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Lenovo D20 media workstation

By John Virata

Lenovo's D20 is the company's top of the line ThinkStation workstation. This particular model shipped with dual Intel E5540 2.53GHz Xeon processors (four processor cores), 12GB RAM, and Windows 7 Professional. Graphics was powered by an  NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 graphics card. This is your classic media workstation, configured to run the latest creative applications from Adobe Systems, Autodesk, Sony Creative Software, as well as CAD tools such as AutoCAD, Pro Engineer, and others.

The D20 is housed in a full tower and supports up to five 3.5-inch hard drives and available PCIe x4 slot, PCI X slots, and a single PCI slot. The Quadro FX 4800 also takes up a slot, making it difficult to fit any other card into the slot next to it.  This particular unit came outfitted with a pair of Seagate 500GB hard disk drives in a RAID 0 configuration, 12GB RAM (three slots occupied, six total slots), and the 1.5GB memory NVIDIA QuadroFX 4800 that offers a maximum 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution. The unit also features dual Broadcom NetXtreme gigabit Ethernet adapters, eight USB 2.0 slots in the rear (two up front), a six pin 1394 connection in the front and rear, SPDIF I/Connection, and three external eSATA connections. The front of the unit also sports a 16-in-1 memory card reader and your standard headphone and mic in ports front and rear.

The front panel of the D20 features a DVD-Rewritable drive, 16-in-1 memory card reader and your standard headphone and mic in ports front and rear (xD card, Compact Flash I, II/MicroDrive, SD/mini, miniHC, MMC, RS, Plus, Mobile, and Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro/Duo MS, ProDuo, two USB 2.0 ports, six pin FireWire port, and headphone and mic port. The case features a big handle up front and a metal lip handle located in the rear. A handle is located on the left side to which you can pop open and access the motherboard.

Main board. Memory next to the fan is accessible. Most wires are housed in a cover.

The D20's internal layout is typical Lenovo. The motherboard's six memory banks are easily accessible and there aren't any cables hindering access. Access to the unit's other internal components are also easily accessed via the system's tool-less design. The hard drives and the PCI cards are held in place via plastic arms that slide or are dropped down over the components to keep them from moving around. In addition, most of the cabling is in harnesses, unlike in the past when they were exposed. The harnesses give the inside of the system a cleaner look, and help to keep the clutter to a minimum.

Clean throughout
Hard drive cage
The Quadro FX4800 causes some fit issues.


The D20 sported some of the fastest times in the After Effects test, almost twice as fast in all tests as the last Lenovo reviewed, the D10. It split the speed tests with the HP Z400 reviewed in November 2009. The D20 did sport more memory and a faster NVIDIA graphics in the Quadro FX 4800.

Results in seconds
Version of After Effects used: CS4 

Lenovo D20 ThinkStation dual Intel E5540 2.53GHz Xeon, 12GB RAM, NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 Windows 7 64 Professional
Animation :   2 seconds
Video Composite:     10 seconds
Data Project:  20 seconds 
Gambler:  11 seconds   
Source Shape: 23 seconds   
 Virtual Set: 20 seconds  
Adobe Photoshop CS4 test: Perform Guassian Blur with 6.3 radius on 10.51MB image file    .97 seconds

First Impressions
The ThinkStation line continues to impress and the D20 is the fastest Lenovo system that we've tested to date. It is a workhorse system that can handle virtually all aspects of media creation. It supports a wide range of software applications, has ample memory and hard drive capacity capabilities (five hard drives can fit in the hard drive cage of this system), and it hums. The NVIDIA Graphics card does pose some issues if you are looking to add other PCI boards, as the slot next to the card is pretty much useless for many cards due to lack of space next to the Quadro FX 4800. The startup noise that Lenovo systems are known for have been significantly mitigated, and its current fan noise is kept to a minimum, even though there are no less than three fans in the system. If you are looking for a solid workstation with huge expandability, the D20 will fit into virtually any creative media workflow. Pricing as configured is $5,353. It ships with an three year parts and labor on-site warranty.  For more information and to look at a list of certified creative media applications, visit

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at
Related Keywords:media workstation, lenovo D20, Windows 7 workstation,

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