Workstation Laptop vs Gaming Laptop – Which One Should You Get?

Workstation laptops are specifically designed to carry out heavy tasks like running graphics intensive software, maintaining big data servers, etc. Gaming laptops, on the other hand, are specifically designed to run games that may or may not be AAA quality games.

Even though it is simple to distinguish their function, a big problem is that workstation laptops can run AAA games while gaming laptops can run some heavy demanding software. Now, how do you choose which one is ideal for you?

Workstation laptops are generally more expensive than gaming laptops because they have better hardware. The price tag can be a put-off but Workstation laptops can actually be a better choice for you than a gaming laptop because of a number of reasons.

In this article, I’ll discuss which is the right pick for you between a Workstation laptop and Gaming laptop.

What is a Workstation Laptop or Mobile Workstation?

Workstation laptops are used for most complex heavy-duty tasks that require a lot of computing power like 3D modeling, Designing, Animation, Cloud Computing, Maintaining Huge Servers, AI Design, etc.

The Workstation laptops are made up of the best CPUs and GPUs which are able to perform heavy demanding tasks without any Thermal Throttling of CPU and GPU. In short, the workstation laptops have the best hardware possible on a laptop.

Workstation Computers are actually Desktops because they are more powerful than laptops. Workstation laptops, on the other hand, are Mobile Workstations or Portable Workstations.

Workstation computers (desktops and laptops) are similar in most aspects to normal mainstream computers but the difference lies in the hardware (CPU and GPU) and the purpose they are used for.

Workstation laptops are so powerful that these can be compared to normal mainstream Desktops. Some mobile workstations are even powerful than some mainstream desktops in terms of computing power.

msi workstation laptop
MSI Workstation Laptop

Mobile Workstations are generally more powerful than mainstream laptops and even gaming laptops. These workstation laptops have a very powerful processor, a powerful Graphics Card, a high amount of RAM, and huge storage space.

Because of these reasons, Workstation laptops are more expensive than mainstream and gaming laptops.

Most manufacturers develop special Workstation laptops which are high end. A few good examples are Dell Precision 5530, MSI WS 75, Apple Macbook Pro (2019 model).

Difference Between Workstation Laptops and Gaming Laptops

There are only two major differences between a Workstation Laptop and a gaming laptop and these are the Central Processing Unit(CPU) or Processor and the Graphics Processing Unit(GPU) or Graphics Card. There is also a minor difference in the Display of both laptops.

Workstation laptops use a different model of CPU and GPU which are not found in other gaming or mainstream laptops. I will provide an in-depth explanation about the CPU and GPU used for Workstation laptops below.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The best Workstation laptops and desktops don’t use Intel Core or normal AMD Ryzen Processors. Instead, they use Intel Xeon Processors and AMD Ryzen Threadripper processors.

The Intel Xeon and AMD Ryzen Threadripper processors have more number of Cores, very high clock speeds, fast rendering speeds, and a special feature called ECC Memory which is not found in other mainstream or gaming laptops.

The Error Correcting Code(ECC) Memory is a form of computer memory or storage that is used to detect and correct any form of internal data corruption. This ECC memory prevents leakage of data and protects the servers from crashes during heavy load. This helps servers run 24/7 with almost no Downtime.

Some workstation laptops don’t use the Intel Xeon or AMD Ryzen Threadripper processors. Instead, they use the Intel Core or AMD Ryzen Processors which are found in high-end gaming laptops.

But, these are not the normal Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processors. Instead, they use the newest generation Intel Core i7 or i9 processors and AMD Ryzen 9 or AMD Ryzen 7 Mobile processors. These processors are more powerful and have higher clock speeds than normal processors.

Since some workstation laptops use the normal Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processors, it’s tough to identify a gaming or workstation laptop by just looking at the processor. That is why it is important to look into the Graphics Card or GPU they are using.

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)

The best way to differentiate between a Workstation and a Gaming laptop is by looking at the Graphics Card they are using.

Mobile Workstations use powerful and professional Graphics cards like NVIDIA Quadro, AMD Radeon Pro or AMD FirePro.

