As stated plainly on the first page of this guide, it's critically important to consider whether to build a workstation yourself, or to buy a pre-built from a company that can provide support. If you're capable (and willing) to support the workstation yourself, or if your system isn't mission critical (like a prosumer-grade photo or video editing system that can be offline for a few days without impacting your wallet), then a DIY workstation can be a good value and enjoyable experience.

Before putting together a workstation, be sure to be especially cognizant of your storage and graphics cards needs, as these will be wildly variable between different workloads. Regardless of whether you need low or high powered components, pay attention to prices over the holidays. Component costs are especially dynamic this time of year, and you can save a lot of money by doing your research and watching for sales.

As always, AnandTech's General Hardware forum is a great place to share information with fellow PC enthusiasts, and the Hot Deals forum is full of useful tips for scoring cheap parts. Those interested in GPGPU computing can check out our Video Cards & Graphics forum for information on how various models perform in different scenarios. We also welcome you to share your workstation specifications and what you use your workstation(s) for in the comments section.

Intel High-End Workstation
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  • meyerkev248 - Monday, December 10, 2012 - link

    If you're going to stick anything bigger than that GeForce 210 into the 650D, I'd strongly recommend getting the mesh side panel for it. and mounting some extra fans. The default fan setup is fairly terrible, and I was basically losing a part every month before I got the mesh panel. Great case otherwise though.

    /I also was stupid enough to stick 2 6970's into a case with a bad fan setup, and then wonder why every single card I stuck between the graphics cards was dying in a week. I lost a sound card, a tv tuner, a wireless card, my motherboard, and one of the graphics cards inside 3 months. 4 120mm fans later, I' haven't lost a thing since last Christmas.
  • UnderscoreHero - Friday, September 20, 2013 - link

    I've got 2 windforce 670's in SLI, I have had no cooling issues at all. What is your fan configuration like? I have the stock 200mm fan in the front for intake, and the other on top for exhaust. Rear 120mm, and a push/pull Hyper 121 Evo with Corsair SP120's. Those SP's push the air out the back pretty quickly. I also don't have drives in the bottom cage, only the top. Is your fan filter all dusty? Room temp too hot?
  • UnderscoreHero - Friday, September 20, 2013 - link

    * Hyper 212 Evo
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, December 10, 2012 - link

    AMD's workstation cards can be a little hinky on the driver side, but if you're just working with Maya they can be a killer bargain.

    If you're editing video masters, the i7-3930K is going to be a good choice, HOWEVER...if you're editing video that's going to go up on YouTube, you may actually be better served by an i7-3770K and QuickSync. There's a clear performance hit in initial render time when you do the master, but I know that for my burlesque performance videography, QuickSync has been absolutely invaluable.

    Finally, either way, video editors are going to want at least a pair of mechanical drives (or a very large SSD) in some form of striped RAID to use as a scratch drive.
  • Next9 - Monday, December 10, 2012 - link

    i7-3770K is absolutely inappropriate for Workstation, since it lack Vt-d support. In addition what is the point of buying i7, if the real Xeon E3 v2 costs the same?
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, December 10, 2012 - link

    If you're editing video. A lot of the prosumers overclock their workstations because video editing is so CPU intensive (check the Adobe Premiere Pro forums). Vt-d isn't a major loss for these users.
  • Next9 - Monday, December 10, 2012 - link

    only kids "overclock"....

    Workstation means rockstable, 24/365 reliable machine. Where is ECC RAM with i7-3770K? Proffesionals edit video on XEON workstations running RedHat using Autodesk Smoke.

    overclocked i7-K with Adobe is hobbyist market :-)
  • GrizzledYoungMan - Monday, December 10, 2012 - link

    Wrong. Premiere Pro and FCP (less so, since the FCP X debacle) make up the majority of the professional video editing market. Autodesk software is only used in very high end applications.

    I do technology consulting for lots of low and middle tier video editing houses in NYC, the sorts of guys who pump out the content that fills up cable and broadcast TV and professionally produced internet video. They all use Premiere Pro and FCP.

    Even advertising is quickly adopting lower cost commodity editing systems like the one described here. Which leaves only high end cinema and very high end television for Autodesk - a small fraction of the market.

    As far as "only kids overclock," that's also wrong. Yes, professionals place a much higher emphasis on stability, especially in large corporate environments where procurement procedures take forever and gear has to last just as long.

    But for a lot of high performance SMB applications, I see overclocking being done all the time. Lots of independent and smaller media/design operations overclock to gain a performance advantage or save costs, and I've even seen a few software vendors buy overclocked servers (which are pretty easy to find from grey box resellers) for applications that are very sensitive to single threaded performance.
  • AstroGuardian - Monday, December 10, 2012 - link

    Totally agreed.
  • twtech - Monday, December 10, 2012 - link

    My official work machine is a dual processor Xeon workstation. It's very stable. I think I've only gotten a BSOD once in 3.5 years, and that's was the driver for a failing consumer-class GPU.

    However, I also do some work from home, and in that case I'll do work on my 3930K to which I applied a 800MHz OC to 4GHz. It's also very stable with a closed-loop watercooler, having gone a year so far running 24x7.

    Is the Xeon workstation more stable than my home machine? Objectively, probably yes. On the other hand, is my hand-built home workstation stable enough to depend on? I'd say also yes.

    Of bigger concern really is that I should get a beefy UPS. While my overclocked processor has never failed me, the power has gone out a couple times while I was using the machine.

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