Best Workstations of 2019
Workstations are targeted toward professional users who need to run graphics-intensive apps. The key difference between a gaming laptop and a workstation is its GPU, as it's primarily optimized for tasks such as design and 3D rendering instead of sheer gaming performance. And workstations generally have stronger CPUs as well, like an Intel Core i9 or Intel Xeon processor, instead of the typical Core i7 you'd find in most gaming laptops.
To speed up your workflow in apps like Adobe Premiere or Blender, your workstation needs a beastly processor (such as Intel's Xeon series); a vibrant, color-accurate display; and a powerful GPU.
While the quest to procure the best workstation is no feeble task, we will help you pick the best system for your needs and budget.
How much does a workstation cost?
Workstations start around $1,000, but many models at that price lack the discrete graphics card you'll need to take on tasks like video editing or 3D modeling. And it'll most likely have a 1080p display at that price range, so you might want to spring for a 4K model if your work involves editing high-res photos and videos.
You can get some work done with a gaming GPU like an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti or greater, but they're not optimized specifically for media creation like Nvidia's Quadro GPU is. If you're looking to get some real work done, you'll need a workstation with a Quadro GPU and a colorful, high-resolution display, which will most definitely run you over $2,000.
You can save a couple hundred dollars if you decide to go with the Dell Precision 7730 ($1,199; $817 off) or the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 ($1,339; $330 off). Also, check out our recent review of the Lenovo ThinkPad P52, which we praised for its incredibly vivid display, and our recent coverage of Acer's new ConceptD laptop lineup, which targets creative pros. Lenovo also recently announced the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2, and while the company doesn't label it a workstation, it has similar features, boasting a discrete GPU, a souped-up processor and a 4K OLED panel.
Whether you need a huge, vibrant display or an affordable powerhouse, here are the best workstations you can buy right now.
HP ZBook Studio x360 G5
The HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 is the king of workstations. It's armed to the teeth in military-durable aluminum and it's equipped with an all-powerful Intel Xeon processor and Nvidia Quadro graphics. Between that, its gorgeous 4K display, 0.8 inches-slim physique and tactile keyboard, this is the machine you want. Another key feature is the ZBook Pen ($69), which offers 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity as well as tilt controls and three customizable buttons. On top of that, this HP gets a little over 9 hours of battery life. The perfect all-around creative speed demon.
Pros: Premium design; Gorgeous 4K display; Military-grade durability; Great keyboard and stylus; Excellent performance and graphics; Long battery life
Cons: Lid flexes; Lackluster webcam; Expensive
Key Specs — Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p or 4K | CPU: Intel Core i5-8300H to Intel Xeon E-2186M | GPU: Intel UHD 630 to Nvidia Quadro P1000 | RAM: 8GB to 32GB | Storage: 256GB SSD to dual 2TB SSDs | Battery Life: 9:06 | Weight: 4.9 pounds
Dell Precision 7730
With its raw power and pure sRGB, the Dell Precision 7730 is one of the most powerful workstations with the most colorful display you can find. Its Core i9-8950HK CPU destroyed the competition on Geekbench 4.1 with 24,800. And its 17.3-inch, 4K panel covers a ridiculous 211 percent of the sRGB spectrum. In addition, it offers up to a Nvidia Quadro P5200 GPU with an awesome 16GB of VRAM, leaving plenty of room to run the most graphically intensive programs. And although the chassis is kind of chunky, this laptop offers a comfortable typing experience.
Pros: Vibrant, sharp 4K display; Blistering-fast performance; Comfortable keyboard; Durable, premium design; Powerful graphics
Cons: Below-average battery life; Runs warm; Top configs are absurdly expensive
Key Specs — Display: 17.3-inch, 900p to 4K | CPU: Intel Core i5-8300H to Intel Xeon E-2186M | GPU: Intel HD GFX to Nvidia Quadro P5200 | RAM: 8GB to 128GB | Storage: 500GB HDD to 8TB SSD | Battery Life: 4:14 | Weight: 7.5 pounds
HP ZBook x2
For content creators on the move, it's hard to beat the HP ZBook x2, which is a powerful detachable 2-in-1 with a slick Bluetooth keyboard. A major selling point is the six shortcut buttons on either side of the display, which can be programmed for Photoshop to change color hues or even increase the size of your brush, giving artists a more streamlined experience. It also comes with a comfortable stylus that feels identical to a WACOM pen, and it offers 4,096 degrees of pressure sensitivity in both the tip and eraser. The HP ZBook x2 makes it easy to visualize your creations with its 14-inch, 4K panel that envelops you in vivid colors — 188 percent of the sRGB, to be exact. While its Quadro M620 GPU isn't the strongest around, the ZBook x2 offers plenty of unique features to stand out on its own.
Pros: Great stylus; Great shortcut software; Excellent keyboard
Cons: Graphics performance could be stronger; Middling battery life; Very expensive
Key Specs — Display: 14-inch, 4K | CPU: Intel Core i5-8250U to Intel Core i7-8650U | GPU: Intel HD 620 to Nvidia Quadro M620 | RAM: 8GB to 32GB | Storage: 128GB SSD to 512 SSD | Battery Life: 4:09 | Weight: 4.9 pounds
Allow me to introduce you to the king of gaming, and the most powerful machine on this list: The Alienware Area 51-m. Armed with an overclockable 9th Gen Core i9 desktop processor, the Area 51-m blasted through Geekbench 4.1 with a score of 32,591, and its RTX 2080 GPU tore through Rise of the Tomb Raider at 92 frames per second on the highest settings. All of that power is paired with a gorgeous design, crazy fast SSDs and the ability to upgrade the Area 51-m’s components.
Pros: Stunning space station aesthetic; Excellent graphics and overall performance; Lightning fast SSDs; All major components upgradable
Cons: Exorbitantly expensive
Key Specs — Display: 17.3-inch, 1080p | CPU: Intel Core i7-8700 to Intel Core i9-9900K | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 to RTX 2080 | RAM: 8GB to 64GB | Storage: 1TB SSHD to two 2TB SSD and 1TB SSHD | Battery Life: 2:36 | Weight: 8.5 pounds
Lenovo ThinkPad P1
A good workstation can cost as much as a good used car, but Lenovo has come to the rescue with the ThinkPad P1, which starts at just $1,299. The best part is that if you get the base model you’ll also be getting discrete graphics, unlike many other workstations that offer a pointless integrated version. For $1,299, you get a Core i5-8400H CPU, an Nvidia Quadro P1000 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, which is amazing for that price. Along with plenty of power for an affordable price, you'll enjoy Lenovo's supremely comfortable keyboard and a colorful display.
Pros: Outstanding performance; Slim, lightweight chassis; Vivid Dolby Vision 4K display; World-class keyboard
Cons: Poor battery life; Runs warm; Display could be brighter
Key Specs — Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p or 4K | CPU: Intel Core i5-8400H to Intel Xeon E-2176M | GPU: Nvidia Quadro P1000 to Quadro P2000 | RAM: 8GB to 32GB | Storage: 256GB SSD to 2TB SSD | Battery Life: 4:16 | Weight: 4 pounds
Credit: Laptop Mag