The power of small – Lenovo ThinkStation P360 Ultra

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Despite its super compact form factor, Lenovo’s new high-performance workstation can support the most demanding workflows, empowering architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals now and well into the future.


Everyone loves a compact workstation. They save valuable desk space – both at home or in the office – and are easy to relocate. And at just 3.9 litres in volume, the Lenovo ThinkStation P360 Ultra is one of the smallest out there. But unlike other sub-4-litre machines, this innovative new workstation has few compromises when it comes to specifications and performance.

In fact, the ThinkStation P360 Ultra has many of the hallmarks of an 8-litre Small Form Factor (SFF) workstation, even a standard desktop tower, which is typically five or six times larger by volume.

But what does this mean for architects, engineers, and construction (AEC) professionals – the very people that push the limits of powerful pro software, including CAD, visualisation, reality modelling, and simulation?

This article focuses on three of the leading components within the ThinkStation P360 Ultra – GPU, CPU, and memory – and explores what they mean for the most demanding AEC workflows.

GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)

The GPU is traditionally one of the big compromises of a small workstation. Sub-4-litre machines are typically limited to entry-level professional GPUs. These are fine for certain 3D design projects, as the graphics requirements for smaller 3D CAD and Building Information Modelling (BIM) applications are relatively low. However, for larger 3D models and more demanding workflows, designers and engineers need more powerful GPU solutions.

The ThinkStation P360 Ultra breaks the mould with the option of a much more powerful GPU than other machines in its class. The NVIDIA RTX™ A5000 Laptop GPU with 16 GB of VRAM is a big jump up from the NVIDIA RTX ‘2000’ or ‘3000’ class GPUs often found in compact workstations. It means the ThinkStation P360 Ultra can be used for a much wider range of workflows beyond CAD and BIM, including Virtual Reality (VR), GPU rendering, real-time visualisation, ray tracing, and photogrammetry. It delivers both faster processing and expanded memory to handle very complex datasets.

In order to fit the powerful RTX A5000 Laptop GPU into a desktop chassis, Lenovo developed a custom MXM board driven through a PCIe standard riser. Currently, no other major OEM offers anything similar for such a powerful workstation-class GPU.

Processor (CPU)

The ThinkStation P360 Ultra offers an extensive choice of 12th Gen Intel® Core™ processors, making it extremely well suited to a wide range of AEC workflows. This includes 35-watt, 65-watt and 125-watt processors, up to the Intel Core i9-12900K, which has 8 Performance-Cores and 8 Efficient-Cores for a total of 24 threads.

In contrast, some competitive workstations only offer 35-watt or 65-watt CPUs. This gives the ThinkStation P360 Ultra an advantage, particularly in highly multi-threaded workflows such as rendering, analysis or reality modelling, where more power means more cores can run at higher frequencies. It can help minimise the time it takes to ray trace render architectural scenes, solve complex non-linear structural simulations, register colossal laser scanned point clouds or generate engineering ready reality meshes using photogrammetry and images captured by drones.

With a max turbo frequency of 5.2 GHz, the Intel Core i9-12900K processor also delivers excellent single threaded performance, which is important for CAD, BIM and for general operations.

But performance is not just about specifications – components need to be expertly engineered within the workstation to deliver on their full potential. 125-watt processors produce more heat, so to maintain the highest frequencies, they need to be kept cool. And this must be done over a sustained period. In design visualisation, for example, multiple frames of an animation can take hours to render, so it’s important that processors don’t clock down after a few minutes.

A small chassis brings significant thermal challenges, but the ThinkStation P360 Ultra excels thanks to its advanced cooling system, which has been optimised by Lenovo’s thermodynamics engineers with the help of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software. The unique design features a motherboard that resides in the middle of the chassis, thus allowing for active components on both sides. This dual chamber design allows for better isolation of high thermal components (i.e. CPU, GPU and storage) thus maximizing thermal dissipation, and helping get the very best out of the powerful 125-watt processor.

Memory

Thanks to a close collaboration with Intel, the ThinkStation P360 Ultra stands out from the competition because it can support up to 128 GB of memory. 128 GB is double that of other sub-4-litre workstations, which typically max out at 64 GB.

While most CAD and BIM models will fit comfortably into 64 GB, some of the larger datasets used in AEC – both upstream and downstream – may struggle. In this respect, the ThinkStation P360 Ultra opens new possibilities for architects, engineers and construction professionals, as it can handle a much wider range of workflows than other super compact workstations. This includes complex engineering simulation; visualisation with very large models and textures; and reality modelling with colossal point cloud datasets and reality meshes.

The ThinkStation P360 Ultra’s 128 GB of DDR5 memory is spread across four SoDIMM slots. Fully upgradeable, users can start with a smaller amount and then add more as necessary. With AEC datasets continuing to grow in complexity, particularly around evolving workflows and technologies such as autonomous survey, construction verification, digital fabrication, digital twins and artificial intelligence (AI), demands on workstation memory will only increase in the future, so this gives users real flexibility.

A game changing workstation

Compact workstations used to be largely limited to CAD and BIM-centric workflows, but the ThinkStation P360 Ultra transforms that completely, particularly when it comes to 3D graphics.

The game changing workstation means architects, engineers and construction professionals no longer need to rely on larger towers to fully support more challenging workflows like VR, real-time viz, GPU rendering and reality modelling. Such demanding users can now get the performance they need in a super compact sub-4-litre form factor, now and well into the future.


To learn more about the practical benefits of the Lenovo ThinkStation P360 Ultra’s space-saving design, read this article


Lenovo ThinkStation P-Series workstations

Lenovo ThinkStation P-Series workstations come in a wide range of form factors from minute desktops to fully expandable powerhouses. All workstations can be configured for a range of different workflows and budgets

www.lenovo.com/workstations


Find this article plus many more in the March / April 2023 Edition of AEC Magazine
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