Lenovo ThinkStation PX Workstation ReviewDecember 7, 2023
The Lenovo ThinkStation PX Workstation is Lenovo’s most powerful ThinkStation to date, and remember we are talking 2023, so don’t leave a comment 2 years from now saying “oh Lenovo’s most powerful workstation”? Today it is. Dual processors, up to 4TB of memory. 4x GPUs…
Just like the Lenovo ThinkStation P5, the Lenovo ThinkStation PX Workstation also had a little help from Aston Martin in the design department. While still recognizably a Lenovo workstation, it has definitely been given an aesthetic upgrade. We went a little overboard with the Aston Martin influence on the Lenovo P5 video, which you can see here.
The P5 only had a single Intel Xeon W-2400 CPU. This one has dual 4th generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors with up to 60 cores and 120 threads each! It also supports up to 4TB of DDR5 memory, and a mix of PCIe 5.0 and PCIe 4.0 expansion slots. Oh, and support for up to 4x RTX 6000 GPUs. The Ada Lovelace generation GPUs. Storage is variable, depending on how you outfit the system but we will get to that.
This chassis is on the larger side and definitely heavier than the P5 workstation. Fully configured, the PX can weigh in at almost 80lbs. On the front of the system there is a control panel strip running off center to the right with a power ON button, 2x USB 3.2 gen 2 slots, 2x USB-C gen 3.2 ports, Those USB ports are only available on select models, like ours. That last slot is a combo headphone/microphone jack.
At the very bottom is an optional lock for those 3x Flex bays to the right of the control panel strip. Those Flex bays can be outfitted with up to 3x 3.5-inch hard disk drives with hot-swap on select models. Alternatively, you can install 2x Dual M.2 SSD cages, again in select models, each of which will support 2x M.2 drives for a total of 4x M.2 drives up front.
On the back of the Lenovo ThinkStation PX Workstation there are two 1850W 80 PLUS Platinum power supply units, which can be used for redundancy and hot-swapped in the event one of them fails or the UPS they are attached to goes south. This is a good feature if the system will be rack mounted in a server room offering an easy replacement without shutting the system down. For ultimate power, those PSUs can be used in “team mode” to provide 2350W of juice. In Team mode both PSUs are powering the system without redundancy. That too would not be a standard power supply outlet. PSU bay 2, which is that one on the bottom, can also be outfitted with a storage cage for a 3.5-inch drive. Ours has the dual PSU option.
On the top, PCIE slots 1-5 controlled by CPU 2, while PCIe slots 6-9 on the bottom are controlled by CPU 1.
In between are more ports including; line in and line out audio ports, a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2×2 port (20Gb/s), a block of 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports and 2x USB 2.0 ports. That USB-C 3.2 Gen 2×2 port delivers 2x lanes of 10Gb/s operations for a potential 20Gb/s data transfer rate. Beside those an optional 9-pin serial port with a GbE RJ45 port below that. Another RJ45 port provides 10GbE. Optional on this system is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, again only for select models. As an option you can also get PS/2 ports, which are those dedicated ports specifically for a mouse and keyboard. Those other brackets on the side hold the keys to the front drive bays and side panel. Or as Lenovo likes to call them, the key nest.
While supporting a similar design language compared to the P5, the interior layout is where the PX really shines. It is a more expensive system and definitely looks it from the inside. That said the P5 is more of a high-end entry level system with that single Intel Xeon W-2400 series CPU. Well not really entry-level but definitely more of a system that would be adopted for most users who want high-end performance. Taking the middle bracket in this lineup is the P7 ThinkStation. The P7 supports an Intel Xeon W-3400 CPU, which offers a boost in performance and cores over the W-2400 series.
On the side panel latch you can see the other Aston Martin influence emulating the action of the recessed door latch. Maybe not a direct translation but inspired. Fully outfitted, this workstation would break 6x figures but not the $570,200 starting price of the Aston Martin BS Superleggera Volante.
