Lenovo Thinkstation P620 review: The ultimate Threadripper workstation
“The ThinkStation P620 is the most powerful single-socket workstation around.”
- Insane processor performance
- Easily upgradeable
- Tool-free design
- 10Gb Ethernet
Think really big. If you could put together a workstation with the most powerful components on the market, what would it look like? Well, it would probably look a lot like the Lenovo ThinkStation P620, a workstation kitted out with a Threadripper Pro processor that’s capable of handling the most demanding workloads possible.
It’s the definition of overkill, designed to optimize a specific set of applications for performance. For most people, it’s an overpriced workstation that doesn’t make sense when you could build your own computer with cheaper parts you can buy separately. For others, particularly those involved in deep learning and heavily threaded applications, it’s the performance champion.
I’ve used the Lenovo P620 for a couple of weeks now — and by “used,” I mean tested since the fan noise is too much to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It has proved time and again that it’s one of the most powerful desktops on the market, provided you have the cash for the right hardware.
The Lenovo ThinkStation P620 is remarkably small given the hardware you can pack inside. It’s 17.3 inches long, 6.5 inches wide, and 18.1 inches tall — slightly thinner than a mid-tower chassis, though about the same height. There’s a convenient handle on the front of the case so you can easily pick up the unit, and you’ll need to take advantage of it. The P620 can weigh over 50 pounds depending on your configuration.
Regardless of your configuration, the ThinkStation P620 comes with a three-year warranty standard, as well as certification for several software vendors. Lenovo maintains a list, which includes software from Adobe, Autodesk, Bentley, and Siemens, to name a few.
To open up the side panel, Lenovo has a simple tool-free solution. You simply pop open a handle on the side panel with a press, then use it to lift the side panel away. It’s a simple, seamless design that makes getting at the internals quickly. The moment my review unit arrived, I popped off the side panel without even thinking about it — no instruction required.
The side panel also reveals one of the issues with the P620. There’s no ventilation on the sides, top, or bottom. Instead, the front of the case is almost entirely open for air to pass through. The problem is that the air is forced out of the back through an 80mm fan and a couple of spare PCIe brackets (given that you don’t have more cards installed). A single 80mm fan handles intake, too, despite the fact that there’s room for a much larger fan.
That makes the P620 a bit of an air tunnel, allowing massive amounts of air through the front and forcing it out of limited ventilation in the back. Even at idle, the P620 is noticeably loud. The dual-80mm-fan heat sink for the CPU doesn’t help matters much.
The sound only goes up when the machine is under load, but I would’ve liked to see a fan curve for when the machine is idle. You couldn’t work next to the P620 without getting distracted by the noise. The trade-off, and the good news, is that the extra noise means the cooling solution is working.
I appreciate the tool-free, sleek design of the P620, but not the noise that design creates.
Even in Cinebench, the processor never went above 70 degrees Celsius, which is a full 20 degrees lower than its max operating temperature. This isn’t a perfect cooling solution, but it’s an effective one.
Some larger fans would’ve helped the noise. Dust filters would’ve been nice to see, too, especially for a machine that’s pushing a lot of air through it constantly. After just a week of use, the front fan was covered in dust. I took off the fan covers for the RAM, too — more on that in the “Internals” section — and found globs of dust built up inside.
I appreciate the tool-free, sleek design of the P620, just not the noise that design creates. It’s built like a server — and unfortunately, it sounds like a server, too.
The P620 comes with enough ports to accommodate just about anyone. Up front, that includes dual USB-C ports and dual USB-A ports, all of which support USB 3.2. The back of the case includes an additional six USB-A ports, four of which support USB 3.2 and two that support USB 2.0. Unfortunately, the AMD chipset means no Thunderbolt on this machine.
