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What Sets an HP Workstation Apart from an HP Desktop?

Amidst the broad proliferation of laptops and tablets, the desktop industry is still going strong. Desktops are valued by businesses because of their ability to provide deep customization. When small businesses with limited IT budgets purchase desktops for employees, it’s important they’re familiar with the different subsets of desktops to choose from. It’s critical they select wisely to get the most out of their spending power and ensure workers are sufficiently equipped to accomplish the tasks at hand.

On the outside, desktop computers, no matter the variation, appear to be largely the same. They are enclosed within stand-alone towers of generally similar sizes and the peripheral components (monitor, keyboard, and mouse) are attached externally. By looking at a tower, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell what subset a desktop belongs to as the customization is hidden inside.

One desktop subset, gaming PCs, for example, are upgraded versions of traditional desktops purposefully configured to optimize the gaming experience. Unless a small business wants to end up with some very distracted employees, this subset isn’t relevant. However, if a small business is creating video games, then they should consider a workstation. In fact, workstations are the primary desktop subset all small businesses should consider when comparing against a traditional professional desktop.

What is a workstation and what is it used for?

A workstation is a hybrid between a server and a traditional desktop. It costs more than a traditional desktop and promises greater power and reliability. Whereas a traditional desktop is designed for general usage (web surfing, document management, spreadsheet creation, mid-range illustration, and media streaming), a workstation is built to handle intensive processes (3D rendering, virtual reality, CAD drawing, data analysis and video editing). Functionally, workstations are designed to support data manipulation with strong visual components and scientific or mathematical workloads that cannot tolerate even the smallest interruption in their calculations.

Workstations are created with added resilience to process workloads 24/7/365, even if no one is sitting in front of them. Professional desktops, on the other hand, are engineered to accommodate workloads that run while the user is sitting at the computer, meaning the machine gets to rest when a human isn’t present and little to nothing is being processed.

Comparing traditional HP professional desktops with HP workstations

HP, one of the most trusted desktop vendors, delivers traditional professional desktops as well as workstations that are ideal for small businesses due to the customization options and affordability. On the outside, HP desktops and workstations look pretty much the same, but the technical specifications are considerably different. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the two.

Form Factor

A traditional HP desktop may be more compact than an HP workstation. The workstation tower, however, can usually be opened without any tools—unlike the desktop—to allow for components to be swapped easily. This makes sense considering a workstation’s motherboard can accommodate a greater number of each core component to facilitate expandability and redundancy. Additionally, workstations often include higher quality components due to the heavy workload required of them. Because of the higher quality parts, workstations are also much more durable than desktops. Workstations will usually outlast desktops, even while processing heavier loads more consistently.


HP professional desktops for small businesses are typically configured with a broad range of processors, from the Intel Core i3 to i7 with one to six cores. Although it’s likely overkill for general business applications, HP workstations, the middle ground between desktops and servers, could also be outfitted with Xeon chipsets, which are found in HP servers.

HP workstations sometimes come with Xeon processors with four or more cores. The more robust processor allows the computer to compute considerably larger datasets far beyond what the traditional spreadsheet can do. It also allows the machine to handle multiple data-intensive applications simultaneously, for example, processing a CAD drawing and rendering a video simultaneously.


Rather than providing one or two slots for hard drives, as HP desktops do, HP workstations offer systems that accommodate multiple hard drives, some with integrated RAID cards. This makes creating data redundancy much easier, decreasing the likelihood that a computer crash will wipe the machine. HP desktops typically come with a standard HDD that operates with physical moving parts, whereas HP workstations with multiple drive bays can support flash or SSDs, which allow the computer to store and retrieve data faster and reduce the likelihood of drive failure, since no moving parts are involved. The workstation’s easy-to-open case also allows users to swap drives more easily, while opening up a desktop tower to replace hard drives is far less convenient.

Graphics Card

All desktops come with a graphics processing unit or a GPU, but workstations come with significantly more robust GPUs or multiple GPU PCIe slots to help relieve the processor or CPU when processing large graphics files. The additional GPU capacity helps workstations produce more life-like output and mitigate lag when rendering. This is critical for small businesses engaged in graphic-intensive projects. Desktops are generally built to consume media and workstations are designed for creating it.


HP desktops use less power than HP workstations since their capabilities are less robust. This can also help small businesses save on energy costs. Considering workstations use more energy, they come with more fans inside the chassis to keep the computer cool while it’s processing intensive workloads. Workstations also have multiple power supply units to accept redundant power sources, so if the primary power in a small business goes down, a secondary power source could automatically keep the system running.


Components used in workstations are more durable and more capable. They allow workstations to handle heavier loads and last longer than desktop computers. Because of this, workstations naturally come with a steeper price tag than a desktop computer. Expect to pay 2-3x for a workstation versus a desktop.

When deciding what type of machine to purchase for your business, consider your long term needs. While you will pay more upfront for workstations, they will last longer. Desktops may need to be upgraded or replaced every few years, but will save you money on your immediate purchase. You should balance your current needs with the long term needs of your business to determine what machines will be best for your employees.

Choosing between desktops and workstations

Workstations are worth the investment if the employee(s) using them are running intensive applications that are mission critical to a small business’s success. As a rule of thumb, if a business or worker’s job is absolutely dependent on a workload being processed accurately, then spending the additional amount for a workstation is warranted. Otherwise a desktop is sufficient.

Ideally, every employee will have the right machine for their specific tasks. Luckily, both desktops and workstations allow for considerable customization, enabling small businesses to empower their employees to get the job done while avoiding wasteful spending.

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