These GPUs can handle very demanding tasks and also run AAA games. These GPUs are mainly used for professional work like 3D Modeling, Rendering, Engineering Design software like AutoCAD, CAD, STAAD Pro, Animation, Cloud Computing, AI Design, 4K Video Editing, Run Servers, 3D Game Design, etc.

These Graphics cards have high clock speeds with more VRAM and are able to render a lot of images and graphics in seconds. These GPUs can process a lot of tasks at one time and have high graphics processing power.

They are designed in such a way to handle the most demanding professional work. You don’t want your laptop to hang or lag during work and these GPUs make sure your mobile workstation doesn’t have any such problems.

Gaming laptops use GPUs that are made specifically for gaming and not for running professional software.

Gaming laptops use the normal NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon Graphics Cards.

These GPUs are designed with CUDA cores, Stream Processors, and clock speeds in such a way that they can handle AAA games. Some gaming laptops with NVIDIA GPUs also use Max-Q NVIDIA cards to prevent GPU Throttling.

These GPUs can also run 3D Modeling, Video Editing, and other Professional software but you may get frequent lags or your laptop may slow down considerably while running them.

Display

Gaming laptops have Displays with very high Screen Refresh rates (120 Hz and above) whereas most Workstation laptops have the normal Screen Refresh rate of 60 Hz.

Displays with a high screen refresh rate are used in gaming laptops to prevent Screen Tearing, Stuttering, Motion Blur, and Screen Ghosting.

Some low-end or mid-end gaming laptops have a normal screen refresh rate of 60 Hz so it is difficult to differentiate between the two kinds of laptops.

Also, some gaming laptops use Matte Displays while Workstation laptops have Glossy Displays.

You also cannot differentiate between a Workstation laptop or gaming laptop by identifying whether it is a Matte or a Glossy Display because some gaming laptops also use Glossy displays.

If you want to identify whether a laptop is Workstation or Gaming then first look at the Graphics Card and then look at the Processor.

What Are Workstation Laptops Used For?

Workstation laptops are used for all kinds of professional work.

These laptops are perfect form some professions that require you to run graphically demanding software like Engineering Design, 3D Modeling and Rendering, 3D Animation and VFX Design, 4K Video Editing, Cloud Computing, AI Design, Game Design, etc.

Gaming laptops can also run these softwares but they won’t perform at the same level. The drivers used in the GPUs of gaming laptops aren’t optimized for running these applications hence you’ll notice lags, instabilities, and your laptop may slow down.

Professional software like Autodesk AutoCAD recommends Graphics drivers that are Mobile Workstation graphics. If you check out the list of certified graphic drivers for AutoCAD then you’ll find that all the recommended GPUs are either NVIDIA Quadro, AMD Radeon Pro, or AMD FirePro. You won’t find a single GPU used in gaming laptops.

3ds max software
Autodesk 3DS Max software

Other similar software like Solidworks, 3DS Max, etc. also recommend Mobile Workstation graphics.

These softwares also recommend either Intel Xeon or AMD Ryzen Threadripper CPUs because of their high computing power and Error Correcting Code(ECC) Memory.

When you’re using professional software like AutoCAD or 3DS Max, you’re dealing with a lot of complex graphical designs, geometrical shapes, 3D designs that require a lot of computing and graphics processing power.

You need a very powerful CPU to process these calculations and a very powerful GPU to render these complex images. The CPUs and GPUs used in Gaming laptops are not powerful enough to process and render such complex data and that is why you shouldn’t run these softwares in gaming laptops.

Workstation laptops are specifically designed to process such complex data and render such complex images. They can handle such tasks with high accuracy.

Also, Workstation laptops are used to maintain Servers because the ECC Memory protects the servers from internal data corruption and prevents any server crashes during heavy load. This means your servers will have 99.9% Uptime and run 24/7.

Finally, Workstation laptops are used mostly for Engineering Design like Solidworks CAD, AutoCAD, etc. 3D Design like Autodesk 3DS Max. Running Animation and Modelling software like Autodesk Maya, Cloud Computing, AI Design, Maintaining huge Servers, Multimedia Creation, 4K Video Editing, Game Design software like Unity 3D, Unreal Engine, and Scientific Computing.

