Puget Systems Workstation review: a true Mac Pro competitor

The custom workstation builders at Puget Systems have you covered

A Puget Systems workstation PC on a desk
(Image: © Future / John Loeffler)

TechRadar Verdict

The Puget System workstation is a fantastic PC for those who need more than the Mac Pro can provide, whether that's AI processing power, raw compute via and RTX 4090, or just about any other high-end component under the sun. You will pay for the previlege of this custom build, understandably, but Puget System is an indespensible alternative for pro-level workstation PCs that need more than the limited excellence of that the Mac Pro can provide.

Pros

  • +

    Highly customizable

  • +

    Seriously professional build quality

Cons

  • -

    Can be very expensive

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Puget Systems Workstation: Two-minute review

The Puget System workstation PC is a tough product to review in a traditional sense, since there's very little on the market to really compare it to outside of enterprise channels other than the Mac Pro, but there is no doubt that when it comes to professional workstations running anything other than macOS, Puget Systems can build you exactly what you need. You'll just have to pay for the privilege.

The unit I received in for review featured an AMD Threadripper Pro 5975WX 32-core CPU, which isn't even the latest workstation chip available, and still cost close to $11,500 in the US. Playing around with the part configurator, you can build a system that can cost you close to $40,000, but which will likely have more computing power than just about anyone in or out of industry would ever really need. But hey, if investors are lining up to sign the check, there are worse systems to splurge on, believe me.

We've tested many of the best workstations out there, and in terms of performance, you'll get a PC that's only as good as its parts. Fortunately, the Puget Systems workstation has a huge assortment of parts to choose from, both mainstream and pro-channel components like Nvidia Ada workstation GPUs. This also means that a Puget Systems workstation can range in price from eye-watering to bank-account-shattering. 

The lowest configurable system I was able to put together using Puget Systems' online builder costs $3,132.26, while the most devil-may-care configuration I was able to build ran to just under $61,000, and quite frankly it could beat the Mac Pro into the ground through the sheer weight of its specs, including multiple 48GB Nvidia RTX 6000 Ada cards and 1TB DDR5-5600 REG ECC.

Understandably, that was not the system Puget Systems sent me for review. That system, which featured an AMD Threadripper Pro WRX80 ATX board with a Threadripper Pro 5975WX 32-core processor, 256GB DDR4-3200 REG ECC memory, an Nvidia RTX 4090 GPU, a 4TB Sabrent 4TB Rocket 4 Plus SSD, Noctua CPU cooling fans and a Fractal Design Define 7 case came out to $10,569.12, not including shipping.

For the same price, I could get a Mac Pro with M2 Ultra with 24-core CPU, 76-core GPU, and 32-core neural engine, 192GB unified memory, and 4TB SSD storage in a stainless steel frame (without $400 wheels), no peripherals, and no preinstalled software for $10,599.

While that Mac Pro configuration is undoubtably solid, that really is as good as it gets right now as far as Mac Pro units go, and we haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg for what Puget Systems is capable of producing. Yes, without question, you will end up paying a serious premium to beat the Mac Pro. But if you're playing with these kinds of table stakes, the kind of workstation you can build with Puget Systems will simply outclass anything that the Mac Pro can provide at this point, especially if you're looking at a workload that isn't easily portable to macOS like machine learning workloads that rely almost exclusively on Nvidia's CUDA.

Ultimately, whatever Apple's Mac Pro can do, so can a Puget Systems workstation, and if you've got a workload that doesn't easily square with the almighty cheese grater, Puget Systems will be able to build you exactly what you need.

A Puget Systems workstation PC on a desk

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)

Puget Systems Workstation: Price & availability

As a custom workstation builder, Puget Systems PCs can range in price from the more modest AMD Ryzen 7000-series or Intel 13th-gen PCs starting at about $3,000 and going all the way up to an AMD Threadripper Pro 7995WX 96-core monster with 1TB DDR5-5600 REG ECC (8x128GB) memory, three 48GB Nvidia RTX 6000 Ada GPUs, a 25 gigabit PCIe network card, a pair of Micron 15.36TB 7450 Pro NVMe U.3 SSDs (6,800 MB/s read), an additional pair of 8TB NVMe M.2 SSDs rated for 7,000 MB/s read), an Asus 24x DVD-RW SATA drive for the hell of it, a 1600W 80 Plus Platinum PSU, a 360mm AIO CPU cooler, and a Noctua case fans upgrade kit to help cool this beast; all for $60,832.03, built to order, and you can get it in about a month.

