A workstation is a high-performance computer configured to perform specific computationally-intensive tasks, such as scientific research, 3D modeling/animation, or audio/video production. They typically have more powerful processors than a home desktop computer and large amounts of storage and memory. Workstations in a workplace are often set up for use by a single user and networked together to share data and resources with others.

The components used in a workstation are often similar to those in any other desktop computer, only with increased performance and higher reliability. For example, many workstations use a type of error-correcting memory known as ECC RAM, which is more expensive but also far more reliable. The increased cost of highly-reliable components is justified when workstations are professional tools used for professional work, and any downtime can be costly.

Workstations may also have extra hardware that is necessary for the niche that the workstation fills. An audio production workstation, for example, would include extra audio interface ports designed to connect professional microphones; a video production workstation, meanwhile, would include specialized video processing hardware to handle multiple high-resolution video streams at once.

Many workstations are part of a network of computers linked together to process data or perform computational work. In these cases, the workers interact directly with their workstations and merely hand off tasks to servers for processing. For example, 3D animators use their workstations to construct models, set up scenes, and animate character movements. They can see previews of their work on their workstations, but for final rendering, they send that data to a render farm consisting of multiple linked server computers.

Updated January 4, 2023 by Brian P.

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