sight.

The S10 was able to handle a 1 GB movie clip playing on Windows Media Player, SQL server 2005 running as a service, the sending and reading of email, and the editing of a high-res JPG in Corel Photo-Paint X4 all simultaneously and elicited not even a whimper out of the CPU -- utilization did not climb above 25 percent.

When asked about the potential of this PC as a choice for hard-core gamers, the vendor was hesitant to say yes, as the graphics card is from NVidia's FX line, is designed for Open GL graphics and does not support Direct X. Reviewers decided to go ahead, nonetheless, and install the graphics-hungry "Call of Duty 4" PC game and see what resulted. The game played flawlessly, with no latency and the special effects that the game is known for (like night vision and depth of field) suffered no discernible loss even being played with an FX card.

The ThinkStation PCs are not just aces in performance. They are environmentally-friendly, manufactured with 50 percent recycled plastic content. These PCs are Energy Star 4.0 compliant. Wattage use was relatively low for a system with these specs, averaging 200W.

The starting price for the S10 is $1,034. For this type of horsepower that's a competitive price and available to Lenovo partners under the Raleigh, N.C.-based company's channel program.

ThinkStation workstations come shipped by default with Windows Vista Business. Lenovo executives say the company, as of April 8, will provide availability of Windows XP Pro for both the S10 and D210.

For customers who demand high-performance computing, the ThinkStations appear to be cost-effective performers in the workstation market, and a machine VARs will want to keep their attentions focused on.