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What is the Difference Between a Workstation and a Gaming PC?

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If you have ever checked online listings for computers for sale, you might have come across workstation computers. A gaming computer is pretty easy to figure out, but what is a workstation and what makes it one? The world of PC hardware has many different terms and they can be pretty confusing, especially when there are minor differences between product types. We will be exploring the difference between workstations and gaming PCs below.

Definitions

You might think that defining what a workstation and gaming computer is would be easy. Things are not so easy, especially now that we have powerful computers that can be used for anything. 

To keep things simple, workstations are computers equipped with hardware that allows them to perform well for certain professional tasks. For example, a workstation might come with a Quadro graphics card and Xeon CPU, both of which are great for applications like CAD and 3D modelling.

A gaming computer is equipped with hardware that makes it great for gaming. It might also have design aesthetics that make it more appealing to gamers. Technically, any computer that can play games is a gaming computer, but the strict definition requires it to have certain hardware.

You can even buy a gaming workstation from companies like Lenovo and the computer will be great for both professional workloads and gaming.

Workstation and Gaming Hardware

Consumer and gaming hardware can sometimes outperform workstation hardware. This is up to a certain price point and for specific use cases like gaming. However, this hardware cannot compare to workstation hardware in specific applications.

Additionally, workstation hardware will come with driver-level optimisations and certifications that give them a massive advantage in professional applications.

Workstations also support ECC memory. This error-correcting RAM is crucial because you do not want any mistakes when running things like massive simulations or computations. You also get more expansion options and more PCIe lanes to handle all the hardware that goes into these workstations.

Working with Independent Software Vendors

Gaming PCs are not expected to be good at running professional software like Autodesk, so they are not optimised for it. However, hardware manufacturers will sometimes work with Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to ensure compatibility and better performance.

If you would like hardware help from an ISV, you need to ensure your hardware is supported by their software.

Operating Systems

Companies like Microsoft develop specialised operating systems for workstations. These operating systems come with optimizations and features that you would not find in gaming hardware. 

Sometimes ISVs will lock their software so that it only works with these workstation operating systems. Many will also only allow their software to run when you run certain hardware such as Radeon Pro or Nvidia Quadro cards.

A company that uses workstations requires that its operating system and all software they use to be IT-friendly, usable by multiple people at the same time, have non-disruptive updates and meet the highest security standards.

Because of how powerful computer hardware has become, a high-end computer can be a gaming or workstation computer. You just have to ensure the operating system and software you would like to use is compatible with that hardware. For specialized software, you will need to buy a computer with certified hardware, and that is typically a workstation.

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