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Best workstations of 2020

MSI WS65 9TM
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Need. More. Power! Whether you need to crunch a horde of data or video-edit large files in 4K, you're going to need the best laptop, aka a workstation.

Workstations are targeted toward professional users who need to run graphics-intensive apps. The key difference between some of the best gaming laptops around 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. You'll find similar qualities in the best video editing laptops, such as the Dell XPS 15.

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. Whether you need a huge, vibrant display or an affordable powerhouse, here are the best workstations you can buy right now.

Here are the best workstations

  1. MSI WS65 9TM
  2. HP ZBook Studio x360 G5
  3. Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro W700G3T
  4. Dell Precision 7730
  5. HP ZBook x2
  6. Alienware Area-51m
  7. Lenovo ThinkPad P1
  8. Dell Precision 5540

MSI WS65 9TM

The MSI WS65 9TM is easily the best workstation around due to its strong performance and gorgeous display packed into a lightweight design. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

1. MSI WS65 9TM

The best workstation you can buy

CPU: Intel Core i7/Core i9 | GPU: Nvidia Quadro T2000/RTX 5000 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB/32GB | Storage: 512GB/1TB SSD | Display: 15.6-inch (1080p/4K) | Size: 14.1 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 4.3 pounds

Slim, lightweight design
Gorgeous 4K display
Strong performance and graphics
Military-durable and secure
Solid battery life
Expensive

The new generation of workstations is here. The MSI WS65 9TM is blasting through fools with an Intel Core i7-9750H processor and a beastly Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 GPU with 16GB of VRAM. Combo that with a superslim and lightweight design, a ridiculously vivid 4K display and a decent battery life. Oh, and did we mention that this 0.7-inch thin workstation is also mil-spec tested? Yeah, the MSI WS65 9TM is a straight up beast.

See our full MSI WS65 9TM review.

HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 Best workstations

Thanks to its sleek 2-in-1 design and intense performance, the HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 is one of the best workstations you can buy.

2. HP ZBook Studio x360 G5

The best 2-in-1 workstation

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 | Weight: 4.9 pounds

Premium design
Gorgeous 4K display
Military-grade durability
Great keyboard and stylus
Excellent performance and graphics
Long battery life
Lid flexes
Lackluster webcam
Expensive

The HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 is the king of 2-in-1 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.

See our full HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 review.

Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro W700G3T best workstation

Thanks to the Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro W700G3T's 17-inch, 16:10 display, it's super easy to multitask on this machine, making it one of the best workstations available. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

3. Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro W700G3T

The best 17-inch workstation

Display: 17-inch, 1920 x 1200 | CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H to Intel Xeon E-2276M | GPU: Nvidia Quadro RTX 3000 | RAM: 16GB to 32GB | Storage: 1TB to 2TB SSD | Battery Life: 6 | Weight: 5.4 pounds

Stunning design
Solid performance and graphics
Vivid 16:10 display
Comfortable keyboard
No 4K option
Expensive

What drew me in about the Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro W700G3T, apart from its exhaustively long name, is its stunning Turquoise Gray design and its vivid 16:10 display. Its 17-inch screen nailed 162% of the sRGB color gamut and emitted 292 nits of brightness. The StudioBook Pro also killed it on the Geekbench 4.1 overall performance test, scoring 21,359 with its beefy Intel Xeon E-2276M processor and 32GB of RAM. Top that off with a comfortable keyboard, and the StudioBook Pro makes it as one of the best workstations around.

See our full Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro W700G3T review.

Dell Precision 7730 Best workstations

Packed with one of the most colorful displays we've seen, the Dell Precision 7730 tears it up among the best workstations around.

4. Dell Precision 7730

The workstation with the best display

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 | Weight: 7.5 pounds

Vibrant, sharp 4K display
Blistering-fast performance
Comfortable keyboard
Durable, premium design
Powerful graphics
Below-average battery life
Runs warm
Top configs are absurdly expensive

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.

See our full Dell Precision 7730 review.

HP ZBook x2 Best workstations

If you're an artist, the best workstation you can buy is the HP ZBook x2 thanks to its great stylus and awesome shortcut software.

5. HP ZBook x2

The best detachable

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 | Weight: 4.9 pounds

Great stylus
Great shortcut software
Excellent keyboard
Graphics performance could be stronger
Middling battery life
Very expensive

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.

See our full HP ZBook x2 review.

Alienware Area-51m Best workstations

If you need a workstation to double as a gaming laptop, the Alienware Area-51m is an absolute beast in every regard, especially in performance, which puts it in the best workstations ranking. 

6. Alienware Area-51m

The best gaming laptop

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 | Weight: 8.5 pounds

Stunning space station aesthetic
Excellent graphics and overall performance
Lightning fast SSDs
All major components upgradable
Exorbitantly expensive

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.

See our full Alienware Area-51m review.

Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Best workstations

Do you need portability? The best workstation for you is the Lenovo ThinkPad P1, as it boasts a superlight design and all of the power of a normal workstation.

7. Lenovo ThinkPad P1

The lightest workstation

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 | Weight: 4 pounds

Outstanding performance
Slim, lightweight chassis
Vivid Dolby Vision 4K display
World-class keyboard
Poor battery life
Runs warm
Display could be brighter

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.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad P1 review.

Dell Precision 5540 Best workstations

Do you like everything about the Dell XPS 15 but need the horse power to match it? Look no further than the Dell Precision 5540, which boasts enough power in its slim design to become one of the best workstations. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

8. Dell Precision 5540

The best XPS 15 alternative

Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p or 4K | CPU: Intel Core i5-9400H to Intel Xeon E-2276M | GPU: Nvidia Quadro T1000 to Quadro T2000 | RAM: 16GB to 64GB | Storage: 256GB SSD to 2TB SSD | Battery Life: 6 | Weight: 4.4 pounds

Strong performance and graphics
Vivid 4K OLED display
Slim, compact profile
Battery life could be better
Expensive

The Dell Precision 5540 has the full spirit of a workstation in the chassis of the Dell XPS 15. Packed under its thin aluminum hood is an Intel Core i9-9980HK processor, an Nvidia Quadro T2000 GPU and 32GB of RAM. Its 15.6-inch, 4K OLED panel is nails  200% of the sRGB color gamut and emits 384 nits of brightness, so it's awesome for any content you're working with. The chassis is also MIL-SPEC tested, so you can put this machine through the ringer and it'll come out unscathed (mostly).

See our full Dell Precision 5540 review.

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 one of the top cheap gaming laptops, which has a 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. While it's not necessarily a workstation, the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo can handle rigorous tasks with multiple screens all for $2,999.