It's been a while since I got new workstation. Even at my my age, I consider myself as IT veteran. My father is an architect, and he was always surrounded by technical savvy people and I guess I also went to right schools. No Atari or Commodore for me, the first home PC that I spend lot of time on was Schneider PC. It’s sometimes quite popular to share nostalgic memoirs with people at my age (or older) about how many kB of RAM was enough at that time, storage capacity of cassette drives or 36oK floppy drives..Funny, but that Schneider PC was working absolutely perfect for applications that it had installed!
Starting my university years, the only PC I used was portable notebook. It was not only handy, but basically also the only option for my lifestyle - I did lot of the school job on the go,visiting classmates and I also had part-time job located in completely different part of the city.
After some time I get used to actual lower performance of portable notebook compared to full desktop PC. It’s a fact, and anybody having different opinion is probably looking on different ends of the pricelists. At some point, I even stopped to care about hardware details at all. Couple of years ago I was into any new type of RAM or graphic card that was released. Now it sometimes looks that my general knowledge is limited to: more GhZ = faster, more GB = better.
As for any purchase decision, you need to start with your priority list. For my new PC, there was one main priority– performance. What was somehow acceptable for me some time ago, drives me crazy these days. Waiting seconds for application to load, waiting minutes to save/open documents, poor performance on 3D. I realized that for my work style, I use lot of different applications - and I run them at the same time. Performance and responsiveness is key aspect of great UI. But how can you judge performance of new software product that will be released next year on 3 years old office notebook.
So with this on my mind, the final resolution comes to desktop workstation PC. After matching my expectations with internal policies, this is what ended up under my desk :
Quad Core Intel Xeon 3,06 GHz
12GB DDR3-1333 ECC Memory
NVIDIA PLUS Quadro 4000 2GB
LSI 3041E 4-port SAS/SATA RAID Card
300GB SAS 3Gb/s 15K HDD
160GB SATA X25-M Solid State Drive
Windows 7 Professional x64
It’s not the fastest gaming machine on the market, but it’s decent PC for any task. So what is my experience from switching from notebook to desktop, having hardware number of times more powerful than before ? Mixed feelings.
It might be obvious that I would judge Scia Engineer, but Scia Engineer is a decade old software, and its not secret that we are cooking up new evolution. I was rather disappointed from some Microsoft applications – performance of Expression Blend Studio is not really what I would expect.
On the other hand, the whole response of Win7 OS brings the experience to another level. Thanks to SSD drive, each start of any application is very fast. With 12GB RAM amount I don’t even care if application is already running or just minimized to tray.
I still need to work outside the office – not only in cases when I work from home, but also when I am on the go on various meetings. But for this, I can use any notebook around, I just need access to my data. All I need is latest Scia Engineer version and MS Office. For real remote work, I get used to Remote desktop services. The UX is still not the same as sitting behind the same PC, but it’s very close. I know that lot of people might also benefit from more powerful PC - faster builds for developers, faster calculations for engineers, faster and more comfortable response for everybody. But they still use notebook as working PC only because of portability – which can sometimes mean port it from one room to another once a year. There are number of general cloud services available. Some of them (like RevUp Render) are specifically aimed for designers.
My conclusions are, that from my experience I can recommend working with desktop PC on fixed location, whether that is real PC under your office desk or virtual cloud hardware. The performance gain is always worth, and Remote Desktop works just fine for any application that I am using – from Adobe Illustrator to Scia Engineer.