For Part 1, please click here.
This post, Part #2 of this 101 Guide focuses on the essential part of the hardware: The Workstation.
The previous post might be interesting for you if you are seeking out advice on tablets and pen displays as input devices.
The workstation, regardless which brand you chose, should be a reliable and scalable workhorse, in the following points, I´ll guide you through the main differences and what you should keep in mind when buying or better said; investing in one.
#1: Mac vs. PC:
The endless discussion seems to continue, but eventually, with the new Mac Pro, the discussion finally comes to an end. With its recent development, the Mac gets back to creative people and is more interesting than ever. With the late 2015 models, 10Bit support, 5k resolution and silent PCIE-SSD´s, the iMac is where it should have been all the time. The thing that Apple is better at than most PC manufacturer is the hardware and accompanied software support for its own built in features.
Conclusion: There is no real difference anymore, it has become a matter of taste.
#2: Ultrabook or Macbook?
That is the first reason, why Apple isn´t quite necessary anymore, PC-Manufacturer has established a notebook standard and from several brands, there are “Ultrabooks” available, what´s up with that?
The Ultrabooks often look similar to Macbook Pro´s from Apple and they meet certain criteria to get the label Ultrabook such as; portability, battery life, power consumption, power, and speed.
Actually always a bit lower priced than any Macbook you can lose a big chunk of money on a high-end Ultrabook as well.
For working with digital painting or digital illustration I´d give some thoughts to the following before you invest in such a portable computer for your work:
- Are you often on the move? If yes, such a “Notebook” can be a good investment
- Notebooks don´t have much space for capable graphics cards
- Notebooks get hot when used for a long time -hence they reduce GHz bandwidth to reduce heat
- Macbooks and Ultrabooks have reduced slots for Ram, making upgrades expensive and limited(Macbook configurations are especially limited in recent models, which makes an upgrade later impossible)
- Make it big: Get a big tower that allows for many internal parts, HDD´s GPU´s, etc
- Get a powerful power supply, don´t trust the manufacturer of system parts, calculate your power demand and order the correct parts
- If you are only working with it, consider getting an Nvidia Quadro card the mid-range cards are not that expensive anymore , but they are short on power consumption compared to any GeForce card!
- For mainboards, go for Asus or Gigabyte
- Processors, I just use Intel: get an i7 if you want constant high-power and speed or a XEON if high-speed and multitasking is what you need.
- Processor: Get an I5 if you are eager to save on Idle time and have power when you need it.
- Use SSD for system and fast access (scratch disk) and get bigger SSD´s they are faster.
- Use HDD´s for storage
- Get a small 2.5″ HDD´s 1TB drive as external drive for backup, they get power through USB
- Go for triple channel RAM or Quad channel use double channel only if you need to save money
The Mac Pro is also just relevant if you want to edit movies or do a lot 3D rendering. A configuration around 8-12 cores gives you the best bang for the money starting at $8000. The only advantage the Mac Pro has over any other workstation is that it stays silent and uses not much room for itself, that´s it.
- Get an older 2012 Mac Pro model right now or when the new one comes out, it get´s cheaper then.
- The old Mac Pro is silent, even the smaller machines have a Xeon Processor and Quad-Core.
- They have enough room to add-in RAM bars and HDD´s and several Graphics cards.
Thanks, this advice is good for every novice out there and will only bring you that far. A look inside a workstation should reveal some “AHA” moment:
9 Slots for DIMM-Socket RAM Memory alone and a well thought through- cooling system, combined with hardware like SSD or Kepler GPU´s will pay off the costs faster than you can watch. Power consumption is getting lower while SSD-drives get faster while consuming less power too. The durability and system stability are key factors that can ideally justify the investment into such a beast. Following some general info and overview about the different brands. Even if the Mac Pro can be count as a workstation also, they are so special in every regard that I can´t put it in the list of workstations, especially since the release of the 2013 model, which is less upgradeable than previous models. Ever since the Macintosh is powered by Intel processors, there´s no reason to go to Apple for a workstation anymore.
There is a paper from Intel about the difference between Desktop-PC and Workstation (PDF) that may additionally help you to decide for one or the other.
While DELL seems as good as the HP, problem might be that it can be more difficult to get a configuration without anything except processor, mainboard, and case.
BOXX is around quite a while and prices range between the 2k and 3,5k mark like the other brands for a decent, not too shabby Photoshop workstation. More info here. Configuration and research is key here.
As with all computer related investments, research is due for any of this recommendation. Time flies and a good recommendation now is worthless in 6 months from now and so on.
However, some brands like ADK keep you up-to-date with a configuration as much as most of the manufacturer configuration web-tools too.
So it is up to the user to decide which kind of graphics card you need for your workload, which Processor, how much RAM and which Harddrive. What might be of interest is that Adobe CS6/CC as also blender makes use of CUDA, a core technology developed by NVidia, programs that make use of this extra processors can benefit from a card that uses it.
Another big advantage of workstations is warranty. Usually, you have warranty claim from one dealer/manufacturer, not many opposed to the self-built Desktop PC´s. And in this regard, the higher cost include a free service repair or interchange service -next day, which can come in handy if you have to get work done.