Some time ago I asked if a server could be my workstation and, shortly after that, I answered “no.” My opinion has recently changed.

My previous experiment involved an Ivy Bridge EP part with DDR3 memory. Numerous computers have spoiled me over the years when it comes to performance, even the low-power laptop parts, but despite being a 130W 10-core/20-thread CPU with a 3 GHz base frequency, it just didn’t cut it as a daily-use workstation, even with 128GB of memory behind it. Disheartening, really, especially given that even marginally newer desktop rigs with that amount of RAM are absolute monsters.

Long story short, I’m now running a Xeon Gold 6254 in a single-socket workstation board. It’s air-cooled, sitting under a Noctua NH-U14S DX-4677 with an extra fan attached, wrapped up inside a Fractal Design Torrent case with its two 180mm front fans and three 140mm bottom fans. I know how the 6254 behaves in a server, but as it turns out, it’s frightening as a workstation. It’s roughly equivalent to the i9-10980XE in spec, with a 100MHz higher base frequency and a 600MHz lower max turbo, same amount of cache, and 35W higher TDP, but ridiculously smooth. Runs desktop workloads, virtual machines, ZFS, and containers concurrently with no discernible latency.

The cool thing, though? This thing supports up to 1TB of RAM. It’s currently running 256GB, which probably helps quite a bit with that latency, but the fact that I can multiply that by four if I can get my hands on enough DIMMs is insane.

So … yes. I can use a decommissioned server as a workstation. Thing is, it needs to be powerful enough.

Speaking of powerful enough, I’m posting this from the most expensive laptop I purchased since 2005. Still under $400, of course. It’s an HP Dev One, which was only sold in one spec: Ryzen 7 5850u, 16GB DDR4, 1TB NVMe, 1920×1080 display, but the previous owner upgraded this one to 64GB of RAM. So, I’ve got the same amount of RAM on my lap as I do on top of my desk in the home office, which is pretty remarkable now that I think about it. The only thing I’d change about it is the wifi card, which is already happening: an 802.11ax Intel card is already on the way.