It’s time to crack open a can of beef jerky, shutter the windows, and snuggle up with a tower workstation again.
That’s not weird at all because this workstation happens to be a Lenovo ThinkStation P520. Yes, quell your exuberance. As you may know, the P Series is Lenovo’s top o’ the line PC family for professionals in engineering, automotive, media, and other graphically-demanding, performance-pushing industries. It’s considered mid-range by those who get their kicks by categorizing computers, so we wanted to see what we could throw at it. Lenovo was kind enough to send over the P520 to carry out some Quadro RTX 4000 tests we’ll have in an upcoming article. Until then, let’s have a look at what this puppy can do.
Lenovo ThinkStation P520 Workstation Overview
The Lenovo ThinkStation P520 Workstation sits smack-dab in the middle of Lenovo’s P Series Tower family flanked on one side by its compact twin, the P520c, and the entry-level P330 Tower Workstation and on the other side by the high-end P720 and P920 Tower Workstations. Though the entire P Series provides M.2 storage and NVIDIA RTX GPU options, the 520 slips you into 256GB+ Memory range and Intel Xeon W Series processing power.
The base configuration starts at $1200 but you can pop that price above $10k with all the bells and whistles. If you just want a little more GPU power (like I did) and go with an NVIDIA RTX 4000 GPU to the base configuration, the price comes in at $1900. And let me say, totally worth it to go from the Pascal to Turing microarchitecture that adds the AI Tensor Cores and RT Cores for dedicated real-time ray tracing.
What’s in the Box?
The ThinkStation P520 setup here includes an Intel Xeon W-2133 (3.60 GHz, 6 Cores, 8.25MB Cache) processor with 16 GB RAM, a 500GB Samsung SSD, and is running Windows 10 Pro. It also sports the Side panel Lock Kit option and DVD Burner/CD-RW Optical Drive. Front ports include 4x USB 3.1, 15-in-1 Card Reader, and Mic/Headphone jack. Rear ports include 4x USB 3.1, 2x USB 2.0, 2x PS/2, 1x Thunderbolt, 1x GB Ethernet, 1x Line-in, 1x Line-out, 1x Mic. Altogether, this setup, as configured on lenovo.com, comes in at $2524 (after automatic discount).
The only difference I’d make to this configuration is opting for a primary 1TB M.2 SSD, switching the Quadro P4000 for a Quadro RTX 4000 and adding Wi-Fi (I move my rig around and like the redundancy). This puts the price at $3134 (after automatic discount).
Lenovo ThinkStation P520 Specs
On specs alone, the ThinkStation P520 Workstation bumps you up to the sub-$2k+ range and easily within the $2k range depending on features you need with options that bring more speed, storage, and gigabytes. The table below breaks down the max available features. You can view additional specs here.
Size — 18.0 inches x 6.5 inches x 17.3 inches / 455 mm x 165 mm x 440 mm
OS — Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)
Processor — Intel® Xeon™ W-Series (up to 4.5 GHz, 11MB cache, and 18 cores/36 threads)
RAM — Up to 256 GB DDR4 (2666 MHz)
Storage — Up to 8x drives/4 internal (Max: 3.5″=36TB, 2.5″ SSD=12TB, M.2=2TB); RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
Graphics — Up to 2x NVIDIA Quadro RTX
Port options — Front: 4x USB 3.1 (Gen 1), 1x Thunderbolt 3 (Type C), Mic/Headphone and Back: 4x USD 3.1 (Gen2), 2x USB 2.0, @x PS/2, 1x Thunderbolt Adapter, 1x GB Ethernet, 1x Audio Line-in, Line-out, Mic, 1x eSATA, 1x Firewire
Wireless — Intel Dual Band Wireless 802.11ac + Bluetooth
Power Supply — 690W 92% efficient, 900W 92% efficient
Price — Starting at US$1,200
Lenovo ThinkStation P520 Highlights
The Design: There’s a lot to love about the design of Lenovo tower workstations. For a black box you spend so much time with, you want it to have the functional form you would expect from your best tool. Lenovo delivers this in spades for the P520 from ample up-front port to extra rear ports and all an unassuming honeycomb front face that allows plenty of airflow. The signature Lenovo-red touchpoints make grabbin, unlatchin’, pressin’, and flippin’ easy.
The Storage: The P520 is the first tower I’ve used that has more internal storage options than external drives I’ve traditionally used, and it’s the first tower I’ve used with an M.2 option. As mentioned, I’d choose that as the primary with the existing 512GB SSD as backup. Most of my data is on external drives though (mainly from switching computers so often) so I wouldn’t max out on internal storage, but nice to know I can expand if needed.
The Ports: It almost seems like there can never be enough USB port options. This is the first computer where I’ve been able to use all ports without resorting to expansion, adapters or monitor ports. The Thunderbolt (USB-C) is a welcome addition as well.
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