Desktop workstations offer high performance and high-quality graphics. It lets you work on your most challenging tasks with efficiency and ease.
Serious desktop workstations are known to crunch through the most demanding rendering and designing tasks. That means it can handle even the most intimidating datasets. With that being said, here’s what you need to know when choosing the best desktop workstation.
Your computer’s CPU or central processing unit is the lifeblood of your device. Having a faster, competent CPU is vitally important when working on complex tasks. When building a workstation, it’s best to choose higher core and thread count processors.
Today, the high-end CPUs have 32-64 cores. However, the lower-end workstation CPUs have only four cores each. The higher the CPUs core and thread count, the better it is for multitasking and long-running tasks like video rendering and encoding.
Choosing the best CPU
Today’s promising workstation CPUs are among the AMD Ryzen Threadripper and Intel Xeon. However, the Threadripper has taken quite the popularity. Thanks to its additional cores and threads compared to Intel Xeon. But Intel responded by cutting down their prices.
Because the current Threadrippers consists mostly of 32 cores, AMD is now the best value for money processor. Similarly, the Threadripper 3990x, which debuted in February 2020, comes with 64 cores. Unfortunately, AMD processors don’t always come with major vendors like HP, Dell, and Lenovo.
However, things will change for the better after Lenovo announced its exclusive deal with AMD. During the launching of the ThinkStation model, Lenovo plans to adapt the new line of workstation called the Threadripper Pro.
When choosing the best CPU for your workstation, it’s best to opt for more cores. This means faster clock speeds. This means you can finish your most challenging tasks in less time. Moreover, gaming CPUs doesn’t mean it can handle productivity-focused tasks.
Choose the best GPU
A desktop workstation is never complete without a dedicated graphics processing unit or GPU. GPU is essential for doing simple tasks like photo editing to the more complex CGI or parallel processing. When choosing a GPU, the key is to make sure that it’s more powerful than your most challenging task.
Likewise, Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon GPUs are often used for lower-end workstations with gaming qualities. These machines are capable of running professional apps like Adobe and Autodesk. However, they are not ideal for these types of jobs.
On the other hand, you can choose the professional Radeon Pro for AMD or the Quadro and Quadro RTX for Nvidia. While these cards don’t seem to be all different in terms of physical appearance and specifications from their gaming counterparts, the big difference boils down to the software and driver support.
That’s because the drivers that come with professional GPUs are tested for overall stability, compatibility, and performance on professional-grade apps. This is what is referred to as ISV or Independent Software Vendor certification. This is important because leading vendors use ISV certification when advertising for specific apps like Autodesk’s AutoCAD, Maya, and SolidWorks.
In addition, ISV certification assures that the workstation is well equipped to handle such apps. Likewise, workstations that don’t come with an ISV certification doesn’t mean that it’s not capable of running a given program.
Desktop workstations often come with the same storage as desktops. This includes M.2-format SSD (solid-state drive), 3.5-inch SATA hard drives, or the 2.5-inch SATA SSD. They also offer other storage systems and interfaces that are useful for specific situations.
One good example is the U.2 interface SSD that is almost the same size as the traditional 2.5-inch hard drives. However, the U.2 SSD offers higher operating capacities than the M.2 drives. Typically, the U.2 SSD is capable of housing more memory chips.
In addition, high-end workstations offer the PCI Express solid-state drive that you can plug into the PCI Express slot on the motherboard. This often looks like a low-key graphics card. These storage drives have better cooling capabilities compared to the M.2 drives.
It’s always good to opt for a workstation that is more powerful than the demands of your current workload. This will give you a better chance of doing efficient work in the long term. The key is to take note of your workstation and maximize the components you want to put in. However, always think about the future expansion so you’ll have more breathing room when you need an upgrade.
For example, even if you just need less than 64GB of memory, you’ll be in a better position if you prepare for a 256GB upgrade in the future. This will ensure that your workstation can handle future upgrades as the demand increases.
On the other hand, your workstation’s upgrade potential is related to the physical design. For tower-style workstations and traditional forms that use the full-ATX or E-ATX have the most upgrade potential because they can handle standardized parts. This allows almost all kinds of component upgrades.
On the contrary, all-in-one workstations or mini desktops (these are workstations at the base of the monitor) have very restricted upgrade options. That means they are not very good if you’re thinking about future upgrades.
Choosing the ports
Most workstations come with the same type of ports that you can find on traditional desktops. This includes video connectors, network, audio, and USB. However, there are uncommon ports or nonstandard ports that may be required depending on the nature of your work’s nature.
High-end workstations offer almost any add-in cards for specific purposes. These cards are often added after purchase. For example, the Thunderbolt 3 cards are ideal if you want to add another high-speed storage. Thanks to its high bandwidth, it’s possible to connect devices like external GPU enclosures.
The apps you’ll be running on your workstation will influence what operating system you’re gonna use. For this reason, you need to prepare to spend additional bucks. That’s because there’s not a cheap macOS-based workstation. That means you’ll use either a Windows or a Linux operating system. Usually, this costs less than $5,000.
On the other hand, you can opt for the 2020 Macbook Pro or the iMac Pro. Similarly, the Mac Pro tower is already a high-end workstation. It comes with 8 to 28 core Xeon CPUs, 1.5TB memory, and one or two AMD Radeon Pro GPU. This is the prime example of a fully- functional desktop workstation.