Hard to say. In general, as a company, we care less about small speed increases due to a particular brand or CPU. What counts is reliability (no crashes, long component life), serviceability, expandability. This is why even awesome machines (custom rigs, gaming PCs, anuything overclocked or water cooled) are likely to lose out against workstations which offer these features. And personally, I don’t believe that the milliseconds you save, because everything is running a tiny bit faster, makes a difference in game production - hiring better talent does So no need to be super duper nitpicky on specs.
While reliability is important, we don’t really need it down to the level where things like ECC RAM comes in. A well tested config, ensuring all components work together and don’t cause crashes when the PC is turned on for days and weeks, is enough.
In general GeForce cards are preferred, because our clients tell us that they work best with their engines. I can’t say if they are really better - I had good experience with Radeons too in the last 5 years.
Definitely no SLI though. SLI used to cause issues when the game wasn’t designed for it, and we want to minimize issues during development.
i7 is preferrable, not necessarily does to technical specs, but most often it’s cheaper - you get more bang for the buck. CPU upgrades are cheaper too and we don’t really need dual CPU workstations for the general workforce either. The only reason why we have lots of Xeons (and Quadros!) is because they ship by default with pretty much every PC that’s not aimed at (MS)office users or consumers.
RAM: 24 to 32 GB for new engines.
Workstation needs to have a SSD for main drive. With some engines a secondary SDD to speed things up would be great.
A dedicated HDD for data and local backups.
OS, well, you want to go with what is currently supported by MS. Don’t take end-of-life OSes if it can be avoided. So win 10 or 8.1 it is. We only use Linux for servers. OS X is for iOS dev machines.
Tablets: Wacom all the way.
Monitors - not too picky, but they should IPS ones. We generally have Dell monitors, not because they’re the best, but having lots of the same type and brand makes it easier to find matching color profiles. For example having a Dell and HP mix can be even worse than mixing different models from Dell only.
Software: well, there’s a long list. Max, Maya (including older versions), Motionbuilder, UE3, UE4, Unity, Frostbite, Anvil, ZBrush, Quixel, Substance Designer & Painter, Marmoset, 3D Coat, Marvelous Designer, AfterEffects, Nuke (for out film division), VRay, Mental Ray, xNormal, all kinds of different Visual Studio versions, MS Office, Skype, Lync, Webex, Hansoft, and of course various games!
Drivers: we prefer hardware that comes with basic, reliable, no bloatware, no gimmicky drivers.
Example of how not to do it: Dell’s audio driver disabled the entire audio interface when you disconnected your headphones and when no other speakers were present. why? what’s the “benefit”? The downside was that WIP engines would not run (where is your audio?) and many other softwares complained. Also avoid unnecessary “convenience” features, monitors, a ton of extra services running in the background. We really want drivers, no Borg-like software that takes over your PC. No driver “suites” please. Keep that for the consumers, if you feel it adds value.
Internet access: many of our PCs don’t have it for IP protection reasons. Don’t design software that makes it mandatory. Especially not stupid driver “suites”!
Restricted access: many of our users do not have full admin rights. Still, a lot of Windows software requires admin access at runtime. Not so good.