How does a workstation PC work? Can they be used for gaming and everyday tasks? Are they only useful for work, as their name implies? The following is a simple guide.
Workstations are designed for demanding computations and marketed to a variety of professionals.
They usually use hardware that is much more powerful and advanced than the hardware required by a gaming PC.
If you are a gamer and have taken part in, or observed a hardware discussion then you have certainly heard the term “workstation” from time to time.
What exactly is a workstation? How does it work? What makes it different from a gaming PC?
All of those questions will be answered below! Let’s begin with the basics.
What Is A Workstation?
A “workstation” is a computer designed specifically to meet the needs of professionals, such as scientists, engineers, architects, and graphic designers. Although some companies sell pre-built workstations, anyone can assemble one just like they can a gaming PC.
Different professions use workstations, so their specifications vary inevitably. What every workstation will have in common, however, is a powerful CPU and more RAM than usual.
Additionally, workstations intended for more demanding tasks contain specialized components that are engineered for high performance. Despite having to work at peak efficiency for long periods of time, they can last longer.
Workstation vs Gaming PC
Here’s the main question: what’s the difference between a gaming PC and a workstation? Ultimately, it comes down to the components.
As previously mentioned, workstations always have powerful CPUs that can handle complex computational tasks. A workstation can contain the following CPUs:
- The most basic CPU found in budget and mid-range workstations is the Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7.
- AMD Ryzen Threadripper or Intel Core i9 are the most popular workstation CPUs, which have a good balance between price and performance.
- Designed exclusively for workstations, Intel Xeon and AMD EPYC are CPUs that excel at multitasking and processing large volumes of data.
Intel Core i7 and AMD Ryzen 7 processors are among the most powerful processors available for gaming PCs. Any more powerful would be excessive.
However, workstations go even further, employing CPUs that would never be used for gaming unless they are used both as a workstation and a gaming PC.
However, the GPU is an essential component of a gaming PC. It could also be an integral part of a workstation if used for graphics-intensive tasks, such as photo editing, video editing, 3D modeling, etc.
If that is the case, a workstation will utilize one of the following GPU brands:
- As a gamer, you are undoubtedly familiar with names like Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon RX. Many workstations utilize high-end GeForce and Radeon cards, sometimes in multi-GPU configurations.
- Genuine workstation GPUs are Nvidia Quadro or AMD RadeonPro. Compared with gaming GPUs, they have more video and bandwidth memory, as well as higher processing power. Furthermore, they are optimized for GPU-intensive software, not for games.
Gaming PCs often require more RAM than they think. Our previous article in this series explained that a gaming PC will perform more than well with as little as 8 GB of RAM, and even 16 GB is usually overkill.
Workstations, on the other hand, require a lot more RAM than gaming PCs. The majority of them have either 32 GB or 64 GB of RAM, but high-end models have 128 GB or even 256 GB.
In addition, workstations commonly use ECC RAM, which enhances system/program stability and prevents data corruption.
SSDs are the primary storage device for modern workstations due to their sheer speed, which dwarfs that of HDDs. However, since a workstation user may also need to store large amounts of data, HDDs with several terabytes of space are commonly included in the configuration.
Read: Best SSDs For Gaming
Thus, workstations and gaming PCs don’t differ much in this regard, except for the fact that a workstation is almost certainly going to have a larger storage drive.
While a workstation’s motherboard is similar to a desktop’s motherboard, it may use a special chipset and socket to accommodate a more powerful CPU. However, some users may opt for motherboards that have additional RAM and PCIe slots that meet their requirements. There are also dual-CPU motherboards, but those are more common among servers.
Are Workstations Good For Gaming?
Because workstations tend to outperform gaming PCs, any decent workstation will perform just as well as a top-notch gaming PC. However, this is largely dependent on the GPU. It will keep up with a high-end gaming PC if it has a Quadro or RadeonPro graphics card. It may not perform as well if it is a more affordable model with limited VRAM.
Those cards are not optimized for games, but for professional software use – such as CAD Autodesk – which could affect in-game performance, but only slightly.
Can you use a gaming PC as a workstation?
It all depends on the specifications and how much you value your time. You can technically use a PC as a workstation if it can run a certain piece of software.
Due to hardware limitations, the PC may take much longer to process and render everything than a proper workstation.