Every serious graphic designer will have their own graphics workstation in order to carry out their work. When it comes to creating the most impressive graphics or other media, a workstation is essential.
This is why it can be difficult to choose the right workstation for you. There are a number of factors in play. Nevertheless, it is crucial to take the time to weigh up these factors and ask yourself the right questions. So let’s dive deeper into the graphics workstation and discover the most important things to consider when buying a new one. Whether you are just starting out in graphic design or an experienced pro, this list will help you!
What is a Workstation?
A workstation is essentially a more advanced desktop computer. What sets it apart is that it’s designed for a specific purpose; this can be technical, scientific or, in this case, graphic design.
Used only by one user at a time, a workstation includes a faster processor than that of an ordinary desktop PC, along with the features required to perform and run to a high standard, essential if you run a web design service and need a device that can keep up with your workload.
Things to Consider
Graphics Processing Unit
The primary use for a graphics processing unit (GPU) is to render images. Previously performed by the central processing unit (CPU), the GPU was introduced to take the strain off the CPU to enhance processing power. With two processors running at the same time (a parallel structure), the GPU is able to render images more efficiently, performing multiple calculations at the same time.
While these rendered images are also used to display video game graphics, a GPU is great in bringing graphics to your screen. While a CPU can handle basic video editing, a GPU is a must-have if you’re looking to handle multiple high-resolution graphics or videos – especially in 4k.
A CPU can be a part of the computer’s motherboard or processor; it can also be a part of a graphics card that serves to perform more powerful tasks. It’s worth seeing if the workstation already has a graphics card installed, and whether the graphics card is powerful enough to handle the tasks you’re looking to perform.
Storage: HDD vs SSD
When deciding which is the right storage for you, you’ve got the choice of a hard drive disk (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD). Both of these store data very differently.
HDDs have been around longer than SSDs. They are metal disks with a magnetic coating – they are designed to spin like a record player at high speed and reads and writes data on the disk. HDDs are practical for storing a lot of photos and videos with some having a capacity of up to 10 terabytes (TB).
SSDs have no moving parts – hence the name, solid state. Because of this, they can be very small and avoid the host of complications which come with HDDs. Speed is another advantage for SSDs due to their electrical circuitry. This comes with the benefits of faster loading times and the ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time. At this stage SSDs only come with up to 4TB of storage and are more expensive than HDDs, although this may change over time with technology advancements.
Memory & RAM
As a graphic designer, with the use of your workstation, you will be creating a number of large and high-spec files. When it comes to storing these files, more storage will be required as you will be working with live, high-resolution graphic files.
Random access memory, or RAM, temporarily holds information that your computer needs to access. RAM ensures that your computer can perform everyday tasks, such as loading applications or internet browsing. When comparing the different workstations that are available and working out which workstation is best suited to your needs. It is recommended that graphic designers need a minimum of 8GB of RAM – but it’s always great to have more.
Like with graphics cards, it’s easy to add more RAM to a workstation. So if you see a workstation you like but it doesn’t have the RAM capacity you require, it is possible to add more.
Your monitor is just as important as the components that make up your new workstation, and it can hinder or assist your workflow. When shopping around for a new computer monitor, it is recommended that you invest, purchasing one that offers a high resolution. With demand for high-resolution graphics and media, one that supports 4k would be ideal.
If you are taking your first steps as a graphic designer and about to take the plunge into a new and exciting role, it would be worth investing in either a vertical alignment (VA) or in-plane switching (IPS) monitor. With superior colour accuracy, IPS screens can cover up to 99% of the RGB colour spectrum, making them the perfect choice for enjoying colour visuals to the fullest.
Like a lot of purchasing decisions you make, a leading factor will be price. Workstations can range from £2,000 to over £15,000.
Beginners may want to go for a cheaper option in order to learn the ropes while more advanced graphic designers may be willing to splash the extra cash. There are alternatives, though – some experienced designers often build their own workstations, which can work out much cheaper.
For those taking their first steps in the graphic design industry and wanting to improve and perfect their graphics to the highest quality, a graphic workstation is a recommended choice.
Unsure what to look for or consider when purchasing your new graphic workstation? By following our guide, you too can make a fully formed and comprehensive decision and purchase the right workstation for your needs.
A powerful and advanced machine, a graphic workstation can improve and benefit the quality of your work, while also promising to be an investment that can promise superior results for years to come.
Oliver Griffiths has a passion for film, video games and technology. He can be found at Tillison Consulting running a number of clients’ digital marketing campaigns across all sectors and platforms.