On the back, you also have access to PS/2 ports for legacy peripherals, audio/microphone ins and outs, and a 10Gbit Ethernet port. That’s a big win for the P620, allowing you to hook it up to a high-bandwidth network without fussing around with an add-in network card. If you want to go wireless, you can use the Intel AC 9260 chip that’s onboard, which includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
For storage, you have room for up to two 2TB M.2 drives and up to four 4TB spinning hard drives. A built-in RAID controller gives you access to RAID 0 and 1 on the SSDs, as well as RAID 0, 1, 5, or 10 on the spinning drives.
I can’t imagine a situation where the P620 doesn’t offer enough connectivity. There are plenty of USB ports and space for hard drives, and anything you can’t connect directly to the system, you’d likely run through the network. And the 10Gbit Ethernet port offers plenty of bandwidth to do so.
|CPU||AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 3995WX|
|GPU||Nvidia Quadro RTX 8000 48GB|
|Memory||128GB octa-channel DDR4-3200 ECC|
|Storage||1TB M.2, up to two M.2, up to four HDD|
|Power supply||1000W 80+ Platinum|
|USB ports||10, eight USB-A, two USB-C|
|Networking||10Gbit Ethernet, Wi-Fi|
|Ports||Headphone/microphone jack, PS/2, audio in/out|
My review unit came tricked out with some of the highest-end parts available today, showing just how much power you can pack inside the ThinkStation P620. At the heart of the system is a Threadripper 3995WX, which is a massive 64-core, 128-thread processor that can boost up to 4.2GHz.
All P620 configurations are based around these Threadripper Pro processors. They’re built on the same architecture as the normal Threadripper range, just with a few key differences. They support octa-channel memory instead of quad-channel memory, and you can use up to 2TB of ECC RAM, compared to only 256GB non-ECC on the standard range. In addition, they support 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes, matching AMD’s Epyc server CPUs.
Lenovo offers down to the Threadripper 3945WX, which is a 12-core, 24-thread part with a boost clock of 4.3GHz. Although there are four Threadripper Pro options available, the price and performance between them varies widely. The top-end 3995WX comes at nearly an $11,000 premium.
Although these CPUs are the best of the best now, they might not be for long. Threadripper 5000 chips are rumored to launch later in 2021, and they will almost certainly outperform these ones.
The AMD chip is notable because the P620’s direct competitors almost exclusively use Intel. The HP Z8 and Dell Precision workstations use Intel Xeon chips, not Threadripper. There isn’t a Xeon chip that gets close to the Threadripper 3995WX in terms of core count. For that, you’d have to pick up a dual-socket system.
In addition to a beefy processor, the configuration Lenovo sent came with 128GB of DDR4-3200 memory and an Nvidia Quadro RTX 8000, which comes with a staggering 48GB of video memory. Despite being a $10,000 upgrade, this card fits in the middle of Lenovo’s options. You can scale down to a 2GB Quadro P620 and all the way up to dual Quadro GV100s (with a $35,000 premium).
I used Lenovo’s configurator to get an idea about how much the rig it sent out for review would cost. At the time of publication, it would cost $14,861.92 thanks to a coupon on Lenovo’s website. Without it, it would cost $25,624.
I specced out a similar rig using the lowest prices I could find for every component, and the price came out about $1,000 cheaper compared to the Lenovo price with a coupon. Keep in mind, however, that the Quadro RTX 8000 can cost as much as $2,000 more than the lowest price I found, so the difference comes out in the wash.
If you can get the P620 on sale, it’s actually a great deal. A Lenovo rep confirmed that the coupon isn’t constant, however. At full price, my review unit is about $11,000 more expensive than buying the parts separately and putting it together. At this price, I can deal with a $1,000 difference, but an $11,000 gap is a different story.
There are other systems in this category that are also cheaper. A similarly configured system from Puget Systems runs about $16,000 and likely has better airflow and cooling given that it uses a Fractal Define 7 case and Noctua CPU cooler. Similarly, an identical system at Boxx runs about $20,000 — a full $5,000 less than the P620.
