Lenovo ThinkStation P8

Review: Lenovo ThinkStation P8

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The striking chassis from this Aston Martin-inspired workstation made its debut last year with the Intel Xeon-based ThinkStation P7. Now with the new AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 7000 Series processor at its heart, the ThinkStation P8 takes performance to exciting new levels, writes Greg Corke


When it comes to AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro, Lenovo is a relative veteran. Back in 2020, the company became the first major OEM to take on the powerful multi-core workstation processor. The ThinkStation P620 redefined the high-end desktop workstation, and arguably made it what it is today.

The ThinkStation P8 is Lenovo’s second generation Threadripper Pro workstation, built around the ‘Zen 4’ Threadripper Pro 7000 WX-Series. It shares the same chassis as the Intel Xeon W-3400-based ThinkStation P7, but arguably earns its elevated status in Lenovo’s workstation portfolio, simply because it is so much faster.

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When we reviewed the ThinkStation P7 in May 2023 it had the edge over the ‘Zen 3’ Threadripper Pro Lenovo ThinkStation P620 in workflows that were single threaded or memory-bandwidth intensive. Now with the ‘Zen 4’ Threadripper delivering enhanced Instructions Per Clock (IPC), DDR5 memory across 8-channels and even more cores, that lead has gone.

The beauty of the Lenovo ThinkStation P8 is that it can cover so many different workflows. With support for Threadripper Pro 7000 WXSeries processors from 12 to 96 cores, up to three dual slot or six single slot professional GPUs (future proofed for PCIe Gen 5 GPUs when they come available), and up to 1 TB of DDR5 memory, it can do almost everything that the Intel Xeon-based ThinkStation P5, P7 and PX combined can do. It’s only when you need more memory, more memory bandwidth, or four dual slot GPUs, that you’ll have to turn to the dual socket Lenovo ThinkStation PX.

For desktop or datacentre

The ThinkStation P8 is primarily a desktop workstation, but it’s also been built for the datacentre with a rack optimised ‘4U’ design. Bolt holes are hidden under a removable top cover, making it easy to deploy with the optional sliding rack rail kit.

The machine can be configured with a Baseboard Management Controller (BMC) card, similar to those found in rack servers. It offers ‘full remote management’, enabling IT managers to monitor the workstation, cycle on and off, perform BIOS or firmware updates and re-image if necessary. There’s also dual Ethernet as standard (1 GbE and 10 GbE) with Wake-on-LAN, along with a rear power button.

An entire ThinkStation P8 can be assigned to a single user, but not everyone needs such levels of performance. The machine also lends itself extremely well to virtualisation and with the right software can be carved up into six virtual machines, each with their own dedicated single slot pro GPU, powerful enough for CAD and mainstream design visualisation.

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The chassis

The ThinkStation P8 is a beautifully designed and engineered machine, with a solid metal 175 x 508 x 434.4 mm chassis with handles on all four corners. This makes it easy to hold, and it certainly needs to be. Approaching 20kg, our test machine was heavy enough with one dual slot Nvidia RTX A5500 GPU and one SSD. When loaded up with multiple GPUs and Hard Disk Drives (HDDs), raising it into a rack is definitely a two person job.

The ThinkStation P8 scores very highly on serviceability with tool-free access on everything bar the CPU. This starts with the side panel that can be removed with a simple press and pull of the stylish flush handle. It continues inside, with red handles and clips to secure and release the GPUs, fans, power supply unit (PSU) and 3.5- inch HDDs. In short, anything that is red, moves. Unlike the ThinkStation PX, there are no blind mate connectors, however. Cables for the fans and HDDs must still be unplugged.

The Lenovo ThinkStation P8 is a beautiful looking machine, with an Aston Martin-inspired ‘Storm Grey’ and red design, which was the result of a collaboration with the legendary automaker. The front grill and side panel flush handle are heavily influenced by the UK firm’s sports cars.

There are some nice touches at the front: the ThinkStation logo lights up, as do the USB ports — (2) USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 and (2) USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 — to make them easy to find in the dark. There are plenty more USB ports at the rear — (3) USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, (2) USB-A 2.0 and (1) USB-C 3.2 Gen 2×2.

On top of the standard dual Ethernet, there’s an optional Nvidia ConnectX-6 Dual Port 25-Gigabit PCIe adapter for super high-bandwidth data transfer. For cable free connectivity, an optional Mediatek RZ616 WiFi 6E module uses an antenna that sits under the panel at the top of the chassis, instead of sticking out at the rear.

Most storage is internal, via onboard M.2 SSDs or HDDs / U.3 SSDs in a dedicated drive bay. There’s also an optional front access Flex Bay that supports a single M.2 NVMe SSD. This could be particularly useful for easy access in rack mounted deployments. However, the competition can support more. The Dell Precision 7875 offers up to two front NVMe SSDs and the HP Z6 G5 A up to four.

