10 Top Desktop Computers for Architects and Designers

Our list of the best desktop-based workstations with enough firepower to execute your most complex renderings.

Nathan Bahadursingh Nathan Bahadursingh

Architizer Journal is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

It’s a question of priorities: If you’re constantly on the move and need to take your work with you, a laptop or mobile workstation is a sound choice. However, if you work from home or at an office a large portion of the time, you can take advantage of the improved performance of a desktop-based workstation.

They make up for their higher prices through their brawn, exuding immense power capable of handling the most demanding software and tasks. Ranging between CAD, data analysis, photorealistic renderings, as well as video and audio creation and editing, desktop-based workstations are high performance vessels that will allow you to seamlessly engage with each of these applications.

Contrary to the typical PC, each part of a desktop-based workstation, including the motherboard, CPU, RAM, internal drives, and video cards, to name a few, are built for the most intensive and protracted operations. Essentially, desktop-based workstations are the most reliable tool for architects and designers when needing to develop projects efficiently.

Over time the amount of hours you save not staring at “buffering” pop-ups and waiting for exporting projects makes these computers a smart investment. This guide includes desktop-based workstations of all shapes and sizes and for any budget. Take a look at this list of the 10 best desktop-based workstations for architects, designers and architecture students.

top desktop workstations architects

HP Z8 G4 Workstation

Most Powerful Workstation for Architects

Touted as the world’s most powerful workstation, the HP Z8 G4 Workstation boasts extreme power able to run the most complex simulations and process immense amounts of data on the fly. It features world class workstation components including the highest memory capacity available. 56 cores, 3 TB of memory, 48 TB of storage, and 3X Nvidia Quadro P6000 graphics provides smooth, optimal, and quality performance. The HP Z8 G4 is a powerhouse built to manage the heaviest of workloads.

See more info and buy>

top desktop workstation architects

Corsair One Pro i180

Best Workstation for Architects Balancing Size and Power

Equipped with a 12-core Intel Core i9-9920x processor, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card and 32GB of award winning Corsair DDR4 memory, the Corsair One Pro delivers high quality performance all within its sleek, compact 200 x 172.5 x 380mm dimensions. It can fit easily on or under a desk, and its liquid cooling system keeps the device running smoothly at low temperatures with minimal noise. Though it comes at a hefty price, this workstation’s combination of style, reliability and performance will most definitely redefine your workflow.

See more info and buy>

Apple iMac Pro

Best Apple Workstation for Architects

The Apple iMac Pro is the most powerful workstation that Apple has ever made, packed with top-end graphics and processors along with the most advanced storage, memory, and I/O. With up to 18 cores and Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.5GHz, the iMac Pro has the power and flexibility to balance multicore processing with single-thread performance.

The workstation features up to 16GB of high-bandwidth memory, which translates to higher frame rates for real-time 3D rendering and more realistic special effects. With four channels of memory, the iMac Pro can accommodate up to 128GB allowing you to visualize, simulate, and render massive 3D models. Finally, it’s retina 5K display offers a gorgeous display supporting up to a billion colors across its 27-inch screen.

See more info and buy>

top desktop workstations architects

Microsoft Surface Studio 2

Best All-In-One Workstation for Architects

Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2 is equipped with Intel Core i7 processors, discrete NVIDIA GeForce GPU, and SSD storage for faster file handling, more graphics memory to handle your workflow, and better support for mixed reality, gaming, and renderings. Its adjustable 28 inch, touchscreen PixelSense Display with 13.5 million pixels of true-to-life color allows for an incredibly flexible creative space. Optimal creativity and productivity collide given the Surface Studio 2’s intuitive tools and the freedom it provides to cater the workstation to your preferences.

See more info and buy>

top desktop workstations architects

Dell Precision Tower 7910

Best Workstation for Architects Under $1,400

The Dell Precision Tower 7910 Workstation is a great option for anyone carrying out CPU-intensive rendering or simulation tasks. It bears Intel Xeon dual processors with up to 22 cores per processor. Also, unlike any other brand, it carries the Dell Precision Optimizer, a tool that adjusts system settings based on the applications most frequently used. This will allow you to get the most efficient use out of your machine. The Dell Precision Tower 7910 is a great option for CAD users, boasting ISV certifications from Autodesk, PTC and Siemens, to name a few.

See more info and buy>

Apple iMac

Best Apple Workstation for Architects under $2,200

A cheaper alternative to the Apple iMac Pro, this new iMac compared to its predecessors is brimming with the latest processors, faster memory, and incredible graphics. Its 27-inch Retina 5K display is paired with up to an 8-core 9th-generation i9 processor and Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz. This along with its 2TB of storage fit within a 5mm thin enclosure. It’s powerful and stylish useful for just about any task.

See more info and buy>

Dell XPS 27 AIO

Best All-In-One Workstation for Architects Under $1,700

The Dell XPS 27 AIO was designed to be the most immersive all-in-one PC with a stunning 4K Ultra HD touchscreen display and incredibly vivid and accurate Adobe RGB color. Its 4.6GHz Intel Core i7-7700 processor allows this workstation to perform tit for tat against industry-standard graphics-based benchmarks. All of this coupled with its sleek and stylish design makes for an altogether handy device.

See more info and buy>

Dell Precision Tower 3620

Best Workstation for Architects Under $1,200

The Dell Precision Tower 3620 is a cheaper alternative to the 7910 and is one of Dell’s most affordable workstations for CAD. It comes with plenty of useful components and features including professional Intel Xeon processing, with Intel Core i5 and i7 options available. In terms of graphics, it can support a range of professional 2D cards and entry to mid-range 3D cards. The 3620 also includes optional Dell Data Protection, Security Tools, and Dell Control Vault along with self-encrypting drives that will keep the device as secure as possible.

See more info and buy>

Lenovo ThinkStation P320 Tiny

Most Compact Workstation for Architects

This mini workstation is 96% smaller than a traditional workstation. Shorter than a #2 pencil and weighing under 3 pounds, Lenovo have reduced the traditional workstation size without reducing its capabilities. The system is powered by a 2.9 GHz Intel Core i7-7700T Quad-Core processor, that when partnered with its Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 technology, can deliver extra performance by increasing its clock speed up to 3.8 GHz.

It also features industry standard NVIDIA graphics with support for up to six different displays. Supporting up to 32GB of RAM size, this computer can run multiple applications simultaneously and also quickly access files and programs. Needless to say this little guy packs a punch.

See more info and buy>

HP Z2 Mini

Best Compact Workstation for Architects

Despite its incredibly small size, the HP Z2 Mini manages to fit Intel Core i7 8700 processors, 512GB SSD storage space, and NVMe – Quadro P1000 graphics. It comes with HP Z Turbo Drives, allowing the machine to run quickly and smoothly. This computer’s range of graphics aren’t at the highest end of the market; however, it’s one of the more affordable workstation options. The HP Z2 Mini represents a great choice for those needing to complete serious CAD work without breaking the bank.

See more info and buy>

Read more articles by Nathan

2019 A+Awards Project of the Year: Arc by Koichi Takada Architects

Arc sets itself apart by merging innovative design while paying homage to the heritage of its enviro nment.

Redemption: The “World’s Ugliest Building” Just Won a Major Architecture Award

Boston City Hall has never managed to shake its reputation as an architectural disaster — until now.