If you are a Data Science or Machine Learning practitioner, you need a workstation-class machine, which could be either a laptop or desktop. The job requires writing code, creating algorithms and then testing it all. It’s a fairly resource-intensive job and routine laptops simply can’t handle it. They will not be able to offer the speed required for the job.
There are a number of things to consider when choosing the right workstation configuration for Data Science and Machine Learning related work. Here’s our take.
Desktop or Laptop Workstation?
Before choosing a workstation, you need to understand what sort of work you do in data science and the approximate budget in hand. This will determine whether you need a mobile or desktop workstation. Desktop workstations are much more powerful than their mobile counterparts. If your work doesn’t require you to demonstrate your data science projects to customers, then a desktop is better. Moreover, desktop workstations are also more upgradeable, meaning you can make them much more powerful than laptops, due to which their lifecycle will also be longer. Mobile workstations will of course give you portability and some amount of upgradeability in terms of RAM and storage. One advantage of mobile workstations is that they have battery backup. In the case of desktops, you’ll have to spend extra on a UPS for power backup. HP Z2 Tower G5 Workstation is a good example of an entry-level desktop workstation under budget.
Choosing the Right Configuration
The configuration you need can be pinpointed by knowing the extent of your projects. You should invest a little more so that after satisfying your current or near-future projects, you can stay future-protected for at least 5 years.
Invest in CPU as Much as You can
You must invest in a powerful CPU that can support your requirements and keep you out of any compatibility errors for the next five years. Data science developments, machine learning algorithm development and testing are exceedingly CPU intensive computations. Apart from the development tasks, many developers opt-out of cloud computations and test the systems on their laptops locally for faster production. Such practice requires the CPU to be resilient enough to increase the developer’s production values.
- Keep an eye on the number of cores and threads; data science users should go with at least 4-cores and 8-threads or higher.
- The base clock frequency is another parameter to ensure you opt for the correct CPU. The unit is measured in GHz, and the higher the number, the better it is, so look for something in the range of 3.5-4.0 GHz or higher.
- We recommend that any data science professional should always opt for the latest-gen CPUs only. You can go for Intel Core or AMD Ryzen CPUs at your discretion. But opting for a high-end and latest-gen CPU is very crucial. The 11th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU would be the best choice; and you can also choose Ryzen 7 as the AMD counterpart. Yes, 12th gen Intel CPUs are out there, but remember that mobile CPUs (laptop versions) launched much later than the initial launch of the desktop CPUs. So, if the 12th-gen Intel CPU laptops are available in the market when you are reading this, you must opt for 12th gen over 11th gen.
- If you are building a Workstation PC, this is where you get more liberty of choice. You can go for the extremely powerful Ryzen 9 or Intel Core i9, which comes for a considerable price but offers the best compute performance of our time, and can make your investment worthwhile for the next 10-years.
The HP ZBook Fury 17.3 G8 Mobile Workstation PC comes with an Intel 11th-gen Core i9 (4.9 GHz, 8 Core 16 Threads) and features a dual GPU (Intel UHD + Nvidia RTX A3000) with 64GB RAM at ₹3,12,000.
Never Go Cheap on Memory (RAM)
For data science projects having massive RAM is an elementary need for most. Without a minimum of 16GB RAM, you should not consider a device for data science projects. Without 16GB or more RAM, your CPU will start underperforming, and your overall productivity will reduce. For more intense users, 32GB or more RAM should be considered. So, invest in RAM carefully; it is also recommended to go with a laptop with an extra RAM slot, which can be used for upgrading later.
GPU is Needed More Than you Realize
GPU is often considered a component used by gamers and graphics designers only, which is incorrect. Data scientists and ML developments require GPU support in many cases. If rendering a 3D model for an ML algorithm or creating a 3D interface for an AI platform, a GPU will become crucial. You should also remember gaming GPUs and professional GPUs are different in many ways, so getting a gaming laptop will not address your data science workstation needs. Nvidia T500, Nvidia Quadro, etc., are recommended graphics cards for data science and ML professionals. In some cases, dual GPU support is beneficial; the combo of Intel Iris-X GPU and Nvidia T500 (4GB) has proved to be very effective.
Never Underestimate Battery Power Need
As a laptop buyer, you should never underestimate the need for a powerful battery. Even if you are a “desk-jockey” and have access to direct power all day, you never know when will you face a power outage. Moreover, while travelling, battery power will be what you need if you need to work on the go. Mobile workstations are pretty robust devices containing high-end, power-hungry components, so always opt for HP Zbook Firefly Mobile Workstations to ensure excellent battery backup.
Additional Features to Consider
Whether you are buying for yourself or for your employee, you need to know that it’s a professional who will use the device. A professional always needs the best connectivity features and also looks for the latest security features.
- Connectivity features like WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5, USB 3.2, Type C micro-USB, etc., are a must need.
- Security features like a fingerprint scanner, BIOS-level security, Secure Erase, TPM 2.0, Bitlocker Encryption are needed in 2022.
- The third most essential and crucial need is warranty support and after-sales services. For such expensive devices, technical assistance and pro-level service centers are a must need. To ensure you get technical service at your doorstep whenever you need it, go for a brand with lots of service centers available around all the company’s corners. According to surveys, HP has the highest number of service centers in India and offers the best services among all OEM Laptop brands.
- With a price tag of over ₹1,00,000, which is the entry-level for mobile workstations, you can expect a military-grade aluminum-based build, which is exceptionally lightweight.
These are a few things to consider while opting for a workstation. Professionals should consider one instead of a standard desktop or laptop without any doubt.