Top 10 best workstations of 2017

2. Acer Veriton X2640G SFF

Affordable workstation

CPU: Intel Core i5-6400 | Graphics: Intel HD | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 1TB HDD | Communications: Gigabit Ethernet | Dimensions (W x D x H): 10 x 35.4 x 26.5cm

Great priceLovely designNot the most powerfulLimited RAM

Acer does a good line in workstations, and most of them are pretty affordable. The Acer Veriton X2640G SFF isn’t the most powerful of workstations, but it will do the trick if you need a dependable machine for most day-to-day tasks. 

There’s nothing particularly flashy about this workstation – but sometimes that’s just what you need.

4. Apple Mac Pro

Worth an update

CPU: Intel Xeon E5-1650 v2 | Graphics: Dual AMD FirePro D500 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 256GB SSD | Communications: 802.11ac, Gigabit Ethernet | Dimensions (W x D x H): 25 x 17 x 17cm

Ground-breaking designVery compactLong in the toothCan be tricky to upgrade

An upgrade to the Mac Pro is imminent so you might want to hold on. But when it comes to the quintessential workstation, nothing comes near to this monolith. How Apple has been able to pack so much firepower into such a small volume almost defies the laws of physics. The current model, though, is well past its prime.

It packs a 3-year old Intel Ivy-Bridge Xeon processor with up to 64GB DDR3 ECC RAM and 1TB storage (no RAID option though). Its two AMD FirePro D500 GPUs are likely to be the weakest link in the system, however, and even the top of the range model doesn’t meet the minimum requirements to run the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift VR platform. It’s also far more expensive than a comparable Windows-based workstation.

Read the full review: Apple Mac Pro

6. HP Z240 SFF

Pint-sized power

CPU: Intel Core i7-6700 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 530 | RAM: 8GB | : | Communications: Gigabit Ethernet | Dimensions (W x D x H): 34 x 38 x 10cm

Surprisingly compact and powerfulA plethora of connectorsCard reader is optional

This is HP’s entry level workstation and one which is very keenly priced with a very compact form factor (about 11L). It’s hard to believe that the Z240 has an Intel Core i7-6700 CPU with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard disk drive. There’s even an optical drive. The company’s engineers have managed to deliver a system that weighs less than 6Kg and somehow has 20 (yes, 20) connectors and expansion slots (not all of them empty of course).

It even has four DIMM slots to take full advantage of dual-channel technology. As for the rest of the HP workstation family, this one comes with the Remote Graphics Software as well as a three-year onsite warranty bundled. The only major compromise is the fact that it will only take low profile graphics cards. HP also offers the option to buy the workstation for as little as £16 per month excluding VAT.

8. Lenovo ThinkStation P910

Workstation behemoth

CPU: Dual Intel Xeon E5-2603 v4 | Graphics: Nvidia Quadro K1200 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB | Communications: Gigabit Ethernet x 2 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 20 x 62 x 44.7 cm

Powerful yet reasonably pricedHighly modularFlex solution has little valueNo option for longer warranties

At the opposite end of Lenovo’s portfolio is the mighty P910, a workstation that offers one or two Xeon E5 CPUs; there’s no E3 here and definitely no consumer parts. It is expensive, industrial in its looks, yet functional in its design. And when we say expensive, we mean it. A fully specced model with 28 cores, half a terabyte of RAM, six half terabyte SSDs and two Nvidia Quadro M5000 cards in SLI will cost you around £15,000. You can pack even more in, but you will have to do it over the phone.

The P910 uses patented Tri-channel cooling to keep the main components from overheating, which requires fewer fans and should, therefore in theory, translate to less downtime. As for most other workstations, you won’t need a single tool to swap components and there are no cables or plugs to worry about.

10. Dell Precision Tower 7910

Still going strong

CPU: Intel Xeon E5-2623 v3 | Graphics: Nvidia NVS 310 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 500GB HDD | Communications: Gigabit Ethernet | Dimensions (W x D x H): 44 x 22 x 55cm

A much wider choice of componentsImpressive upgrade capabilitiesOlder processor and memory type provided by defaultNot worth the expense if you don’t plan to upgrade

The Precision range is one of the oldest workstation families in this roundup with its roots going back to the late 1990s. Since then a lot has changed with the sheer amount of compute power, storage and memory available. The Precision 7910 is the company’s most powerful and scalable workstation allowing dual Xeon CPUs, up to four graphics cards and even liquid cooling to keep things ticking over nicely.

Dell is one of the few to bundle its own endpoint security solutions that combine malware protection, authentication and encryption. It is also one of the few vendors to ship legacy technology (PCI, Serial, PS2) by default. Oh and don’t be fooled by the base price (around £2,000). Once you fully load it, expect the price to increase up to twentyfold.

Also consider:

  • Gladiator PC, a popular system integrator in the UK that are partner with one of the oldest online tech retailers in the UK, Aria.
  • Workstation Specialists, who as their trading name implies, focus entirely on workstations and are based in the UK as well.
  • Novatech is another veteran online tech retailer based in the UK. Workstation is a small part of what they do but they do anything from rackmounted models all the way to Tesla workstations.
  • InterPro Workstations Ltd, is by comparison, a much younger specialist system builder. Doesn’t mean that they are either less ambitious or less capable. And no, they are not linked with Intergraph’s venerable InterPro.
  • Another UK-based outfit, Computer Planet, is one of the few vendors we know of that delivers desktop workstations based on AMD’s antiquated FX platform. No Opterons here sadly.
  • Boxx is a well-known provider of custom workstation solutions and has been around for a fair few years. They produce what they believe are the finest custom workstations and claim to have the best technical support in the industry.
  • Despite its name, Serverfactory does workstations as well although they tend to sell Supermicro’s brand only – like a few of the names here.
  • Arbico made their name in the gaming market but they branched out to cater for a more eclectic professional audience with an interesting propensity to package AMD parts in their workstations.
  • Like many here, Broadberry has a finger in storage, servers and even transportables (laptops that look like they were teleported from the 1980’s), giving them access to some great workstation partnerships.
  • World Of Computers is an unknown quantity like a few vendors here. Located in Cambridge, it provides with an array of workstation products although they’re happy to sell consumer components as well.
  • Armari has long been associated with expensive and powerful computers. Based in Watford, they offer the ability to truly custom make your own workstation – from the concept to delivery.
  • Hertfordshire-based Boston Limited are better known for their servers (including some cool liquid cooled blade ones) but they also have a line of workstations worth discovering.
  • If there are any missing UK-based system integrators that specialise in workstation (fixed or mobile), drop me a line in the comments section.

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