Lenovo’s ThinkStation P330 (starts at $884; $1,215 as tested) is an entry-level tower workstation that offers professional hardware at an affordable price. It’s suited for light- to medium-duty creative work, such as graphics design and photo editing, and it can dabble in more advanced tasks in its upper-tier configurations. A compact chassis, quiet operation, good expansion options, and a standard three-year onsite warranty are just some of its many highlights. A well-rounded choice if we ever saw one, the ThinkStation P330 earns our Editors’ Choice for being an admirable value in the entry-level desktop workstation space.
Professional Grade, Starter Pricing
The modestly configured ThinkStation P330 I’m reviewing includes an Intel Xeon E-2224 quad-core processor (3.4GHz base, up to 4.6GHz turbo), 16GB of error-correcting code (ECC) memory, a 512GB solid-state boot drive with Windows 10 Pro for Workstations, and a 2GB Nvidia Quadro P620 graphics card.
It’s a competitive value next to the Dell Precision 3630 Minitower, which went for $1,387 comparably equipped when I wrote this. HP’s Z1 Entry Tower, meanwhile, topped $1,442 though it offers only a Core i3-9100 at that price. (It doesn’t give you the option for Xeon CPUs or, consequently, ECC memory.)
With the right-on-the-mark pricing comes a classic, but compact, look. The ThinkStation P330 is a minitower measuring just 6.5 by 12.9 by 14.8 inches. That’s a lot smaller than a mid-tower but wider than a small-form-factor (SFF) desktop, allowing more room for storage drives and graphics cards.
The tower is steel, with a honeycomb front grate. Its austere all-black look is at ease in professional environments. The left panel, secured by two thumbscrews, slides to the rear for easy interior access.
The door features a padlock loop for security. There’s enough room inside to reach the major components. A door that holds the drive bays swings out of the way to gain you access to the motherboard’s four DIMM slots. (Be sure to take off the front panel, secured by plastic clips, before trying that.)
The CPU is topped by a basic air cooler, which is all it needs. A single rear fan and the fan in the power supply handle exhaust duties. The single-slot Quadro P620 needs only one small cooling fan.
If you don’t need a dedicated GPU, this ThinkStation offers several processors that have integrated graphics. (This unit’s Xeon E-2224 isn’t one of them, though the optional G-suffix E-2224G is.)
The ThinkStation P330 proved to be nearly silent in everyday operation. The slight uptick in sound under load is hard to notice without listening for it, and there are no sound characteristics like motor whine.
The ThinkStation’s nifty, recessed front-panel connectivity consists of a USB Type-C port, four USB Type-A ports (two of them USB 3.1 Gen 1 supporting 5Gbps transfer rates, two USB 3.1 Gen 2 supporting 10Gbps), microphone and audio combo jacks (the latter is headphone and microphone in one), and the optional seven-format media card reader.
As you can see below, this unit also has Lenovo’s option for a slim DVD±RW burner. Vertical-mount DVD drives aren’t my favorite, but considering that this drive will be used only sporadically, in most cases, it’s fine here in 2020.
The backside connectivity includes four USB Type-A ports (two USB 3.1 Gen 1, two legacy USB 2.0), a serial port, and an Ethernet jack. The Quadro P620 has four mini DisplayPort connectors. (Adapters for mini DisplayPort to full-size DisplayPort are thankfully included.)
Lenovo offers several add-in Ethernet cards for more robust wired connectivity, along with Wi-Fi and Thunderbolt 3 cards. (None is included in this review model.) The bottom-mounted power supply is 250 watts as reviewed, though it can go up to 400 watts depending on the component loadout.
Either power supply option carries an impressive 80 Plus Platinum certification (92 percent efficiency). Speaking of certifications, the ThinkStation P330 has numerous independent software vendor (ISV) certifications for popular software suites. (See Lenovo’s product page for a list.) These can be vital if your work requires them, though they’re not required for the software to work.
As for bundled peripherals, the ThinkStation P330 includes a no-frills wired USB keyboard and mouse. The keyboard is a membrane model with a standard layout.
Though it doesn’t have special features, it’s fully functional and wouldn’t give you an excuse for not getting work done. The same goes for the two-button optical mouse. Its generic shape is comfortable enough for large and small hands alike.
Entry-Level Workstation Power
Fully configurable from the factory, the ThinkStation P330’s component choices go all the way up to a six-core Intel Xeon E-2226G or an eight-core Intel Core i9-9900 processor; 64GB of memory; an 8GB Quadro RTX 4000 graphics card; and three 3.5-inch or four 2.5-inch storage drives in addition to its three M.2 solid-state drive slots. It would be exceedingly not entry-level with those kind of specs, and if you’re considering a model so decked out, it would probably be worth moving up to a mid-level workstation like Lenovo’s ThinkStation P520 series (look for our review soon), an HP Z2 Tower G4, or a Dell Precision 3640 for even better expansion options and greater CPU core counts.
The Xeon E-2224 in my unit has a 71-watt thermal design power (TDP) rating, which lets it maintain its relatively high clock speeds well. However, the chip falls short in multithreaded scenarios (such as video encoding) since it lacks Intel’s Hyper-Threading Technology, so it can only process as many threads at a time as it has cores—that is, just four.