Once we unlock and remove the side panel, the interior is very well laid out with a plastic air cowl directing fresh air pulled in from that stylish front grill over critical components and specifically isolating the CPUS and memory modules in their own thermal zone. The PCIe slots for CPUs 1 and 2 where the GPUs are mounted also have distinct thermal zones. That control panel on the front also separates the workstation into 2x vertical thermal zones with the front drive bays and PSUs on one side of the motherboard. CPUs, memory, and PCIe slots on the other.
A bank of 4x fans at the front pull fresh air in from the front of the chassis. 2x fans in the middle funnel the air through the plastic air shroud, with a single fan on top and bottom for the PCIe lanes, where GPUs, or additional SSDs would be installed. Two more fans at the back middle pull the CPU scented air out the back of the chassis. The 4x front fans are easy to remove individually, or can be removed all together with latches at the top and bottom of the case. Most everything in the case can be removed without using any tools. It’s quite easy to strip this system down to the motherboard in a matter of minutes.
The Lenovo ThinkStation PX Workstation can be outfitted with one or two 4th generation Intel Xeon Scalable CPUs including Platinum 8490H CPUs with up to 60 physical cores and 120 virtual threads. In a dual processor configuration, that would be up to 120 cores and 240 virtual threads. Gold and Silver are also supported offering 8-32 processor cores, each. Those 60 core platinum CPUs have a base clock of 2.9GHz and a maximum frequency of up to 3.5GHz. Not to mention 80 PCIe 5.0 lanes to work with, for up to 160 PCIe 5.0 lanes in a dual processor configuration.
Not only PCIe 5.0 but CXL 1.1 support of next generation workloads. Apparently CXL is the next big deal and uses the same PCIe physical layer with reduced compute latency. All good, not that it really matters at this point. We don’t know of any CXL devices currently supported on this system.
Each of the processors is in charge of 8x DDR5 memory module slots for 16x total slots. With 8-memory channel architecture, each memory module resides in its own memory channel for optimal performance. Optimal performance includes memory speeds of up to 4800MHz. But only 4800MHz at the top Platinum end of the Intel Xeon Scalable processors scale. Other processors in the lineup, like the gold, and silver options only support memory speeds of 4400MHz and 4000MHz, respectively. Still much faster than the previous generation CPUs which topped out at 3200MHz. In fact, 1.6 times increase in performance with DDR5 compared to DDR4. With all 16x memory module slots outfitted with 256GB DDR5 3DS RDIMM ECC memory modules, the system can support up to 4TB of memory. Yes, 4TB! That said, those 256GB DDR5 memory modules are quite expensive. Not to mention, for best performance a single memory module in all 8 slots per CPU is recommended to fully utilize the bandwidth offered by those 8x memory channels.
Our system has a single 4th generation Intel Xeon Scalable Gold 5416S processor with 16 physical cores and 32 virtual threads, 30MB Cache plus a base frequency of 2.0GHz and a Max Turbo frequency of 4.0GHz. It supports memory speeds of up to 4400MT/s with either 1 DIMM per channel or two. We’ve only got 8x memory module slots per CPU and 8x memory channels per CPU so 2x DIMMs per channel is not an option. With the “S” suffix, this processor is storage optimized with full accelerators optimized. There are definitely a few more suffix to choose from which offer benefits for certain workloads. That just might be the subject of another video. We have all memory slots connected to that one processor outfitted with 16GB memory modules for up to 128GB of memory total.
There are several management tools that come with the Windows operating system but Lenovo has a few others to help you out. For the hardware configuration you can type Device Manager in the Windows Search box. If you need some troubleshooting or diagnostics, you can click the error message of the ThinkStation diagnostics icon, and check the logs for possible solutions. Optional is a diagnostic LED panel. If the panel displays a QR code you can scan that to open a website with the codes for that particular error. The Lenovo Vantage app comes pre-loaded on the system and can also help diagnose problems that might arise. By typing “Vantage” in the Windows search box, you can run the program and scan the hardware for errors. This system is also ISV certified for a number of applications.