In our Mac Pro review, meanwhile, we noted it maxes out at an Apple M2 Ultra with 24-core CPU, 76-core GPU, 32-core neural engine, 192GB unified memory, 8TB SSD storage, additional wheels for the workstation, a magic mouse and magic trackpad, and preinstalled Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro, at a total cost of $12,847.98.

For a lot of folks, especially video editors or musicians, the choice of a Mac Pro will be a foregone conclusion, especially if you're very used to the ecosystem and the workflow from specific Mac-only apps. Many users won't be able to easily connect or port over their workloads to a windows based system, so this might be something of a wistful bit of Windows shopping (or Linux, if you prefer, Ubuntu 22.04 LTS can be preinstalled on a Puget Systems workstation), and if that's you, then you know best what you need.

However, if you're not tied into the macOSphere and you're wondering what you can get beyond the Mac Pro, well, you can get an awful lot, especially if you've got the budget to go big.

A Puget Systems workstation PC on a desk

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)

Puget Systems Workstation: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Component Review unit
Motherboard ASRock WRX80 Creator Rev 2.0
Processor AMD Threadripper Pro 5975WX
Graphics card PNY GeForce RTX 4090
Memory 8 x DDR4-3200 32GB REG ECC
Storage 1 x Sabrent 4TB Rocket 4 Plus PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD
CPU Cooler 1 x Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3
Power Supply Super Flower LEADEX Platinum 1200W
Case Fractal Design Define 7
Case cooling Noctua Case Fan Kit

A Puget Systems workstation PC on a desk

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)

Puget Systems Workstation: Design

Where Puget Systems really shows off its work is in the design of its workstations. While all of the parts are sourced from major parts manufacturers like Sabrent, PNY, Noctua, and others, Puget Systems goes further than simply installing your components and calling it a day.

From the transparent plastic braces Puget Systems uses to mount CPU coolers and hold up heavyweight graphics cards to the pristine installation of case fans and cable management, the interior of a Puget Systems workstation is some truly high-quality building.

Even more impressive is the binder Puget Systems sends along with your well-packaged workstation. Not only does it catalog the steps your workstation's technician, who is named in the documentation, takes to assemble your build with individual timestamps for progress, the binder is also full of individual benchmark scores using the latest tools to measure PC performance.

Not only does this help ensure that your workstation arrives in working condition, it also shows that the unit didn't leave the shop without undergoing sufficient testing to make sure it was in good working order.

Moving out from the internals, the exterior of the Define 7 case is more than adequate for a workstation that is meant to get work done rather than it is to look pretty for investors, but you won't need to hide this away when the VCs come by to take a look at your operations.

In terms of assembly and setup, it really is as simple as pulling the Define 7 case package out of the larger Puget Systems box, sliding out the workstation, plugging it in, and pressing power. You might need to provide your own peripherals, but if you've spent this kind of money at this point, you'll already be on the prowl for the best business monitors, best office keyboards, and other office essentials.

A Puget Systems workstation PC on a desk

(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)

Puget Systems Workstation: Performance

Performance is something of a moving target on a Puget Systems workstation since so much is going to depend on the build you select. In my case, the workstation I built was more geared toward matching the Mac Pro in terms of price, rather than trying to go as high up the stack on specs as I could.

Still, I did benchmark the hell out of this system, putting CPU, GPU, and other components through the ringer as well as using this as my main workstation PC for close to two months (thanks to the infinite patience of the Puget Systems team), so I certainly didn't skimp on data, even if your mileage is going to vary quite a bit with different builds.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CPU Benchmarks
Test Score
Cinebench R23 Multi Core 46876
Cinebench R23 Multi Core (10-minute Throttle Test) 46978
Cinebench R23 Single Core 1410
CineBench R24 Multi Core 2711
CineBench R24 Single Core 89
CineBench R24 GPU 32614
Geekbench 6 Multi Core 20145
Geekbench 6 Single Core 2068
3DMark CPU Profile (Max Thread) 17919
3DMark CPU Profile (Single Thread) 883
PassMark Overall 9119
PassMark CPU 80194

In terms of CPU performance, the 32-core AMD Threadripper Pro 5975WX certainly chewed through multicore processes, but it lagged behind the best processors on the market currently in single core performance, so I would definitely recommend upping the processor to the newer workstation chips if you're going Threadripper or Xeon.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
GPU Benchmarks
Test Score
PassMark 3D Graphics 34541
3DMark Night Raid 139605
3DMark Fire Strike 39398
3DMark Time Spy 8138
3DMark Port Royal 25573
3DMark Speed Way 9958
3DMark Wildlife 102921
3DMark Wildlife Unlimited 112398
3DMark Wildlife Extreme 78214
3DMark Wildlife Extreme Unlimited 78544

