What comes to mind when we say workstation? If you’re thinking some big, spaceship-like contraption, you’d traditionally be right. Extra points if you thought of a smaller-than-average office desk.
These days, workstations are sleek and trendy machines that still provide a powerful punch for most applications. They’re useful tools for designers, engineers, financial analysts and researchers running more demanding applications, like rendering complex graphics, financial analysis and computations and digital content creation.
But, with so many on the market, what merits do the office ‘power users’ look for when deciding upon which workstation is the best investment for an increase in productivity, limited downtime and improved reliability?
We’ve rounded up 10 of what we consider to be the best workstations currently on the market – in no particular order – from the main vendors, and then some. From small form factor models to powerhouses, from all-in-ones to one for all, there’s bound to be one for you if you’re in the market.
1. Overclockers Renda OCUK Symphonia Silent
CPU: Intel Core i5-6600U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 1TB HDD | Communications: Gigabit Ethernet | Dimensions (W x D x H): 20 x 50 x 45cm
Great value for money
Great choice of components
No option for dedicated audio card
No mini tower option available
This is a digital audio workstation, one that is primarily aimed at those working in the sound industry and is a product of the collaboration between UK retailer Overclockers and the Music Store Pro. You have an extensive choice of noise-dampened mid-tower cases paired with an Intel Core i5-6600 CPU and an Asus H110-Plus motherboard.
The latter uses audio shielding, dedicated audio PCB layers and premium audio capacitors to improve audio performance. Also on the list are a number of legacy ports (Parallel, VGA, PS2) that will be useful for older audio equipment.
The i5-6600 is equivalent to the Intel Xeon E3-1225 v5. Both are Skylake-based with four threads/cores, but the Core i5 model has a lower TDP and a higher turbo frequency, but a smaller cache and a lower processor graphics speed. Overclockers provide a standard three-year warranty (24-month Collect and Return plus 12-month labour only).
2. PC Specialist HEX P K2200i
CPU: Intel Core i7-6800K | Graphics: Nvidia Quadro K2200 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 120GB SSD + 1TB HDD | Communications: Gigabit Ethernet | Dimensions (W x D x H): 43 x 21 x 50cm
You can send in your own case!
You can use your own OS license
450W PSU is a bit on the short side
Warranty could be better
PC Specialist, unlike others, suggests that you select your main application before pulling up the recommended workstation. In our case, we chose the Maxon Cinema 4D, which brought up the HEX P K2200i. Opt for ANSYS Fluent, a popular simulation software, and a £9,000 workstation rig is suggested to you.
As always with PC Specialist, they only offer one-month collect and return, one-year parts and three-year labour warranty, one of the lowest in the industry but it can be upgraded cheaply.
The three components that shine in this workstation are the Intel Core i7-6800K CPU, the Asus X99-E motherboard and the PNY Quadro K2200 GPU – those three together cost more than £1,000 in the open market. As long as you can live without ECC RAM and the relatively low-rated power supply unit.
3. Scan 3XS Resolve Grading 4K Plus
Absolute power at a price
CPU: Dual Intel Xeon E5-2640 v4 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, Nvidia Quadro M5000 | RAM: 64GB | Storage: 240GB SSD + 1.2TB SSD | Communications: Gigabit Ethernet | Dimensions (W x D x H): 23 x 56 x 56cm
No same day support option
No RAID by default
Bolton-based Scan Computers International is one of the few remaining British system integrators and online retailers that have survived since the days of printed magazines (hello Evesham and Time Computers!). Their custom 3XS workstation series is “hand-crafted, customised and overclocked” and optimised for specific tasks – from trading PCs to Digital Signage.