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.
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. If you are keen on a gaming laptop that can double as a workstation, then the Acer Predator Helios 700 is a safe bet.
Check out our MSI WS65 9TM review to see how it wowed us with its lightweight design and strong performance. Also, we've already got our hands on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which finally ditches the Butterfly-switch keyboard for more acceptable scissor switches.
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.
What you need to know about Black Friday 2019
Black Friday is coming and it's coming fast. When the holiday season starts, there will be no better time to pick up a workstation. We're already spotting some of the best Black Friday deals and best Cyber Monday deals of the season, and pretty soon we're likely to see some deals on our top workstations like the HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 and Dell Precision 7730. Black Friday deals are set to kick off on Thanksgiving (Nov. 28) and continue all the way to Cyber Monday (Dec. 2).
Whether you need a huge, vibrant display or an affordable powerhouse, here are the best workstations you can buy right now.
The best overall workstation you can buy
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
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.
See our full HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 review.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.