Lenovo ThinkStation P7 Workstation ReviewJanuary 22, 2024 0 By Lorena Mejia
The Lenovo ThinkStation P7 Workstation is the final piece in the trifecta of Lenovo’s high-end workstations. We already did the P5 and PX workstations. Yes, this is the second most powerful workstation that Lenovo offers, and we did go a little out of order, but here it is. While this looks very similar to the Lenovo ThinkStation P5, there are several differences. Physically it is a little thicker.
Highly configurable, the Lenovo ThinkStation P7 workstation is designed for desktops and data centers with a rack mountable chassis. It features ISV certifications for a variety of applications that enable it to tackle workloads for data scientists, engineers, architects, plus complex 3D rendering, game development, and fluid dynamics to name a few. The main differentiating factor between this system and the ThinkStation P5 workstation is the processor. Both are single-socket systems but the P5 runs an Intel Xeon W-2400 series CPU while the P7 is outfitted with a W-3400-series CPU. The P7 can support twice the memory at up to 1GB compared to 512GB on the P5, plus up to 3x doublewide GPUs instead of just 2x. We already went overboard on the redesign/influence from Aston Martin in both the ThinkStation P5 and PX videos. If you saw those videos, you know what we’re talking about. If not, a quicky on that. It’s the bright red surround in front with the vented front panel reminiscent of the Aston Martin Superleggera DBS front intake grill. Anyways, check out one of those videos for the full fanfare.
In addition to the Aston Martin influence, the control panel on the front of the system looks identical to that of the P5. The Lenovo PX workstation does have a different control panel and more external drives not to mention dual Intel Xeon Scalable processors inside. The PX is a beast with several differences in performance and design both inside and out. As a result, any comparisons will focus on the P5 to P7 ratio.
Back to the P7. From the top, a power ON button, with LEDs for power and storage. An always on USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 connector, and another that’s not always on. Both offering 20 Gb/s data transfer rates. That always on connector, like it says always on, weather the system is on, off in sleep mode or hibernating like a bear. Then a pair of USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 connectors (20Gb/s) with headset jack below that. Strangely the front USB connectors are mentioned as only available on select models. Next a diagnostic LCD switch to turn on the Diagnostic display.
Managing the system is basically through the OS, Windows 10, Windows 11 or using Intel vPro. Windows has a set of administrative tools, which you can find when you click the Windows icon in the lower left corner of your screen. With vPro, you have the Intel Active Management Technology and Endpoint management Assistant, or Intel EMA. Intel EMA works with the Windows OS and will help to remotely discover, repair, and protect your ThinkStation and works out-of-band. That little diagnostic panel on the front is also quite useful. It will allow you to test the hardware and potential OS settings that may be causing the system to misbehave. If there is an error message in the Windows notification area, you know, the lower right-hand corner of your system, then you should or you could get a 4-digit error code on the diagnostic LED panel on the front of the chassis.
The QR code you can scan and the 4-digit code you can decode at another one of Lenovo’s site pages. We will mention the diagnostic panel is only available on certain configurations. If your system is not one of those configurations, you can also download ThinkStation Diagnostics. Another option for diagnosing problems is the Vantage app, which is pre-installed on the system. Type Vantage in the Window’s search panel and press enter. This will enable you to run a hardware scan of the system to isolate and resolve issues.
That Flex module, right below, can be used to support several options including; a 15-in-one card reader or more storage with the inclusion of an NVMe M.2 drive but only 1x. There are some restrictions on using that, which we will get to.
On the back of the system, the lock nest at the top has two keys to access the lockable side panel with 4x PCIe slots adjacent. If, you were to get the lockable M.2 storage cage that goes in the flex bay, then there would be another lock nest and two more of those keys. One set for the side panel, and one set for the M.2 flex bay drive.
On the I/O panel, a power ON button with LED, audio line in and line out, USB-C 3.2 Gen 2×2 connector, 3x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 connectors and 2x USB-A 2.0 connectors with a 10G RJ45 network port below those. 1G connector next and an optional serial connector. There are 3x more PCIe slot below those, a Kensington lock slot and the power cable connector to a toolless removable PSU inside the case.
The system is powered by either a 1000W or 1400W power supply unit. If you plan on loading up on GPUs with this system, then you will need the 1400W PSU.
On the side panel is another Aston Martin influence with the recessed panel handle. Once we remove the side panel you can see there are a few additional red accents than what we saw on the P5. Specifically, a few more fans and brackets to hold the GPUs in place.
The Intel Xeon W-3400 series processors compatible with the P7 do come in a few options. The W5, W7, and W9 CPUs. Intel’s W5 CPUs offer 12-16 cores, W7 at 20-28 cores, and the top-of-the-line W9 series CPUs delivering 36-56 cores. At 56 cores, that’s twice as many cores as the W-2400 series CPUs supported on the Lenovo P5. This particular unit is outfitted with a W5-3433 with 16 cores, and 16 performance cores, a base frequency of 3.10 GHz, and a Turbo boost frequency of 4.7GHz.
W-3400 series CPUs have 8-memory channels or 4x more than the W-2400 series and can support up to 4TB across 16 memory module slots. Although, Lenovo has curtailed the memory support a bit by providing 8x memory module slots but also by limiting the memory to 1TB DDR5 total. Perhaps there will be an update supporting more memory… hope springs eternal. All qualified memory supported on this platform will run at up to 4800MT/s. However, the memory speed may be limited by the installed processor with the lower end options only supporting speeds of up to 4400MT/s. Each of the 4x memory slots to either side of the CPU have their very own memory coolers. for optimal performance Lenovo recommends a memory module in each of the slots using the same type and capacity.
