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A workstation (WS) is a computer dedicated to a user or group of users engaged in business or professional work. It includes one or more high resolution displays and a faster processor than a personal computer (PC). A workstation also has greater multitasking capability because of additional random access memory (RAM), drives and drive capacity. A workstation may also have a higher-speed graphics adapters and more connected peripherals.
The term workstation also has been used to reference a PC or mainframe terminal on a local area network (LAN). These workstations may share network resources with one or more large client computers and network servers.
Workstations usually are built with an optimized design for complex data manipulation and visualization. Examples include image rendering and editing, computer-aided design (CAD), animations and mathematical plots. Workstations were the first industry segment to market collaboration tools and advanced accessories and enhancements. These include 3D mice, multiple displays and high performance/capacity data storage devices.
Eventually, mainstream PCs adopted workstation elements contributing to the decline of the workstation market segment. Additionally, the cost differential decreased between lower-end workstations and higher-end PCs. Low-end workstations used Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon 64 CPUs, whereas high-end PCs used powerful processors such as the Intel Xeon, IBM Power, AMD Opteron or Sun UltraSPARC - a powerhouse for computer-processing work. These latter machines are sometimes referred to as workstation class PCs and include features such as:
Currently, Sun Microsystems manufacturers the only workstations, which use x86-64 microprocessors and Windows, Mac OS X, Solaris 10 and Linux-distributed operating systems.