Lenovo ThinkStation E20: A Quiet Entry-level Workstation

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Lenovo ThinkStation E20: A Quiet Entry-Level Workstation

April 18, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Product Lenovo ThinkStation E20
Manufacturer Lenovo
Street Price US$599 (base model)
US$1224 (sample configuration)

Workstations have historically been big, high-end machines with heavy duty processing power, professional grade graphics cards, plenty of memory and hard drive options. While there will always be a place for such juggernaughts, for simpler tasks and smaller workloads, an entry-level workstation like Lenovo's ThinkStation E20 may be better suited. To make a more affordable workstation, Lenovo decided against the more expensive LGA1366 socket, settling for LGA1156 instead. It's not a bad compromise considering the bevy of affordable, high performance Core i3 and i5 CPUs available. These processors are also very energy efficient, so cooling them is easy, opening up a real possibility for silence. The E20 is surprisingly affordable with the base model starting at only $599, $449 if you don't need a copy of Windows.

The E20 uses the microATX form factor, making it more compact, but less expandable than most workstations which use ATX or larger form factor. It has just a pair of internal hard drive bays, no SAS option, lacks RAID 5/10 support and has only 4 memory slots for a maximum 8GB of RAM. These constraints can be overcome by upgrading to the larger ThinkStation S20 or D20 LGA1366 workstations which can also be configured with much more powerful processors and video cards.

Lenovo touts that the E20 is "ISV certified" like its larger brethren: "rigorously tested and certified by leading independent software vendors (ISVs)", which ensures the workstation can power through professional applications, with assistance available from ISVs for a supported application, if necessary. Like many Lenovo products, the E20 is EPEAT Gold certified, the highest rank given by the widely accepted US Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool program.

The ThinkStation E20.

Included mouse and keyboard.

The E20 isn't much to look at. Like many of Lenovo's "Think" branded products, its design is mostly functional, unless you consider the enormous ugly handle at the front a subjective stlye choice. Lenovo touts the E20's small size, environmentally friendliness, ease of service thanks to a tool-less chassis design, and near-silent operation. All configurations ship with decent keyboard with soft but responsive keys and a large optical wheel mouse with a generic but comfortable shape.

Lenovo ThinkStation E20: Specifications
Part Number
Base Model Configuration
Sample Configuration
[H x W x D]
425.2 x 175 x 430.8 mm
(16.7 x 6.9 x 17.0 in)
Pentium G6950 2.8GHz
(3MB L3, 73W)
Core i5-650 3.2GHz
(4MB L3, HT, TB, VT-d)
Intel 3450
2GB DDR3-1333
4GB DDR3-1333
Intel GMA HD (integrated)
NVIDIA Quadro FX 580 512MB
Hard Drive
250GB 7200rpm
500GB 7200rpm
Optical Drive
16x DVD +/- RW DL
10/100/1000 ethernet
Card Reader
Keyboard & Mouse
Operating System
Windows 7 Professional x64
EPEAT Gold qualified, with up to 26% post-consumer recycled plastics
Retail Price
$599, $449 without Windows
3 Year Limited Onsite Warranty
Add $49 for 2Yr Onsite Warranty Next Business Day
Add $89 3Yr Priority Support Onsite Warranty

The sample we received has notable upgrades over the base model, including a faster dual core i5-650 processor with TurboBoost, Hyper-threading, and better virtualization support compared to the stock configuration's Pentium G6950. It also sports a Quadro FX 580 graphics card, 500GB hard drive, DVD burner, card reader, and 4GB of unbuffered non-ECC RAM. This last point is interesting because on paper, aside from ECC memory support provided by the Intel 3450 chipset, there is little to distinguish the E20 from a desktop you could easily have built to spec. If you order the E20 with this configuration on their website, the total comes to US$1224. This is pricier than simply assembling all the components yourself, but there are benefits in the form of support, which could be much more important than the couple hundred dollars a business might save.

Our E20 sample's device listing. The system shipped with a Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 hard drive.

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