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The 'Think' brand is something of a legend in computing circles, hailing as it does from the halls of IBM - one of the great pioneers of modern computing. However, when IBM dropped out of the PC market in 2005 by selling its PC division, including the 'Think' brand, to the Chinese company Lenovo, fears for the quality of this brand were quick to spread.
Thankfully, Lenovo has proved itself more than capable, and indeed willing, to maintain the same level of craftsmanship that the reputation of 'Think' was built upon. Indeed we've looked at several ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktop PCs since Lenovo's takeover and we've been generally impressed. However, it's taken a few years for Lenovo to get round to tackling the more niche, though no less lucrative, workstation market so it's only now we've had the chance to assess whether Lenovo can maintain its near flawless record with the 'Think' brand or if the heavy requirements of workstations has proved too much.
Looking at the available specifications, there's nothing to raise suspicion that these machines may underperform. First is the machine we're looking at today, the S10, that offers up to an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 in its CPU socket, nVvidia Quadro FX 4600 768MB for graphics, 4GB DDR3 PC3-8500 ECC RAM, a choice of SATA or SAS (serial attached SCSI) hard drives, and a motherboard based on Intel's X38 chipset. In case all those codenames, acronyms, and numbers just went straight through one eye and out the other, you can basically interpret all that as the fastest consumer level CPU and motherboard chipset you can buy, combined with the fastest professional grade graphics card and a decent amount of certified RAM.
The ThinkStation D10 takes over from where the S10 leaves off with a move from consumer chipset and CPU options to proper server level equipment. Specifically, the motherboard chipset is now based on the Intel 5400a, which supports and has room for two Intel Xeon CPUs (that's two physical CPUs, not just more cores), and 64GB RAM. Other options are largely the same but because the case is larger, to accommodate the bigger motherboard, there's room for a couple of extra drive bays and the case is rack mountable.
Both systems hint at being available with a variety of options but, just as with the HP machine we looked at last week, finding where to specify these options is a bit tricky. Unlike Dell, Lenovo doesn't deal direct so you can't build your machine per spec on the website. The only option then, is to deal with one of the many resellers that Lenovo lists on its website. However, because these dealers more often than not provide full turn-key solutions, finding out the exact cost of systems is even more difficult.
If you do want to buy direct, you can get hold of this review system from some online retailers but as we'll see later, for intense use this base specification isn't quite fast enough and we'd recommend you sort out some upgrades straight away.