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Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny Workstation Review

The image of what constitutes a workstation continues to change. At less than 3 pounds, the new Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny that recently arrived in our office has now claimed the title of the world’s smallest workstation. Measuring just 7.1×7.2×1.4-in. and weighing a scant 2.9 pounds, the P320 Tiny is smaller and nearly a pound lighter than the HP Z2 Mini G3 we recently reviewed (DE, June 2017). But while its size is similar to that of a thin client, the P320 Tiny is packed with workstation components and delivers enough performance to run mainstream engineering software.

With office space at a premium, the Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny is designed to fit just about anywhere. You can use the included small plastic stand to support the case in a vertical orientation. In addition, the P320 Tiny is compatible with Lenovo’s ThinkCentre Tiny accessories, which include a Tiny IO Expansion Box ($40) that adds additional ports, a Tiny Storage Unit ($25) that enables you to add a DVD burner or additional hard drive (sold separately), and VESA mounting kits.

Top: The new Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny weighs less than 3 pounds, yet packs workstation power. Right: The rear panel of the ThinkStation P320 provides lots of connections. Images courtesy of Lenovo.

The new Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny weighs less than 3 pounds, yet packs workstation power. Image courtesy of Lenovo.

The Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny is enclosed in a simple, rectangular, charcoal gray metal case. Because its small size leaves no room for a conventional workstation power supply, the P320 Tiny requires an external power brick, similar to a laptop computer. The 135-watt power supply included with our evaluation unit measured 5.6×2.5×1.2-in. and weighed 1.3 pounds.

The front of the case consists of a perforated screen with a small panel containing a round power button, headphone and microphone jacks, and a pair of USB 3.0 ports (including one that is always on). A red Lenovo logo appears to the side of the panel, whereas a ThinkStation logo sits off the side, with the dot over the “i” in Think glowing red when the system is powered on. All other connections are located on the rear panel and include four mini-DisplayPorts for connecting monitors to the NVIDIA graphics board, a security lock slot, a connection for an external Wi-Fi antenna, an RJ45 network jack, four USB 3.0 ports, two full-size DisplayPorts for connecting monitors to the integrated Intel graphics and the connector for the external power supply.

Accessible Interior

Inside, the Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny is packed with workstation-class components. Removing a small screw on the rear panel releases the top cover, which is the first step to gaining access to the interior. With the top cover removed, you can see the fan covering the CPU and access the discrete NVIDIA GPU (graphics processing unit). After that top cover is removed, you can turn the system over and remove the bottom cover, which reveals the two memory sockets and the two M.2 drive sockets.

The rear panel of the ThinkStation P320 provides lots of connections. Image courtesy of Lenovo.

The rear panel of the ThinkStation P320 provides lots of connections. Image courtesy of Lenovo.

Prices for the Lenovo ThinkStation P320 start at $944 for a system based on a 3.4GHz Intel Core i3-7100T dual-core CPU, 4GB of RAM, the NVIDIA Quadro P600 graphics board and a 256GB solid-state M.2 PCIe Opal drive. A quad-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-7500T is also available, but for our evaluation, Lenovo included a Core i7-7700T quad-core processor, which added $260 to the base price. This 2.9GHz Kaby Lake CPU has a 3.8GHz maximum turbo speed and includes 8MB SmartCache and Intel HD Graphics 630.

Our evaluation unit also included 16GB of memory, installed using a single 2400MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM (small outline dual in-line memory module), which added $150. The P320 Tiny can accommodate up to 32GB of RAM using two of these 16GB memory cards.

Although all of the available CPUs include integrated Intel graphics, all versions of the ThinkStation P320 Tiny include an NVIDIA Quadro P600 GPU. This Maxwell-based graphics card, with 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory and 384 CUDA parallel processing cores, features a 128-bit interface and 64GB/second memory bandwidth. The combination of the discrete NVIDIA GPU and integrated Intel graphics enables the P320 Tiny to support up to six monitors.

The system we received also came with a 512GB Toshiba M.2 NVMe solid-state drive, which added another $150 to the base price. Lenovo also offers a 1TB M.2 PCIe MLC Opal drive ($300). Installing two of these enables the ThinkStation P320 Tiny to support up to 2TB of solid-state storage.

Although Gigabit Ethernet comes standard, our evaluation unit also included an Intel 8265 2x2AC+Bluetooth adapter ($35). We were therefore able to attach the external Wi-Fi antenna and access our local area network wirelessly.

Decent Performance

Although the Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny performed well on most of our benchmarks, its results were more comparable to modern mobile workstations rather than desktop systems. On the SPECviewperf tests, the Lenovo system outperformed both the pint-sized HP Z2 Mini system and the small BOXX APEXX 1 we reviewed last year. On the SPEC SolidWorks benchmark, however, both the HP and Lenovo mini workstations were among the slowest systems we’ve tested recently.