The slightly pricier Xeon E-2234 has the same core count but features Hyper-Threading and even higher clocks. Really, though, the Xeons are only worthwhile in this tower if you need ECC memory, as its Core-class processor options offer better value purely from a performance standpoint.
Now we’ll put the P330 through its paces in our benchmarking round, where it will go head to head against the desktops whose basic specifications are listed below.
This is a diverse crowd. I included two non-workstations, Lenovo’s own IdeaCentre 510A and the Acer Aspire TC-885-UA92, both budget-priced consumer desktops, mainly to show how the ThinkStation P330’s low-end Quadro P620 graphics card can be an improvement over integrated graphics. Meanwhile, the big Dell Precision 5820 is several leagues up in performance and capabilities, while the HP Z2 Tower G4 is a mid-level workstation barn burner using a Core i9 rather than a Xeon.
Our benchmarking round starts with a duo from UL Labs (formerly Futuremark). PCMark 10 is our overall system performance assessment, simulating office productivity, videoconferencing, and web browsing, while we use PCMark 8’s storage subtest to measure the performance of the boot drive. (The ThinkStation didn’t complete PCMark 8, which isn’t uncommon for a workstation.)
The ThinkStation P330 had no trouble surpassing our 4,000-point PCMark 10 threshold for high-performance PCs even in this basic review guise. It soundly beat the consumer- and budget-grade Aspire and the IdeaCentre, though it predictably didn’t catch the HP Z2 Tower G4.
Next up is a pair of CPU crunchers: Cinebench R15 stresses all available processor cores and threads while rendering a complex image, while in our Handbrake test, we transcode a 12-minute 4K video down to 1080p.
The ThinkStation P330 was hamstrung here by its Xeon E-2224’s lack of Hyper-Threading. It mainly beat the AMD Ryzen 3 3200G in the Lenovo IdeaCentre—a quad-core chip also lacking multithreading support—since it’s clocked higher. A multithreaded chip (and/or one with more cores) would be worth the investment if you’re going to be performing serious rendering or video editing tasks.
Our workstation-specific POV-Ray 3.7 test also illustrates this quite clearly, using ray tracing calculations to render a three-dimensional image. (Note that it doesn’t use the ray-tracing features of Nvidia’s RTX-class GPUs; this is purely CPU-focused.) Here we’ve compared only the workstation-class machines…
The final test in this section involves photo editing. We use an early 2018 release of Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud to apply 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG image, timing each operation and adding up the total. This test is not as CPU-focused as Cinebench or Handbrake, bringing the performance of the storage subsystem, memory, and GPU into play.
The ThinkStation P330 scored well. This test doesn’t tend to use more than a few threads’ worth of processing power, so its Xeon chip’s high clock speeds helped it hold its own.
Workstation and Graphics Tests
Starting this section are the two benchmark suites that we use to gauge the general 3D performance potential of a PC. In UL’s 3DMark, we run two DirectX 11-driven subtests, the mainstream Sky Diver and more gaming-oriented Fire Strike. Our other graphics benchmark is Unigine Corp.’s Superposition, which uses a different rendering engine to produce a complex 3D scene.
Get ready to see the difference between a low-end Quadro graphics card and a couple of high-end Quadro RTX ones…
The HP and Dell towers kind of blow these charts out of proportion, but notice how much better the ThinkStation P330 scored than the integrated-graphics-based Acer Aspire and Lenovo IdeaCentre.
Our next test is the workstation-specific Cinebench R15 OpenGL test, which taps the hardware rendering capabilities of the GPU. Here, the P330’s modest Quadro GPU shows some more grit. The ThinkStation P330’s scores indicate it’s capable of basic 3D work.
Our last (and most workstation-centric) benchmark is SPECviewperf 13, which renders and rotates wireframe and solid models using real-world viewsets from popular ISV apps.
The ThinkStation’s numbers look woefully low by comparison to the Dell and HP systems’. Still, they’re decent enough to conclude that it can run these apps to a limited extent with the Quadro P620, something that wouldn’t be true if this system had just integrated graphics. However, it would be best to opt for a higher-end GPU if you’re going to be working with complex models.
Overall, the ThinkStation P330, as reviewed, is capable of essential workstation tasks. It’s not for heavy-duty rendering or deep learning, for which you’ll need to step up to the next class (or two) of workstation, but photo editing, 2D computer-aided design (CAD), and other design jobs are within its reach, especially if equipped with a beefier processor, graphics card, and more memory.
Entry-Level Workstation Excellence
Not all entry-level PCs manage to deliver everything in the right proportions in the way that the ThinkStation P330 does. This tower offers enough get-up-and-go for creative work without costing a fortune, even offering Xeon processors and ECC memory for precision use.
It includes ISV certifications for popular professional apps, impressive expansion options (especially for storage), excellent connectivity, and a praiseworthy, compact design. A solid warranty tops it off. For a job well done, the ThinkStation P330 takes our Editors’ Choice for entry-level tower workstations.
Lenovo ThinkStation P330 Specs
|Processor||Intel Xeon E-2224|
|Processor Speed||3.4 GHz|
|RAM (as Tested)||16 GB|
|Boot Drive Type||SSD|
|Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested)||512 GB|
|Optical Drive||DVD+/-RW (Plus Minus)|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia Quadro P620|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro for Workstations|