While Mac Pros are the lure of many graphic designers, a well built PC can is often a more cost-effective workstation for those in need of a bit more processing grunt. If you work in anything visual – from graphic design to video editing – you know you need a lot more power than your typical office workstation. We have an excellent range of high-end machines specifically for this task (such as this excellent Xeon powered desktop from HP, ready for your own choice of graphics card), but if you’re looking to build something yourself, these are the areas where you should concentrate:
The Xeon is Intel’s top of the range processor, currently available in quad and 6-core configurations. While primarily aimed at the server market, the Xeon is also very well suited to (and marketed to) high-end desktops for designers and engineers. Its server background means it is a very reliable processor which can intelligently adapt to the task at hand. If the Xeon is a bit pricey for you, a slightly cheaper alternative is the 2nd generation Core i7, a very capable high-end, multi-core processor (again up to 6 cores). The i7 is generally a little less expensive than the Xeon but is by no means a budget processor. It tends to run at a slightly higher clock speed and can be more easily overclocked than the Xeon, but remember there are many more factors beyond the clock speed that define the performance of a processor. Choosing between the Xeon and Core i7 is no easy task – they both have their relative advantages and disadvantages, so we recommend giving your BT Business Direct account manager a call to decide which is best for you.
Once you’ve got the processor sorted, you need to complement it with a suitably high-end graphics card. The big names in graphics are still Nvidia and ATI (now owned by AMD). Both produce fantastic graphics cards at the high end. Nvidia’s Quadro, which is specifically aimed at the CAD and digital content creation industries, is Nvidia’s flagship card in this category. The example in the link features a whopping 1.5GB of embedded graphics RAM. ATI’s alternative is the ATI FirePro, which ups the ante with 2GB of RAM for a similar price. Both cards deliver serious amounts of graphics support. For more cheaper alternatives, you should check out Nvidia’s GeForce cards (such as the GTX 590) or the ATI Radeon series (such as the Radeon 6990 HD).
While the processor and the graphics card are arguably the two most important aspects, you’d be making a big mistake if you coupled them with a pitiful amount of RAM. For high end tasks you should really have 4GB of RAM at the bare minimum, in many cases twice as much as that. RAM is relatively cheap too, such as this 16GB set of DDR3 1600Mhz from Corsair.
If you’re going all out on speed, you don’t want to bottleneck your machine with a standard hard drive. To ensure your workstation isn’t held back, we recommend running all your programmes on an SSD. There are a few options here depending on your budget (and perhaps how insane you are). If you’ve got serious money to burn you can throw everything (OS, applications and storage) onto one high capacity SSD, such as this OCZ 1TB Z-Drive, but you really need a lot of cash for that. Alternatively you can go down the much more affordable hybrid route with this OCZ REVO which combines an SSD with a 1TB standard hard drive in one for less than a third of the price. Most of you however will probably opt for the third option – a lower capacity SSD for your OS and applications, paired with a standard hard drive for storage. This is the most cost effective and flexible option, and still gives you the speed boost you need.
While the individual requirements of your machine will no doubt be unique to your business, if you focus on these aspects of the build, you can be sure you’ll be building a killer machine for any graphics-intensive tasks. If you want a more in-depth discussion about your specific requirements, speak to your BT Business Direct account manager.