Lenovo ThinkStation P620 Review: A Vehicle for Threadripper Proby Dr. Ian Cutress on February 16, 2021 9:30 AM EST
The workstation line of machines from Lenovo have been extremely successful for the company. While ThinkStation might not have as much brand identity as the more recognizable ThinkPad, for the markets that require them Lenovo’s ThinkStation range has been at the front of high-performance under-the-desk offerings since 2008. Lenovo has focused on everything from small form factor entry ThinkStation systems, all the way up to high-end dual socket P-series tower designs. The system we are reviewing today actually marks a major milestone for the ThinkStation business; the ThinkStation P620 is Lenovo’s first AMD workstation system, and it comes in to replace the whole range of Intel-based high-performance ThinkStations previously offered.
ThinkStation Replaces Intel with AMD For Performance
As mentioned, Lenovo started the ThinkStation line in 2008. At the time the first two available options were a mid-range tower system using a Core 2 Quad processor, and a dual-socket tower built on dual Xeon E5000 processors for high-performance. Over the years, ThinkStation has expanded into the low end Xeon E3/Xeon E markets, and introduced small form factor systems around smaller 35 W processors, but still kept up with the premium tower and dual socket designs.
The last update to these higher performance options were in 2017. At the time, single socket designs from the P520 were more mid-range, using Intel’s Xeon W platform on the LGA2066 desktop socket with only four memory channels but with Pro-level features. The P720 and P920 tackled the high-performance using the dual-processor Intel Xeon Scalable platform, giving six memory channels per CPU, with the P920 offering the higher power models with its better cooling design. Since 2017, aside from moving from Skylake to Cascade Lake, and offering newer graphics options, the P520, P720 and P920, have remained static in Lenovo’s offering.
Every single offering in the Lenovo ThinkStation lineup has been Intel. Until now.
|Lenovo ThinkStation Offerings in Q1 2021|
|Entry||P340||Small FF||Intel 10th Gen / Xeon||65 W|
|Tiny||Intel 10th Gen / Xeon||65 W|
|Tower||Intel 10th Gen / Xeon||125 W|
|Mid Range||P520||Compact Tower||Xeon W, LGA2066||140 W|
|Tower||Xeon W, LGA2066||140 W|
|P620||Tower||AMD Threadripper Pro||280 W|
|P720||Tower||2 x Xeon-SP||2 x 150 W|
|P920||Tower||2 x Xeon-SP||2 x 205 W|
The ThinkStation P620 is the first AMD system that Lenovo has ever offered with ThinkStation. Built on Threadripper Pro, it forms a new 600-series in the line-up. From the specification sheet it certainly offers performance above and beyond the P500 series, and arguably above the P700 and P900 as well, but it is still single socket, which is why it is ‘600’ rather than anything higher.
Reasons why Lenovo has jumped on the AMD bandwagon for Threadripper Pro are likely numerous, and some of them are obvious – as we’ve showcased before in reviews of the Threadripper 3990X and EPYC 7742, AMD's 64-core offerings at 280 W mean lots of performance, and the Pro side enables over standard Threadripper with 8x memory support, ECC memory, double the PCIe lanes, and Pro-level management capabilities. At a time when Intel’s offering in this space have significantly stagnated (no need to update those product lines since 2007), AMD has something that Lenovo’s customers want.
On top of this, Lenovo secured the exclusive for AMD’s Threadripper Pro. Announced last August, and at retail from late September/early October, Lenovo appears to have secured a 6-month exclusive to be the only OEM to offer the system to customers. Lenovo and AMD have also likely partnered to co-design the products, optimize the platform, and all the other unique benefits on being the launch exclusive partner.
Exclusivity is a big carrot to dangle in front of an OEM, and it seems that Lenovo was a good fit – good enough to leave the Intel systems alone and focus purely on TR Pro as the main offering. So much so infact that on the US Lenovo ThinkStation P-series page, users have to look to the second line of systems to get to the Intel P500/P700/P900 models. The ThinkStation P620 sits front and center for all to see.
The Lenovo ThinkStation Unique Selling Point
It’s been a long time since I reviewed a Lenovo workstation system. The ThinkStation P900 back in 2015 was an absolute beast – dual Intel E5 v3 processors, buckets of memory and storage, and space for a lot of compute add-in cards. What impressed me at the time, rather than the specifications on the sheet, was the meticulous attention to detail that the system chassis had. It went above and beyond almost any other workstation system I had encountered, and it’s enabled by Lenovo’s scale.
