What comes to mind when we say workstation? If you’re thinking some big, spaceship-like contraption, you’d traditionally be right. But these days, workstations are sleek and trendy machines that still provide intelligent performance 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. There are even a few amazing options that come in laptop form.
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?
Update: For a mid-range desktop workstation entry, the Dell Precision T5810 is an excellent choice. Hampered only a single processor socket, the Precision T5810 delivers strong performance thanks to its Haswell-based Xeon X3 chip. Users can configure the system with either an AMD FirePro or Nvidia Quadro graphics card and up to a whopping 128GB of DDR4 RAM.
Update 2: If you’re looking to save cost, BOXX claims that its new overclocked workstations do more with fewer cores. Compared to pricier 10-core Xeon-based machines, BOXX’s APEXX 2 3402 and APEXX 4 7402 workstations can deliver better performance in benchmark tests with 4.15GHz overclocked cores.
Here are a few that we’ve reviewed that we recommend:
Dell Precision T7610
Boasted by Dell as the world’s most powerful workstation, the Precision is a capable mid-range workstation, born out of the years of experience from the Austin-based vendor. It is well thought out, expertly designed, sturdy, powerful and reasonably priced for its value proposition to customers. This Dell system sticks to the big box approach, standing large at 438 (h) x 216 (w) x 545mm (d) (16.95 x 8.50 x 20.67 inch) and 14kg (31lb.), unlike Apple Mac Pro’s minimalist look-and-feel and HP Z1 G2’s all-in-one approach. Despite its size, two integrated aluminum handles, one at the front and one at the back, moving the bulky workstation is deceptively easy and ergonomically sensible.
Within the Dell Precision T7610 lies a full-size Extended ATX motherboard with an Intel C602 chipset. The latter is populated with 16GB of RAM (four 4GB modules) ECC DDR3 RDIMM clocked at 1.866GHz, an integrated LSI 2308 SAS/SATA controller and a 3GB Nvidia Quadro K4000 full-size card with two DP and one DVI-I port.
Expansion capabilities are nothing short of exceptional with one free processor socket as well as 12 other free memory slots (allowing up to 256GB when filled with 16GB memory modules) plus a 1TB hard disk drive from Western Digital, a Caviar Blue model with 64MB cache, along with a slimline optical drive plus a removable 1300W PSU.
Two Intel-powered GbE NICs (82579LM and I210), four front-facing USB ports (one of them USB 3.0), 6 rear ones (half of them USB 3.0), legacy IOs (serial plus a pair of PS/2 ports), up to 5 free PCIe slots of various flavors (when used with two processors) and one PCI, one external 5.25-inch bay, 4 x 3.5-inch or 8 x 2.5-inch front accessible hard drive bays. Four are accessible from an external 5.25-inch bay behind a removable plastic bay.
There are even customization options. Users can choose to add a storage solution from Intel called the Cache Acceleration Software – Workstation ( or CAS-W), which is described as the first enterprise-grade caching acceleration software application for workstations. Although, it is worth noting that should you want more system memory or two processors, you will have to chat with one of Dell’s Customer Service Assistants as you won’t be able to configure the base until at all online.
You can only tweak the software (McAfee, Microsoft Office or Dell’s Data Protection Encryption Software), the peripherals (display, keyboard or mouse) or the services bundled with the machine (data protection, client installation, etc.). The upside – customers get a three-year next business day basic warranty plus a keyboard and mouse.
Why love the T6710? It proves to be a sturdy, capable, dependable and quiet workstation, delivering top-of-the-line firepower and data churning capabilities. Its base unit price starts at approximately $3445 (£2027.40 or AU$3660). Despite its size, it is a brilliant piece of hardware that is surprisingly quiet when in use, even under load.
- Read our Dell Precision T7610 review
Fujitsu Celsius W530
Desktop workstations can be both big and expensive, but not with the Fujitsu Celsius W530, a compact and affordable entry-level workstation designed to bridge the gap between high-end PCs and much more expensive professional models.
It only has one processor, but that’s reflected in the £1,430 recommended price (around $2,160, AU$2,680), and we found it selling for a lot less than that online.
Despite the single socket and DDR3 memory, the Celsius workstation manages to deliver an impressive level of performance with its Quadro K2200 more than keeping pace with the Xeon processor on the graphics front. The decision to go with an SSD as a boot disk further helps here and although a 1TB data disk is far from generous there’s room to upgrade and add more if needed.
Other things we liked were the built-in card reader and a good quality keyboard and mouse which, although not wireless, were a lot better than the very basic peripherals that came with the Dell Precision workstation.
Overall build quality is a little down on Dell standards, but that’s to be expected given the price, and it is a tool-free design which makes it very easy to maintain.
Conservatively styled, the Celsius W530 is a very nice little entry-level workstation that we could see being used to run a mix of CAD/CAM, image editing and other graphics-intensive applications whilst also hosting general office productivity tools.