The Beijing Desktop Testing Lab

As I promised in the last post, here are a few additional pictures from Lenovo's desktop testing lab in Beijing. A desktop testing lab being owned and run by Lenovo is rather unique in the PC industry. Most desktop testing has been outsourced by other vendors to contract manufacturers. Lenovo thought that by bringing all testing in house, the company could save some money plus do a more thorough test suite than most of the industry does on their machines. Here are just a few pictures of some of the testing that goes on there. Thermals are a major area of ongoing research. Our engineers not only have to worry about removing heat from the processor and chipset, but also have to design systems with enough cooling and power. This helps to make sure that when a customer expands the system with add in cards, memory, and drives, that these are adequately cooled too. To monitor temperature, the team attaches thermal sensors at critical points inside the system.

The system is then put into a test chamber (Lenovo has several of these) where the temperature and humidity are varied along with processor loads. Temperatures range as high as 60 degrees C and as low as minus 20 degrees C. The system is stressed so that it can perform under a wide variety of conditions. Not every customer puts a Lenovo desktop in an air conditioned office. Real world environments range from noisy and dusty factory floors to huge walk-in freezers.

Many customers have feedback about the noise their systems generate. Universally customers want their systems to be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible. In this anechoic chamber, both the quantity and quality of noise are measured. The quality of noise is also important because there are certain frequencies that are annoying no matter how loud they are. I didn't spend much time in here because the lack of noise and echoes was driving me crazy.

Since this is a working lab environment, everyone visiting had to wear these ESD booties. Yellow tape clearly delineated ESD sensitive areas. And yes, the person over the line was asked to step back a bit.

Yes, everyone working there does wear white lab coats every day. This isn't just a display for the tourists. Though it is a production lab, there are some things designed to make tours easier and more visual. Here, one of several signs points out salient testing points of how and what is measured.

The next area we went to was the EMF chamber. There are many requirements around the world that regulate the electromagnetic emissions a system can emit. This can vary depending on the number and type of peripherals attached. In this case, there are several mice and iPODs attached to the system to make use of the USB ports as much as possible. The connecting wires can often act as antennae and it is important to keep the emissions within defined specs.

This antenna was positioned in front of the system to measure the EMF energy emitted. Even though the system was off, no one wanted to stand directly in front of it.

This picture shows an ESD gun. Technicians shoot 8000 volts into ports and various other points of a running system. The system has to continue to operate normally. Eight thousand volts is about 2X more than the average person carries in static electricity when touching a system on a dry day. Other than the stun gun coolness factor, this is a pretty dull test to watch because nothing happens.

This test is designed to test surge handing capacity. Typical desktop users do not use surge protectors and there is a real chance of failure from not only lightning strikes but also surges of power from your local power company. There are many other tests, many of which aren't as visual, some of which are Lenovo proprietary such as packaging drop tests and other specialized component tests. The benefit to all of this testing is reflected in reduced failure rates once customers actually own our systems. We have a report from a major industry analyst (they hate when they are mentioned by name) which lists industry failure numbers for every year of use in the real world. Using the same methodology outlined by the analyst, our team calculated Lenovo's failure rates. Lenovo desktops fail significantly less than our competitors.