As one of the largest OEMs in the market, Lenovo can leverage its custom motherboard team, develop custom connectors for its storage, fans, and even for the power supply, commission unique power supply designs, and then put it all into a chassis custom built for purpose that feels as if the engineers actually knew what they were doing. That dual processor system had independent air baffles for each of the two CPUs, as well as the GPU areas and the power supply. To top it all off, it was very quiet, had a wide array of modern features, and was built to last.
The Lenovo ThinkStation P620 today is built with the same finesse and ethos in mind.
While the single socket design makes it slightly easier to design around, Lenovo has a custom dual heatsink and heatpipe design to cool the 280 W CPU like I’ve never seen before. Each of the DRAM sections has rigid secure coolers for when high-capacity memory is in play. To remove cables, the power supply is a custom design specifically for this motherboard, routing power directly through the motherboard to where it is needed. The design partitions out to backplanes for storage or closer connectors for PCIe. The fans are tool-less and removable with two fingers. The PCIe devices are tool-less and easily removeable. Even the power supply can be removed with two fingers. Lenovo has put the time and effort into this system to not only make it easy to understand, but easy to fix, easy to upgrade, and next to effortless to use. If all PCs were like this, the world would be a brighter place.
I can gush for a long while about the internal design (and I do in the next page as part of the visual inspection), but the critical element about these systems is what they can do.
The Lenovo ThinkStation P620 is a custom WRX80 motherboard for AMD’s Threadripper Pro processors. This enables up to 64 of AMD’s Zen 2 cores, with eight channels of memory, and Lenovo puts this at one module per channel. The CPU allows for 128 lanes of PCIe 4.0 connectivity, eight of which go to the chipset, and the P620 offers 80 lanes through PCIe 4.0 slots. There are four x16 slots and two x8 slots, although the nature of the system means that some slots are covered when dual-width cards are in use. Other lanes are enabled for NVMe storage via dual x4 M.2 slots and Aquantia AQC107 10 gigabit ethernet controller, providing a single 10Gbase-T port.
Other connectivity includes a front panel with two USB 3.2 (10 Gbps, one always-on) Type-A and two USB 3.2 (10 Gbps) Type-C, a headphone combo jack, and a 4-digit POST display. The rear ports include two USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.2 (10 Gbps) Type-C, the 10 gigabit ethernet port, and 2.1 audio output.
|Lenovo ThinkStation P620|
|CPU||AMD TR Pro 3945WX
12 Cores / 24 Threads
4.0 - 4.3 GHz
64 MB L3 Cache
|AMD TR Pro 3995WX
64 Cores / 128 Threads
2.7 - 4.2 GHz
256 MB L3 Cache
|OS||Win 10 Pro||Win 10 Pro||Win 10 Pro|
|DRAM||1 x 16 GB
|2 x 16 GB
|8 x 64 GB
P620 2 GB
6000 24 GB
|2 x NVIDIA Quadro
GV100 32 GB
|Storage||256 GB M.2
PCIe 3.0 x4
|512 GB M.2
PCIe 3.0 x4
|2 x 1 TB M.2
PCIe 4.0 x4
|HDD||None||None||4 x 4 TB
|Power||Custom 1000 W
|Custom 1000 W
|Custom 1000 W
|Ethernet||Onboard 10 GbE
|Onboard 10 GbE
2 x 10 GbE
|Audio||Onboard 2.1||Onboard 2.1||Onboard 2.1|
Key Lock Kit
|Warranty||3 Yr On-Site||3 Yr On-Site||3 Year On-Site|
|*Current Februrary Offer for 42% Discount on Direct Sales|
The base specification includes the TR Pro 3945WX, which has 12 cores at 4.0-4.3 GHz, one 16 GB DDR4-3200 RDIMM ECC module, an NVIDIA Quadro P620 2 GB graphics adaptor, a 256 GB M.2 SSD, a 1000W 92% efficient power supply, Win10 Pro, and a keyboard and mouse for a $3619 base price.
Going for peak upgrades, we can choose:
- 64-core TR Pro 3995WX for +$12200,
- 8x64 GB of DDR4-3200 RDIMM ECC (512 GB total) for +$12000,
- dual NVIDIA Quadro GV100 32 GB graphics cards for +$39650,
- two 2TB PCIe 3.0 M.2 drives for +$2400,
- four 4 TB HDDs for +$1520,
- a 15-in-1 card reader for +$40
- an additional 10G NIC for +$155
The TR Pro CPU technically supports up to 2 TB of DDR4-3200 in its full configuration, however Lenovo’s build only has one memory slot per channel (technically two per channel is supported if the motherboard is built that way), and does not have 3DS LRDIMM support, which puts the maximum to 512 GB (we tried 1 TB of LRDIMMs, but the system wouldn’t post).