Workstations Compared

Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny

one 2.90GHz Intel Core i7-7700T quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro P600, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD

HP Z2 Mini G3

one 3.2GHz Intel Core i7-6700 quad-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro M620, 32GB RAM, 250GB SSD and 1TB SATA HD

BOXX APEXX 1

one 4.0GHz Intel Core i7-6700K 4-core CPU over-clocked to 4.4GHz, NVIDIA Quadro K1200, 16GB RAM, 512GB PCIe SSD

Lenovo ThinkStation P410

one 3.6GHz Intel Xeon E5-1650 v4 6-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro M4000, 16GB RAM, 1TB SATA SSD HD

Lenovo ThinkPad P50s15.6-in. mobile 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6600U dial-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro M500M, 16GB RAM, 512GB PCIe SSD Lenovo  P40 Yoga14.1-in. 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6600U dual-core CPU, NVIDIA Quadro M500M, 16GB RAM, 512GB PCIe SSD
Price as tested $1,479 $1,698 $3,711 $2,515 $1,427 $1,705
Date tested 9/8/17 1/20/17 1/30/16 10/26/16 10/10/16 7/27/16
Operating System Windows 10 Windows 10 Windows 10 Windows 10 Windows 10 Windows 10
SPECviewperf 12 (higher is better)
catia-04 40.36 34.16 34.95 89.66 21.75 19.98
creo-01 41.67 36.80 33.45 76.93 25.34 24.34
energy-01 0.69 0.64 2.56 6.34 0.52 0.61
maya-04 37.19 30.36 31.22 63.31 13.27 12.25
medical-01 12.26 10.99 11.41 26.62 9.68 14.03
showcase-01 16.37 18.69 18.99 46.58 6.97 6.81
snx-02 35.52 28.29 28.47 125.39 31.85 26.46
sw-03 63.60 58.18 70.56 106.37 37.24 35.31
SPECapc SOLIDWORKS 2015  (higher is better)
Graphics Composite 2.59 2.51 5.17 8.08 2.67 2.65
Shaded Graphics Sub-Composite 1.99 2.04 2.86 4.87 1.96 1.78
Shaded w/Edges Graphics Sub-Composite 2.46 2.58 3.92 5.97 2.52 2.40
Shaded using RealView Sub-Composite 2.17 1.94 3.56 6.43 2.01 2.00
Shaded w/Edges using RealView Sub-Composite 2.60 3.33 6.17 9.99 3.43 3.42
Shaded using RealView and Shadows
Sub-Composite
2.25 1.73 4.51 7.23 1.96 2.03
Shaded with Edges using RealView and
Shadows Graphics Sub-Composite
2.55 2.84 7.20 10.47 3.14 3.22
Shaded using RealView and Shadows and
Ambient Occlusion Graphics Sub-Composite
3.97 2.21 7.78 16.01 3.02 3.38
Shaded with Edges using RealView and Shadows and Ambient Occlusion Graphics Sub-Composite 4.49 3.37 11.63 22.75 4.53 5.07
Wireframe Graphics Sub-Composite 2.05 3.46 4.17 3.26 2.61 2.20
CPU Composite 1.67 2.78 6.75 5.08 1.89 1.95
SPECwpc v2.0 (higher is better)
Media and Entertainment 1.44 2.53 2.84 2.84 1.04 0.99
Product Development 1.36 2.40 2.46 2.79 1.28 1.11
Life Sciences 1.39 2.59 2.96 3.03 1.25 1.25
Financial Services 1.70 3.11 1.53 4.60 0.49 0.49
Energy 1.10 1.97 2.70 3.11 0.96 0.87
General Operations 0.86 1.47 1.93 1.14 0.87 0.85
Time
Autodesk Render Test  (in seconds, lower is better) 109.90 62.40 46.30 50.10 172.50 149.00

Numbers in blue indicate best recorded results. Numbers in red indicate worst recorded results.  

On our AutoCAD rendering test, which clearly shows the advantage of fast CPUs with multiple cores, the Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny completed the test rendering in an average of 109.9 seconds, nearly twice the time required by the HP Z2 Mini.

We also ran the very demanding SPECwpc workstation performance benchmark. Here too, the ThinkStation P320 Tiny lagged well behind the HP Z2 Mini on nearly every component of this test. The system remained cool and relatively quiet throughout our tests, but the sound pressure level briefly peaked at 69dB while running the most compute-intensive portions of our benchmarks.

Lenovo rounds out the workstation with a 104-key USB keyboard and USB mouse and comes preloaded with Windows 10 Professional 64-bit. The workstation is ISV certified for use with software from Autodesk, Dassault Systèmes, PTC and Siemens—including AutoCAD, Inventor, SolidWorks, Creo, NX and Solid Edge—and is backed by a three-year on-site warranty.

The new Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny is indeed the smallest independent software vendor-certified workstation on the market today. It delivers good performance at a price that is nearly as small as its diminutive size, ensuring it a discrete spot somewhere on (or near) the desks of many DE readers.

More Info

Lenovo

Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny

  • Price: $1,479 as tested ($944 base price)
  • Size: 7.1×7.2×1.4-in. (WxHxD) mini-workstation
  • Weight: 2.9 pounds (plus 1.3-pound external power supply)
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-7700T 2.90GHz quad-core w/ 8MB cache
  • Memory: 16GB DDR4 at 2400MHz
  • Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro P600
  • Hard Disk: 512GB Toshiba PCIe Gen 3 NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Audio: integrated Realtek ALC294 audio (front panel: headphone and microphone jacks) and built-in speaker
  • Network: integrated Intel Dual Band Wireless ac 8265 plus Bluetooth 4.1, one RJ45 gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other: Five USB 3.0, four mini-DisplayPorts on NVIDIA board, two DisplayPorts, A/C power, Wi-Fi antenna connector
  • Keyboard: 104-key Lenovo USB keyboard
  • Pointing device: Lenovo USB optical wheel mouse
  • Power supply: 135 watts
  • Warranty: Three years on-site parts and labor

About David Cohn

David Cohn has been using AutoCAD for more than 25 years and is the author of more than a dozen books on the subject. He’s the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies, a contributing editor to Digital Engineering, and also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA. Watch for his latest CADLearning eBooks on AutoCAD 2015 on the Apple iBookstore, at Amazon, and on the CADLearning website. You can contact him via email at david@dscohn.com or visit his website at www.dscohn.com.