Can Workstation Laptops Be Used For Gaming?

Yes, Workstation laptops can be used for gaming but you need to pick a powerful enough GPU to run AAA games at Maximum graphics settings.

Graphics cards used in Workstation laptops are generally more powerful than the ones used in gaming laptops. They have high clock speeds with a high amount of VRAM.

A workstation GPU like NVIDIA Quadro P5000 performs similarly to a gaming laptop GPU like NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070. Similarly, a workstation GPU like NVIDIA Quadro RTX performs similarly to the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q.

A Workstation GPU can easily run AAA games if it’s powerful enough for running software like CAD, AutoCAD, Autodesk 3DS Max but you need to choose the ideal one.

Just like gaming graphics, there are performance tiers in Workstation graphics. Some workstation GPUs are more powerful than others. For example – NVIDIA Quadro RTX is much more powerful than NVIDIA Quadro P5000.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 is a very powerful gaming graphics card that can run AAA games at Max settings without any problems. Similarly, you need a powerful Workstation graphics card like NVIDIA Quadro RTX 6000 to run professional software and AAA games at Max settings without any drops in FPS or lags.

Are Workstation Laptops Worth It?

If you’re in the design, scientific computing, or animation workspace then Workstation laptops are definitely worth it.

If you require a laptop that can run professional work related software like Solidworks CAD, Autodesk AutoCAD, Autodesk 3DS Max, etc. then you should definitely get a Workstation laptop because they are powerful enough to run these software with ease.

The Workstation laptops have powerful CPUs and GPUs which are actually recommended by the software developers. These graphic drivers are in the list of certified drivers for professional software like the ones recommended by CAD, AutoCAD, etc.

One negative aspect of a workstation laptop is the price. Workstation laptops can get really expensive so if you have the budget then you should definitely buy a Workstation laptop.

alienware gaming laptop
Alienware Gaming laptop

If you are short in budget then you can buy a high-end gaming laptop with a great CPU and GPU. Powerful gaming laptops can also run these professional softwares but there may be some lags and instabilities.

If you want superior performance from a gaming laptop then you can upgrade the graphics card or even buy an external GPU. With these additions, your gaming laptop can perform like a Workstation laptop.

Workstation Laptop vs Gaming Laptop – Which Is Better and Which One Should You Choose?

If you want a laptop for professional work and have the budget to spend then you should definitely buy a Workstation laptop.

Workstation laptops can easily run professional software like Autodesk AutoCAD, Solidworks CAD, Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3DS Max, STAAD Pro, Revit, Adobe Premiere Pro, Blender, Autodesk Maya, Zbrush, etc.

If you’re in Graphics Design, VFX Design, 3D Game Design and Development, Scientific Computing, AI Design, Architectural Design space then you should choose a Workstation laptop.

If you want a laptop that can run these professional softwares with ease also run AAA quality games then you should pick a Workstation laptop.

If you want to run these professional softwares but don’t have the budget then you can choose a gaming laptop. Gaming laptops can run these softwares but the performance may be lower than the Workstation laptop. However, gaming laptops are much cheaper than Workstation laptops.

If you’re a student in the Architectural field, Mechanical or Civil Engineering field, Animation, Designing, or Game development field then a gaming laptop is enough for you to start. Once, you get a job you can purchase a Workstation laptop for better performance.

If gaming is your main concern then a Gaming laptop is much better than Workstation laptop.

Finally, to conclude you should get a Workstation laptop if you’re a working professional and work with applications like CAD, AutoCAD, 3DS Max, Maya, Revit, STAAD Pro, etc.

You should get a gaming laptop if you don’t have the budget for a workstation laptop or you’re a student that has just dipped his/her feet in working with the above softwares.

Conclusion

Workstation laptops are used for professional purposes to run heavy demanding software. These laptops can also run AAA games with ease.

Workstation laptops are have more powerful hardware than gaming laptops. You can differentiate a gaming laptop from a Workstation laptop by looking at the GPU and the CPU.

Workstation laptops are more expensive than gaming laptops.

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