Keep in mind that this price is for the configuration on Lenovo’s website — in a real-world situation, companies will likely order a few of these machines through another channel. For one machine, the P620 is too expensive, but price doesn’t play as much of a role when you’re talking about a computer that can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Inside the Lenovo P620
The P620 is almost entirely tool-free Upgrades should only take a matter of minutes, with handy levers around all vital components that allow you to easily swap them out. That includes a bracket for the PCIe slots and 5.25-inch bays, as well as levers for the power supply, intake fan, and RAM covers.
Each of the levers are coated in red, too, making them stand out against the black and silver internals. The motherboard is custom-designed for this machine and comes with eight slots for DDR4-3200 ECC memory, as well as two M.2 slots. There are a few passive heat sinks cooling various points on the motherboard, as well as covers for the two banks of RAM slots.
These covers are just a bit of plastic with a fan on top, which likely contributes to the noise. It’s not ideal, but most ECC kits don’t usually come with heat sinks, and they sit very close to a power-hungry processor.
On the bottom of the case, you’ll find the 1,000-watt 80+ Platinum power supply, which you can swap out by flicking down the lever. The power supply doesn’t have any cables; instead, it slots into the case with a single connector, providing 1000W of power without the mess of cables that comes along with it.
What would normally take 15 to 20 minutes only takes a few minutes in the P620.
Next to it, you’ll find either one or two drive cages depending on your configuration. The default configuration comes with a single drive cage for two additional hard drives. If you occupy those slots in your initial configuration, it’ll come with an extra drive cage.
This level of upgradability is likely a part of why the P620 is so expensive. Swapping out components is a breeze. What would normally take 15 to 20 minutes only takes a few minutes in the P620, which is something that systems that use off-the-shelf parts can’t claim.
There’s no doubting the power inside the P620, especially if you opt for a top-spec rig. With the right parts, it’s easily one of the most performant machines on the market, but the bloated price and top-end components are only useful in a narrow field of tasks. If you’re looking for general compute performance with the P620, you’re overspending.
PCMark 10 provides a clear look at that. My review unit earned an overall score of 7,172, which is actually below the eight-liter Intel NUC 11 Extreme I recently reviewed. That’s not too surprising, though. PCMark is a general benchmark that tests day-to-day apps, and most apps aren’t optimized to take advantage of 64 cores and 48GB of video memory.
Cinebench R23 shows a clearer view of how powerful the Threadripper 3995WX is. It earned a respectable single-core result of 1,242, which is a step below consumer Ryzen 5000 processors. Threadripper is built for multi-core performance, though. In the multi-core test, the Threadripper 3995WX earned a score of 61,261, which is way above anything we’ve ever tested. For reference, the Ryzen 9 5950X earned a multi-core score of 23,539.
There’s no doubting the power inside the P620, especially if you opt for a top-spec rig.
Multi-core workloads are where Threadripper shines. It doesn’t dominate in tasks that require a single core, but when it comes to distributed work that leverage all 64 cores at the same time, there’s nothing quite like the Threadripper 3995WX in a single-socket system.
Geekbench 5 told a similar story. In the single-core test, it fell short of most recent consumer desktop chips, and even some laptop chips. In the multi-core test, however, nothing came close. The consumer Ryzen 5950X earned about half the multi-core score, according to the Geekbench browser.
Geekbench also gave me the chance to see how the Threadripper 3995WX stacks up against its non-Pro sibling, the 3990X. The Pro chip I tested earned a multi-core score of 32,517. On the high-end, the Threadripper 3990X scored about 28,000 on Windows, and on the low-end, it scored about 22,000. On Windows, at least, the Pro model shows some clear improvements.
Simply put, the Threadripper 3995WX is the benchmark. In any representative test, the only processors that run faster are other Threadripper 3995WXs. The Pro range comes at a premium, but it shows performance advantages over the Threadripper 3000 range, as well as support for more PCIe 4.0 slots, octa-channel memory, and much more memory.
With the horsepower provided by the P620, you can tackle everything from deep learning to data science to dense content creation. For me, large-scale content-creation workloads seemed like an obvious fit given the beefy GPU and CPU inside the my review unit. This is a machine that can generate, edit, and render faster than just about anything else.
