Lenovo P520 Workstation Is a Single-Processor Powerhouse

PRODUCT REVIEW: Most workstation computing tasks don't require multiple processors, but instead benefit from a very fast single, multicore processor with systems to match.

Lenovo P520

Lenovo’s P520 is a midrange, moderately priced workstation that features Intel Xeon processors, up to 256BG of memory and a choice of mass storage devices. Lenovo has included some of the same useful features that graced its bigger brandmate, the P920 workstation. Those features include a tool-free chassis, LEDs to indicate the location of USB ports and red markings on the lifting handles, which make moving the computer around easier.

The model of the P520 that Lenovo sent eWEEK for review arrived with 16GB of memory, a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD), an Nvidia P4000 graphics card and an Intel W-2125 four-core processor. You can configure the P520 with processors up to the Intel Xeon W-2133 six-core processor, and your choice of graphics cards can include up to the Nvidia Quadro P6000. An M.2 storage controller is available for really fast drive access for capacities up to 2TB.

The P520 follows the current practice in workstations of having a clean, tool-free design with lots of capacity for expansion. The case has room for four drive bays, each one of which can hold two 2.5-inch SSDs. Most of the expansion slots are empty, and underneath the air baffles, there’s easy accessibility.

P520 Outperforms Other Single-Processor Machines

The P520 also performs like you’d expect of a workstation. We saw some of the best performance numbers we’ve seen in a single-processor machine, with an average single core score of 5190 and a multicore score of 18008 using Geekbench 4. The Geekbench 4 compute results averaged 149424, which is one of the fastest scores we’ve seen, and which is due to the choice of the Quadro P4000 graphics card.

Lenovo has outfitted the P520 with a full complement of I/O ports. On the front of the computer are four USB 3.1 Type A ports and an SD card reader. However, this can be configured to have a Thunderbolt 3 USB Type C port. The review machine had a DVD reader/writer installed.

On the rear of the P520 you’ll find four USB 3.1 type A ports, a Thunderbolt 3 port, two USB 2.0 ports, PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors, audio line in and out ports, a microphone port, and eSATA and Firewire ports. The only surprise here is the single Thunderbolt port, considering the growing importance of this type of interface.

Like many workstations, the P520 includes a series of fans designed to keep things cool inside while doing some serious computing. The computer includes a series of air baffles and channels for directing the air for cooling while trying to keep the computer reasonably quiet. Most of the time this arrangement succeeds, but we did observe some noisy fans during testing. The level of noise was not as great as in the P920, but in an office it could be disturbing.

The P520 will fit into any space allocated for a normal-sized tower workstation. At 18 inches tall, it’s the same size as other similar computers. Moving it around the office is easy with its built-in handles, and the lighted array of ports on the front makes accessibility easy.

In addition to running benchmarking software, I loaded the machine with a typical selection of software, including Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud software. None of these produced any noticeable stress for the computer. Image edits in Photoshop and Lightroom happened without delay, as did animations and 3D images.

It’s worth noting that testing was done on a midrange version of this workstation. Nothing I did in testing showed a need for the full complement of memory or the available six-core CPUs, but then I wasn’t trying any high-end CAD or engineering software. Clearly, this workstation has the capacity to handle this as well.

The base price for this computer is just over $1,000 when it’s on sale, and at that price you still get a Xeon processor and a decent graphics card. The only real compromise you’ll see at the lower end is a boring ol’ hard disk instead of an SSD. The price of the P520 I tested is just under $2,600. However, since this machine goes on sale frequently, a lower price is likely available when you need it.

I found the P520 a pleasure to use. It has the computing capacity to handle even demanding jobs, while it’s civilized enough to fit into an office environment.

I have to add one other consideration, considering the scare stories that surfaced in other publications. We found no evidence that this computer is equipped with secret chips, nor did my router or security system see any outgoing messages to Chinese spies. I did check my outgoing traffic extensively, but either my work is far too boring to interest global intelligence services or it simply doesn’t exist.

My vote is that it doesn’t exist. What does exist is a very nicely made, highly capable professional workstation that should do a lot to enhance your productivity.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...