Do high end gaming computers make good workstations?

Do high end gaming computers make good workstations? by Jae Alexis Lee

Answer by Jae Alexis Lee:

I get asked this a lot and the answer is yes… and no.

Any high end machine should be optimized for its task. Want a high end 3D VFX workstation? Let me talk to you about Quadros and Xeons. Want a high end 4K Video Editing machine? Let’s have a conversation about RAID implementations. High end Gaming computer? Let’s talk Multi-GPU.

The thing is, high end machines are all optimized for the kinds of tasks they need to be good at. A lot of times, a high end workstation can do several other things well, and there’s overlap between different things that different roles might want to optimize on.

Let’s take a look at a really common parts list for a moderately high end gaming computer. (We’ll say something like this: Core i7-6700K 4.0GHz Quad-Core, GeForce GTX 1080 8GB (2-Way SLI), Switch 810 (Black) ATX Full Tower)

Nothing spiffy there, just $2,600 worth of somewhat water cooled gaming PC goodness. Kind of run of the mill stuff, nothing too fancy. Now, let’s talk about taking this computer for a spin in some “workstation” roles.

If I hand this to developers… for the most part, they’re not going to complain too much. I might have the one guy who points out that his MacBook Pro boots faster (he wouldn’t be wrong) and I might have a few guys grouse about why it doesn’t have more RAM. One of the two GPUs in there will be plenty to run all the monitors my devs could possibly want and the other one is just going to sit there idle.

If I hand this to the video production guys, the i7–6700K will render some video projects reasonably quickly for them and the DaVinci Resolve guys will generally be okay with the GPUs, but at the same time, I’m going to have people talking about I/O bottlenecks and someone’s going to come bug me for external storage that’s reasonably fast and someone else is going to complain that some of the things he’s doing in After Effects take too long compared to the Dell Xeon workstation he used at his last job.

If I hand it to the 3D Modeling and Animation guys, some of them are going to love it because it’s reasonably quick and it fits all of their tools, and some of them are going to complain because viewport performance isn’t as good on a GTX 1080 as it would be on a Quadro and some of them are going to tell me that they really need Quadros for their Autodesk product of choice and lots of them are going to ask why they have to put up with a piddly little CPU with only 4 cores.

Don’t get me started on what’s going to happen if I hand this “workstation” to the folks down in accounting or legal. I think they’d just complain about how big and loud it is for no good reason.

As a gaming computer, it’s well optimized for gaming. It could be better optimized for other tasks and at the high end, that’s really what this is all about. I built my computer for 3D Rendering and while the single GPU in the system is more than capable of playing modern AAA titles on High / Ultra at 1080 to 1440p…. I don’t really play games and that’s why I spent 2.5 times as much on CPU as I did on GPU for an i7–5960X. Because it’s optimal for the task. For gamers… half the CPU cores would wind up sitting idle most of the time, the rig on my desk would be a waste of money for them.

So, yeah, high end gaming computers could be put to other uses, but they aren’t optimized for those tasks which means that you get less capability in some of those tasks from the gaming computer than you would if you’d spent the same amount of money building a computer for just that task.

Do high end gaming computers make good workstations?

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