The beauty of the Lenovo ThinkStation P8 is that it can cover so many different workflows. It can do almost everything that the Intel Xeon-based ThinkStation P5, P7 and PX combined can do

Considering the ThinkStation P8 has a 350W processor flanked by eight memory modules, and up to three 300W GPUs, it’s hardly surprising Lenovo paid a lot of attention to the thermal design.

It all starts with the ‘3D Hexperf’ front grill, the design of which was inspired by the Aston Martin DBS grand tourer. The spacing and shape of the rigid plastic grill, which has rounded spikes that protrude at the front, is engineered for maximum airflow.

Low duty front fans pull fresh air into the machine, while rear fans push warm air out. There’s a massive dual fan heatsink for the air-cooled processor with dual stacks to maximise surface area. Each bank of four memory modules also gets its own cooling fan unit.

Unlike the ThinkStation P7, there’s no air baffle to channel cool air directly over the CPU, but the system cooling remains very effective. Even when CPU rendering in KeyShot with the 96-core Threadripper Pro 7995WX, and GPU rendering in Twinmotion with the Nvidia RTX A5500 GPU, the machine was remarkably quiet. Running Cinebench R23 for over an hour barely took the CPU temperature above 80 C.

On test

Lenovo sent us a ThinkStation P8 preproduction unit with the top-end 96 core AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 7995WX processor, Nvidia RTX A5500 GPU, 512 GB of 4,800MHz DDR5 memory, and 1 TB M.2 SSD.

For CPU rendering, the ThinkStation P8 set new records in all our benchmarks. It was a whopping 71% faster than a standard workstation with a 64-core Threadripper Pro 5995WX, the flagship processor from the ‘Zen 3’ generation.

The lead over a ‘Zen 4’ 64-core Threadripper AMD Ryzen Threadripper 7980X processor, however, was not as large as one might have expected. As the number of cores goes up, the all-core frequencies come down. When rendering in Cinebench R23, the 96 core 7995WX in the ThinkStation P8 boosted to 3.13 GHz, while the 64-core 7980X in the Armari Magnetar M64T7 sustained 3.56 GHz.

For our test machine, Lenovo supplied the memory in four 128 GB 4,800MHz RDIMMs. This meant it did not take full advantage of the platform’s 8-channel memory architecture, resulting in lower memory bandwidth. In the SiSoft Sandra memory bandwidth benchmark, it recorded 113.86 GB/ sec. In comparison, the HP Z6 G5 A Threadripper Pro workstation, maxed out with 8 x 16 GB RDIMMs of 5,600 MHz DDR5 memory, delivered 206.10 GB/sec.

While the lower memory bandwidth had very little bearing on our rendering benchmarks it did impact the scores in our simulation tests. With the WPCcfd workset from the SPECWorkstation 3.1 benchmark, the HP Z6 G5 A configured with the 32-core Threadripper Pro 7975WX actually beat the Lenovo ThinkStation P8, even though it had one third as many cores.

Of course, the P8 is completely flexible. All eight memory slots can be populated for maximum memory bandwidth and it can be configured with any of the six new ‘Zen 4’ Threadripper Pro 7000 processors, from 12 to 96 cores.

We explore performance in much more detail in our in-depth review of the Threadripper 7000 Series, both Pro and High-End Desktop (HEDT) models.

The verdict

The ThinkStation P8 is an impressive new addition to Lenovo’s workstation family. The striking, functional chassis that Lenovo introduced with the Intel Xeon-based ThinkStation P7 now has a turbocharged processor at its heart to take performance to exciting new levels. And it does so without breaking into a sweat, with a thermally optimised design that keeps fan noise well within acceptable limits.

When a machine looks this good – and it’s hard not to love the clean design and Storm Grey / red aesthetic – it’s a shame to hide it away. But with the rack mounted kit and optional Baseboard Management Controller (BMC) the ThinkStation P8 will be just as much at home in the datacentre as it is on the desk.


Specifications

  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 7995WX CPU (2.5 GHz, 5.1 GHz boost) (96-cores, 192 threads)
  • Nvidia RTX A5500 GPU (24 GB GDDR6 memory)
  • 512 GB (4 x 128 GB) 4,800MHz DDR5 RDIMM memory
  • 1 TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 5.0 SSD
  • Lenovo Extended eATX WRX90 motherboard
  • 175 x 508 x 434mm chassis
  • Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
  • 3 Year On-site warranty
  • £ on application
  • Lenovo.com

This article is part of AEC Magazine’s Workstation Special report

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