This full-spec configured version ends up with a price of $60634. Lenovo is doing a discount for February, enabling a 42% discount, so it only comes to $35168. This does not include tax or shipping.
Of course this price is a bit nuts, but that’s because Lenovo sells very few of these systems direct through the website (and the website limits an individual to five systems). Almost all sales are through B2B channels, where a visual effects studio buys a dozen with a support package, and price will obviously depend on how many are being purchased and in what configuration.
The system as shipped to us was relatively decent, except in one key configuration.
Over the base configuration, our design had the 64-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 3995WX, an NVIDIA Quadro RTX6000, and a Western Digital SN730 512 GB M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 boot drive. The one key configuration point that wasn’t so good was the memory. Lenovo shipped the system with only two modules of 16 GB memory, limiting the system to only 32 GB and in dual channel mode.
Lenovo’s reasoning for shipping their review systems with this small amount of memory, as they did with the P900 system back in 2015, is that a good portion of their customers are either (a) not memory bound, or (b) source their own memory. In speaking with other US press who were sampled this system by Lenovo, they similarly had only two modules of memory as default, whereas the EU press had all eight modules. It seems odd that Lenovo US is willing to put a CPU in the system that they charge +$12000 for, a GPU in the system that they charge +$8220 for, only to fundamentally limit the system for the sake of around $1000 of memory.
For our testing today, we’re testing it in both the as-shipped configuration with two memory modules and an eight-channel memory configuration. We have to give big thanks here to Kingston for coming in clutch, as they shipped us enough memory for all of our future DDR4 server testing. We’re using Kingston’s 16 GB DDR4-3200 RDIMM ECC modules (KSM32RD8/16MEI), which worked first time in the P620 at the rated speed.
For a good number of benchmarks, having only two memory modules was a severe performance killer. With something like this, AnandTech recommends a full set of memory.
Users who are looking for analysis of the Threadripper Pro 3995WX processor can look at our in-depth review article from earlier this week,
In this review, we’re examining the Lenovo ThinkStation P620. The review consists of two main parts –the system design, usability, and offering, and then the performance, in both the as-shipped dual-channel configuration, compared to a full set of memory.
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HyperText - Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - linkNice to see AMD in more and more systems!
(and we have subtly been rickrolled.)
Jorgp2 - Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - linkWas going to mention that.
YB1064 - Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - linkI wish there were a 20Gbps USB-C or Thunderbolt 4 ports instead of the 10 Gbps USB-C. Apart from this minor quibble, this is a solid buy.
atlr - Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - linkThe motherboard drawing in the P620 Hardware Maintenance Manual shows a Thunderbolt controller header. I wonder if a Gigabyte Titan Ridge is compatible. Or if Lenovo will offer a Thunderbolt 4 add-in card.
Frontinus - Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - linkI managed to get the Gigabyte GC-Titan Ridge 2.0 Thunderbolt 3 controller working in my P620 Thinkstation for a high-speed Samsung X5 drive. The Thunderbolt header doesn't work yet because there's not yet a BIOS Thunderbolt option (Lenovo are apparently working on that and will bring out a refresh), but you can get round it by shorting a couple of pins on the card's header cable.
DanNeely - Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - linkI'm bemused that having decided to include an optical drive, they're only offering DVD and not Blueray.
notb - Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - linkWhy would you need a Blu-ray reader on a workstation? You have a collection of software on BR disks or what?
Aspernari - Saturday, February 27, 2021 - linkYes, why on a $20,000+ workstation, would you splurge the extra $20 to get a Blu-Ray reader?
riccardik - Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - linksingle channel in the base model, with threadripper pro... ridiculous, its bad for lenovo to even allow it without any kind of warning
DanNeely - Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - linkYeah. The 12 core model might not benefit much from having all 8 channels filled; but even it would benefit from filling at least 2.
Looking on Newegg the specific type of ram they're using (DDR4-3200 ECC RDIMM) doesn't come in anything smaller than 8gb; although if you're willing to accept slowing down to 2400 4gb modules exist. The 8gb dimms should be the default for 64GB or below configurations. (Not sure about the slower 4gb modules for the bottom of the config chart.) These systems mostly aren't going to be sold to people ordering the minimum ram config because they want to save a few percent off the sticker price by swapping their own in, or are gimping the initial ram load with the intent of adding more in a few months when their cashflow improves.