Lenovo ThinkStation E20: A Quiet Entry-level Workstation

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These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 second segments of room ambiance, then the system at various activity states. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

Audio Recordings

  • Lenovo ThinkStation E20 at 1m
    — idle/load, GPU fan tweaked to minimum speed (19~20 dBA)
    — idle/load (20~21 dBA)
    — idle/load, hard drive seeking (23~25 dBA)


Overall we enjoyed our experience with the ThinkStation E20. It is plenty fast, thrifty in power consumption, and runs cool. It's also surprisingly quiet, though this might not hold as true if a hotter processor and/or video card is specified. We're not sure exactly how important noise is for a workstation — unless it's placed in a fairly quiet room on a desktop rather than on the floor, the ambient noise in a typical office will probably drown it out even if it was a few decibels louder.

The case aesthetics won't win any awards, but the interior has an admirable design. It is well-cooled thanks to a pair of quiet 92 mm fans, and the large portion of the front bezel dedicated to providing the system with fresh air. Removing drives and expansion cards is a trivial matter thanks to the tool-less release mechanisms, so it can be quickly and easily serviced should the need arise. If Lenovo packaged a similar system in a more attractive case and a desktop graphics card, it would serve well as a home PC.

Past experience with Lenovo products, and the general business-oriented approach inherited from IBM's PC division suggests that backup on the E20 will be excellent. The price might be a bit steep compared to assembling a similar system of components yourself, but for many businesses, an assembled PC is considered the only viable choice, and the E20 fits the bill for low noise, energy efficiency, serviceability and relative eco-friendliness.

Our thanks to Lenovo for ThinkStation E20 sample.

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