Lenovo offers workstations with Intel's Nehalem chips

Lenovo's D20 and S20 workstations will run Intel's latest Nehalem-based Xeon chips

Lenovo on Tuesday became the second major PC maker to announce workstations based on Intel's upcoming quad-core Nehalem chips, which are due for release next week.

The high-end ThinkStation D20 and low-end ThinkStation S20 workstations will run on Intel's upcoming Xeon 3500 and 5500 series dual-core and quad-core chips, the company said. The processors belong to the Nehalem-EP line of server and workstation processors that Intel plans to officially launch next week.

The announcement comes a few weeks after Apple became the first major PC vendor to announce Xeon-based workstations. Apple earlier this month started taking orders for new Mac Pro workstations also powered by Xeon 3500 and 5500 quad-core chips. The Mac Pro workstations will run Apple's Mac OS X operating system.

The PCs are targeted at users who need powerful systems to render high-end graphics, like digital content creators, game developers and engineers, said Kristy Fair, a Lenovo spokeswoman.

The D20 workstation is a dual-socket system, which allows up to two processors to work together, and it supports 96GB of memory. The S20 has a single-processor slot and supports up to 12GB of memory. The systems offer hard drive storage of up to 1TB.

The processors should enable faster application performance on the workstations compared to older Xeon chips. Nehalem cuts the bottlenecks of Intel's earlier Core microarchitecture to improve system speed and performance-per-watt. The microarchitecture integrates a memory controller and provides a faster pipe for the CPU to communicate with system components like a graphics card and other chips.

Each core can execute two software threads simultaneously, so a workstation with four processor cores could simultaneously run eight threads for faster application performance.

The workstations will run Xeon E5500 series chips, which will come with dual- and quad-core flavors, and the quad-core W3500, X5500 series chips that run between 1.86GHz and 3.2GHz. The systems will also run the quad-core W5580 chip that runs at 3.2GHz. The CPUs draw between 80 watts and 130 watts of power.

The workstations will include the OS options of Windows Vista Business and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Graphics cards options include the Nvidia Quadro or ATI FirePro, where certain computational tasks can be offloaded from a CPU to the additional cores on a graphics processing unit for faster data processing.

The S20 model will start at $1,070 and dual-socket D20 starts at $1,550. The workstations are scheduled to be available worldwide by the end of this month.

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