Lenovo says the Lenovo ThinkStation PX Workstation can be outfitted with up to 9x drives, depending on configuration. You can install 2x M.2 dual drive carriers in front, which will take up 2x of the storage bays and add 4x M.2 drives. That top Flexbay slot can still support a single 3.5-inch drive. Then there are 3x M.2 slots on the system board and you can add another 3.5-inch drive in the top PSU slot on the back of the system for a total of 7x M.2 drives and 2x 3.5-inch drives. optionally you could go with 4x 3.5-inch drives with 3x up front and one in the aforementioned rear PSU slot, plus the 3x onboard M.2 slots, for 7x drives total.
For hot swap and RAID options a virtual RAID on CPU or VROC key is required. The system supports SATA drives using the onboard intel RSTe SATA RAID controllers and an integrated PCIe NVMe controller for NVMe SSDs but no RAID functionality. Optionally you have a VROC key as described above for PCIe NVMe which does offer RAID options of 0, 1, 5, or 10. Storage capacity is always changing based on new technologies and drives with higher capacities.
While the system in general will support up to 9x drives. the PCIe slots can also be outfitted with more storage in the form of dual or quad M.2 carriers. If that 1GbE or the 10GbE included with the system are not up to the task for your network, there are options here too for PCIe-based NIC controllers. You can also install a Thunderbolt card either a gen 3 or gen 4 card offering superfast data transfer speeds of up to 40Gb/s. How about a Bluetooth card or Intel Wi-Fi AX210 WLAN Module for wireless connectivity? And then, you have the option for installing GPUs 2x on the bottom and 2x on top, assuming both CPUs are installed. Remember, the top PCIe slots are controlled by CPU 2 and the bottom slots by CPU 1. There are a few GPUs that have been tested by Lenovo for reliable and consistent performance.
Looking at the bottom slots, slot 6 and slot 8 feature a PCIe 5.0 slot for GPU support, while the other two slots, 7 and 9 are PCIe 4.0. All of those have a PCIe x16 slot length. On top, the PCIe slot closest to the CPU socket, PCIe slot 5 has a x8 length with a PCIe 4.0 connector width. The other slots all have a x16 slot length but only slots 3 and 4 are PCIe 5.0, the others are PCIe 4.0 too. The VROC key slot is at the bottom of the motherboard beneath that last PCIe slot. With only a single processor installed on the Lenovo ThinkStation PX Workstation, we have a single NVIDIA RTX A4500 card installed.
Depending on which card you install, an NVIDIA NVLink bridge can link two of the same GPUs together enabling the two cards to function as one and combining the onboard GPU memory. Surprisingly the RTX 6000 Ada generation is one of those cards that does not support NVLink, unfortunately. Theoretically, with 2x RTX 6000s linked together that would be up to 96 GB of memory between the two. Monitor support is based on the number of ports available on the GPUs. Given that, you can support up to 16x monitors, if each GPU has 4x DisplayPort connectors.
The NVIDIA RTX A4500 is a double-wide Ampere architecture-based GPU with a TDP of 200W and requires an 8-pin power connector. It supports real-time ray tracing, simulation, and AI with 2nd generation ray tracing cores and 3rd gen Tensor cores. This card will support up to 4x monitors with 4x DisplayPort 1.4a connectors. It features 20GB of GDDR6 memory and a memory bandwidth of 650GB/s. This card is designed for demanding workloads such as physics simulation, generative AI, and rendering tasks and does support NVLink technology.
Although Aston Martin only had a little input on the design it did improve the appearance quite a bit. If you need or want something that looks great and delivers on performance you cannot go wrong with the Lenovo ThinkStation PX Workstation. It’s very well designed both inside and out. Would be cool if it was available in different colors. Imagine a nice royal blue and maybe even silver? But red is kind of Lenovo’s branding. That said, who really cares how it looks. The performance this system offers is off the hook with dual 4th gen Intel CPUs, up to 4TB of memory, upwards of 9x storage devices not counting PCIe storage, and up to 4x double-wide 300W GPUs. Impressive to say the least!
In addition to other new servers and workstations, we’re confident we will be getting the Lenovo ThinkStation P7 for review at some point completing the full trifecta of Lenovo’s high-end ThinkStation workstations. If you’re interested in this or any other system, contact IT Creations today!