On the graphics side of things, the Nvidia RTX 4090 made short work of the various GPU benchmarks I ran on it, and in terms of compute, the RTX 4090 is the best graphics card on the consumer market, but you can go much higher into the Ada workstation cards that will absolutely run circles around whatever you're going to get out of a GeForce card.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Memory & Storage Benchmarks
Test Score
PassMark Memory 3347
PassMark Disk 34618
CrystalDiskMark 8 Sequential Read 7240
CrystalDiskMark 8 Sequential Write 6811
CrystalDiskMark 8 Random Read 399
CrystalDiskMark 8 Random Write 215

The Sabrent Rocket 4 PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD in the workstation I reviewed was about as fast as you're going to get with PCIe 4.0, and it made content creation much smoother when loading saving data to disk. I was running the best video editing software and photo editor tools, and the 256GB DDR4 RAM, while not the fastest on the market, made sure I had more than enough memory to open as many Photoshop files and Adobe Premiere Pro projects as I wanted without breaking a sweat.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Productivity Benchmarks
Test Score
CrossMark Overall 1827
CrossMark Productivity 1633
CrossMark Responsiveness 1555
PCMark 10 Home 7963

The productivity scores on the Puget Systems workstation were impressive, but this isn't really the kind of workstation you spend a down payment for a house on just to run Office apps. It's good to know you can though.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Creative Benchmarks
Test Score
CrossMark Creativity 2157
Blender 3.6.0 Monster (CPU) 356
Blender 3.6.0 Junkshop (CPU) 234
Blender 3.6.0 Classroom (CPU) 171
Blender 3.6.0 Monster (GPU) 6474
Blender 3.6.0 Junkshop (GPU) 3017
Blender 3.6.0 Classroom (GPU) 2980
PugetBench for Adobe Photoshop 1194
Handbrake 1.6 4K to 1080p (FPS, CPU encode) 117
Handbrake 1.6 4K to 1080p (FPS, GPU encode) 125
V-Ray 5 CPU 37559
V-Ray 5 CUDA CPU 935
V-Ray 5 CUDA CPU + GPU 5096
V-Ray 5 CUDA GPU 4192
V-Ray 5 RTX GPU 5653
Lumion 12.5 Render FPS (1-star, 1080p, 30 fps) 0.78
Lumion 12.5 Render FPS (4-star, 2160p, 30 fps) 0.11

Finally, putting the Puget Systems workstation through a number of creative workloads, this machine's purpose really shone through. Easily one of the best video editing computers out there, this is the kind of computer build for processing large amounts of media and making something beautiful with it without having to worry too much about slow process times or hanging load screens.

In that regard, the Puget Systems workstation outperformed every other workstation I've ever tested in everything from V-Ray to HandBrake and Photoshop and even down to Lumion 12.5, where it rendered a 30 second 4K@30fps video clip at production quality in about 0.11 fps, finishing the render process in just under two and a half hours, whereas most workstations I test take nearly twice as long.

Given better specs, things would have zipped by even faster, no doubt.

And that, ultimately, is Puget Systems in a nutshell: you can get the level of performance you want, though you'll have to pay for it. Given the current state of enterprise-level investments in technology, this might be a heavier lift than it was back in the heady days of zero interest rates and free money, but if you've got the mind to make a real investment, the Puget Systems workstation is easily one of the best investments you can make. 

Should you buy the Puget Systems Workstation?

Buy the Puget Systems workstation if...

You want incredible flexibility
With so many options, there's almost no end to the kinds of systems you can build with Puget Systems. Especially if you want the very best photo editing computer or a PC for video editing. 

You want the best of the best hardware available
From Threadripper 7000-series processors to multiple Nvidia RTX 6000 Ada GPUs, the best workstation-class hardware is yours to slot into your build.

Don't buy it if...

You're really tied to the Apple ecosystem
Not every Mac Pro application can easily port out of macOS. If you're stuck in Mac land, there might not be a way of switching over to Puget Systems without starting over.

You're not looking to spend a lot of money
Puget Systems starts at a relatively cheap $3,000, but the really quality builds are going to cost you a small fortune.

  • First reviewed January 2024
John Loeffler
Components Editor

John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 


Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.


You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.


Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).