Storage on this system can be done using all M.2 storage devices, just 3.5-inch storage devices or a combination of the two. With the all-M.2 option you can install up to 9x M.2 drives total. That could include the previously mentioned flex bay for one M.2 drive. However, if you want to maximize the drives and get to 9x drives total, then 2x NVMe M.2 drives would go in the 3.5-inch drive carriers using the internal drive bays at the bottom front of the chassis. With those bays filled, the flex bay option is not compatible as they use the same motherboard connection. Personally, we would go with the 2x internal 3.5-inch bays unless you really need a removeable M.2 drive. If that is the case, go with the flex bay option. Of course, you can install 3.5-inch drives in those bays as well and they will run off the chipset instead of the CPU with SATA Gen 3 drives installed. We think you can install the M.2 flex bay with that configuration.
The M.2 in the flex bay is removeable, although Lenovo cautions removing it too often as it is somewhat sensitive. They also recommend not touching the connector. That said, it is hot-swappable. Just press the button and it pops out in a nice little aluminum heatsink that you can pocket. This is assuming you don’t install the OS on that drive, which is not recommended…
The immediately apparent M.2 slots are located at the top of the chassis and feature black anodized heat sinks with red slider locks. Those 2x have a PCIe Gen5 interface and offer the best performance out of all of your M.2 options, even the Quad or Dual M.2 carriers you might install in the PCIe slots, but we’ll get to that. Another M.2 drive can be installed at a 90-degree angle from the board and attaches to the metal part of the 3.5-inch drive cage adjacent to the removeable power supply. It has two tabs on the back that slide into the mounting channels on the 3.5-inch drive cage. Lastly, for the full 9x M.2 drives, you would install a Quad M.2 PCIe Adapter but that will use one of the x16 slots. The connection speed for that Quad M.2 PCIe card is listed at PCIe Gen 3.0.
So, to recap 9x M.2 drives with 2x at the top 2x in the 3.5-inch drive cage, 1x barnacled onto the side of the internal 3.5-inch drive cage, and 4x more with the Quad M.2 PCIe card in a PCIe slot for up to 28TB. That is assuming 4TB drives used in all slots, which is what Lenovo has indicated in the specs. There will also be some additional hardware you will need to purchase including brackets, fans, an M.2 backplane, and a cable, respectively.
To maximize storage at up to 36TB you will be installing 12TB 3.5-inch SATA Gen3 Enterprise hard disk drives into the 2x internal carriers at the bottom front of the chassis and one more 3.5-inch drive can be installed with a bracket that literally spans from the front of the chassis over the CPU heat sink and connects to the back of the chassis. That kit includes the tray just mentioned, drive carrier bracket, and SATA cables.
The Lenovo ThinkStation P7 has 7x PCIe slots total, 3x are designated to support GPUs with a PCIe 5.0 x16 physical length and bandwidth. Another, x16 slot has a PCIe 4.0 with x16 link connector and can be used for the quad M.2 PCIe cards. Given that car is spec’d at PCIe 3.0 you won’t lose any bandwidth using this connector. For the last 3x slots, there is a Gen 4.0 x8 slot and a x4 slot, and lastly a Gen 5.0 x4 slot right at the bottom of the chassis. Order of installation is also quite specific. We will mention that all x16 slots are 75W, and the others 25W. If you do install a high-performance graphics card you will be using additional cabling for power.
The P7 will support 3x double-wide GPUs at up to 300W each. If you install 3x double wide cards, you will be left with only one additional PCIe slot. Specifically slot 7 featuring a x4 PCIe Gen 5.0 connector. The other slots will be covered by the GPUs. If you plan on installing half-length cards there are extenders, available on certain configurations. With single-wide GPUs you will also get the full use of the PCIe slots. Included in our system is the very capable NVIDIA RTX A4500 with 20GB of GDDR6 ECC memory. However, you can also install the NVIDIA RTX 6000 Ada Generation for a little more kick but that one does not support NVLink technology. If you need NVLink, then the RTX A6000, A5500 and the A4500 will do the trick but you can only link 2x GPUs with NVLink. Just something to keep in mind.
Using those PCIe slots, you can also install up to 8x additional Ethernet ports, which would be useful if you plan on rack mounting this chassis for multiple users.
The system is WLAN and Bluetooth 5.3 hardware ready. Wi-Fi 6E enabled with Windows 11 and Wi-Fi 6 with Windows 10.
Installing an optional Thunderbolt 3.0 or 4.0 card will provide faster data transfer rates at up to 40Gb/s. And then there are the additional storage options with Quad and dual cards already mentioned.
Like The Aston Martin SuperLeggera and Lenovo’s other high-end ThinkStation platforms, the ThinkStation P7 is built for speed and performance. It offers support for the latest applications with Independent Software Vendor certifications. As a single-socket platform it delivers some impressive core counts at up to 56 cores, support for up to 1TB of memory, and the options of installing up to 3x high-performance double-wide GPUs. It’s also highly configurable with a number of options to suit your workload and can be upgraded over time as budget allows. The next level up is the Lenovo ThinkStation PX but only a small percentage of people would need that kind of power. The P7 is just a small step down but nobody would realize that.
If you’re looking for one, try IT Creations! If you’re looking for any other system, check out our website or contact us at 1-800-237-0402.