As Cinebench showed in the last section, the Threadripper 3995WX is a monster in multi-core workloads. I turned to a suite of benchmarks from Puget Systems for Premiere Pro, After Effects, and DaVinci Resolve to see how the P620 would perform in a real-world use. It stacks up well, but content creation isn’t the P620’s true calling.
I started with Premiere Pro, where I ran the extended test. This test isn’t much longer, but it includes 8K testing — something the P620 in this configuration should be able to handle. It passed with an overall score of 1,235. A system rocking a recent 32-core Xeon managed 1,001 in the same test, though with a weaker graphics card and much more memory.
This test showed some weaknesses, too. Compared to systems with a cheaper Threadripper 3990X, my review unit trailed by about 200 points. Most of these systems used an RTX 3090, too, which is much cheaper than the Quadro RTX 8000. You’re paying a premium for workstation-class parts, and PugetBench for Premiere Pro shows that.
The After Effects test showed that, too, without a clear difference between the 3990X and the 3995WX. The same was true in my Handbrake test, where the P620 matched the render time of a machine with a consumer-grade Ryzen 9 5950X.
Blender showed a greater difference. The RTX 3090 was around twice as fast as the Quadro RTX 8000 using CUDA for rendering. DaVinci Resolve was a little different, however. Compared to a system with a Threadripper 3970X and RTX 3090, my review unit was about 9% faster, mostly on the back of 4K media handling.
As these tests show, a big part of the asking price comes down to software and features. The 3995WX is more powerful than the 3990X, but more memory, more memory channels, and more PCIe lanes are a big part of why it’s more expensive. Similarly, the Quadro RTX 8000 is more expensive because it comes with a massive amount of video memory, but also because it has rock-solid driver support.
The Quadro RTX 8000 is not built for gaming, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t put a $6,000 GPU to good use. Fire Strike Ultra showed just how big of a waste the Quadro RTX 8000 is for gaming, as it earned an overall score of 8,667 — in the bottom 1% of results compared to the RTX 3090. It managed a solid physics score, though still below most RTX 3090 results.
At 4K Ultra with ray tracing turned on, the Quadro RTX 8000 managed 37 frames per second (fps) in Cyberpunk 2077. The RTX 3090 gets closer to 60 fps (though still struggles to hit it). If you need proof that a Quadro isn’t built for gaming, here it is — but you can still have a little fun once your work is done, provided you turn down a few settings.
Although my review unit was kitted out, the P620 is limited to Threadripper Pro processors and Quadro graphics cards (as well as a couple of AMD workstation GPUs). The Threadripper Pro chips are more powerful than their non-Pro counterparts, but not by much (especially in content-creation tasks). The advantages mostly show up in other areas, so keep that in mind.
The Lenovo ThinkStation P620 is a top-tier workstation with a price to match. It offers some of the fastest components on the market and a smart tool-free design that makes upgrades easy. It’s too noisy, and the extra power will go to waste in a lot of situations, but there’s no denying how much the P620 has to offer to those who can take advantage of it.
Price is the main issue, as there are nearly identical systems from smaller system builders for less. But compared to the Dells and HPs of the world, Lenovo is the only one presenting workstation options with Threadripper Pro parts. Plus, you can likely score a deal on the P620 if you’re ordering multiple systems.
Are there any alternatives?
Yes. Outside of the case, motherboard, and power supply, the P620 uses parts you can buy and put together yourself, which will save you a lot of money. System builders like Puget Systems and Boxx have similar options, too, which cost less than the P620. Competitors like Dell and HP are locked to Intel processors at the moment.
How long will it last?
Depending on your hardware configuration, the P620 can last you many years — maybe even a decade. It’s a computing powerhouse that’s easily upgradable, and the power supply is large enough to accommodate even the most power-hungry components.
Should you buy it?
Yes, if you can score a deal. On sale, the P620 is a great. At full price, there are options from other system builders that are cheaper and come with off-the-shelf parts.