Lenovo says their S30 WorkStation can make your CAD run 2X faster
John Hayes posted on March 10, 2014 |

One of the things software vendors don’t talk about is how much more processing power their exciting new releases will consume.  According to Tom Salomone, Engineering and AEC Segment Manager at Lenovo, systems like SolidWorks 2013 will perform much faster with high gigahertz processors. 

While simulation and rendering applications are moving to the cloud to take advantage of faster processing power and more cores, most CAD applications aren’t there yet.  If your CAD is among the earth-bound, there may be faster hardware platforms that are worth a look. 

This chart sets out a comparison between the Lenovo’s new (Sep 2013) ThinkStation S30 and the three-year old predecessor, the S20, on identical design tasks.  The new machine clocks in at 3:47 (227 seconds) vs the older model at over 9 minutes (549 seconds).  

If you would rather see it in time lapse video, watch this.  Note that the graphics cards are by NVIDIA and they are upgraded as well.  The older ThinkStation S20 in the video has the FX1800 while the new ThinksStation S30 has the K2000. 

Of course, different geometry would yield different results, so I’m not in any way suggesting that these differences are typical.  Lenovo customer Tom Weiss of ACME Scenic said, “the ThinkStation S30 was easily 10X faster” than their old desktops.  That made me wonder just how old their old desktops were.  

Lenovo’s Salomone said, “This (slow hardware) is more typical than you might think. As engineers add more detail to their 3D models, they get larger, and as they get larger they take more time to process. Over time this makes their current machine seem as if it has slowed down.”

Specifications:

  • Processor - Intel Xeon E5-1620v2 quad-core
  • Clock speed - 3.7GHz.
  • RAM - 16 GB (upgradable to 256GB)
  • Storage – 240 GB Intel SSD (OS & application)
  • Hard drive –  1TB 7,200rpm (data storage)
  • USB 2.0 ports – ten, with 2 on front panel
  • USB 3.0 ports – two
  • Graphics Card – Nvidia K4000
  • MSRP – $4,068

Clearly faster is better when it comes to workstations.  So what’s changed in the past couple years that could lead you to find value in a hardware refresh?   Start with an upgraded processor and faster memory speeds.  In addition, the graphics cards are much faster.  The graphics technology has made the move from NVIDIA’s Fermi architecture to the newer Keppler architecture.  

A lot of people don’t pay much attention to their hardware environment until it starts groaning under the weight of a new software release and larger models.  When that happens, how can you get your team back to full productivity?  This benchmark suggests that it’s worth running the numbers on new hardware.  For intensive CAD users, the time savings from faster processing may be enough to justify the $4,000 per user up-front cost.  


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