PCs in decline? Not for enthusiasts

Have you read the tea leaves? The PC is an endangered species, doomed to obscurity at the hands of tablets, smartphones, or whatever new computing device happens to be the flavor of moment. That’s the future being foretold by all too many so-called analysts. If you walked the halls of CES a couple of weeks ago, you might be inclined to agree. Smartphones and tablets were on everyone’s lips.

Then again, they don’t call it the Consumer Electronics Show for nothing. The PC has never been the primary attraction there.

Just being at a convention like CES is enough to see that the PC’s mindshare isn’t what it used to be. The overall computing market is growing, and desktop PC sales appear to be steady and perhaps even growing, depending on the source one consults. Still, the PC’s slice of the overall pie is diminishing, as smartphones and tablets claim more share. Smartphones have become ubiquitious, with everyone seemingly itching to trade up to the latest model. Tablets are the hot new thing, and they’re quickly wooing consumers away from notebooks. Notebooks had it coming, though; they’ve been stealing attention from traditional desktops for years.

If the the PC’s spot in the techno-limelight is diminishing, desktops have it particularly rough. So, what of our enthusiast community, an admittedly small niche within the desktop population?

In a lot of ways, we’re better off than ever.

The more time I spend with my smartphone, tablet, and notebook, the more I appreciate the good living we enjoy on the desktop. Our systems are highly configurable, infinitely flexible, plenty powerful, and easily upgradeable. Rolling your own desktop might cost a bit more than the latest techno gadget, but that’s money well spent if you’re going to take advantage of the platform’s unique characteristics.

 

Building your own system is much easier these days, making the DIY route more accessible than ever. Modern cases offer spacious internals loaded with tool-free amenities and enough cable routing options to allow even novices to put together tidy systems. You might not agree with the aesthetic sensibilities of every enclosure on the market, but there’s something for all tastes—and, finally, several really good options for smaller form factors like Mini-ITX.

If building a PC from scratch is the first step toward becoming a bona fide enthusiast, then overclocking is stage two. You’re in luck, because pushing clock speeds has gone from being a black art reserved for experts to something that can be accomplished quite literally with the push of a button. MSI’s latest motherboards feature an OC Genie button that overclocks the CPU automatically. Other motherboard makers offer similar functionality in their firmware or Windows software, bringing overclocking to audiences that might have been too intimidated to experiment with manual adjustments.

Old-school overclocking is still the best way to squeeze the most out of your CPU, and it, too, has benefited from years of steady refinement. The UEFIs and tweaking apps we have today are light years ahead of what was available just a few years ago. Having OC-friendly CPUs helps, too. AMD and Intel both offer several models with fully unlocked upper multipliers, the holy grail of hassle-free overclocking.

Seasoned PC enthusiasts have long been familiar with Black Edition and K-series CPUs, and it seems mainstream users are starting to catch on. A friend of mine just ditched his two-year-old Dell for an NCIX-built PC with a Core i7-2600K. I wouldn’t classify him as an enthusiast, and he’s never overclocked, but he looked at the incremental price difference and figured he might as well have the option of turning up the multiplier. Apparently, he’s not the only one. While meeting with Intel during CES, we were told the company was surprised by the strong sales of its K-series CPUs and high-end Sandy Bridge chipsets. Intel wouldn’t discuss actual numbers, but it recently started selling "protection plans" for overclocked CPUs. Never has the chip giant been this accommodating of those who defy its prescribed clock speeds.

While not quite as impressive as the old Celeron 300A, Sandy still has ample overclocking headroom. I’ve had my 2600K running at 4.7GHz with aftermarket air cooling—nearly 1GHz faster than the chip’s Turbo peak. Exotic coolers are another hallmark of enthusiast PCs, and the rise of all-in-one liquid cooling solutions has added to a landscape already teeming with traditional heatsinks in all shapes and sizes. Some of the factory-assembled liquid units available today are good enough that I’d recommend them to a newbie who has never swapped out his CPU’s stock heatsink.

Performance was the prime motivator for PC enthusiasts in the early days. With plenty of horsepower now at our disposal, we’ve devoted more attention to lowering power consumption and noise levels. Improving power management schemes continue to reduce the amount of heat that must be dissipated during idle periods. Fan control intelligence grows ever smarter, and contemporary fans are much quieter than the piercing turbines of my youth. Some enclosures use rubber to dampen vibrations and foam to absorb sound waves, resulting in a new breed of stealthy systems that operate in near silence.

The fact that budget components are just as enthusiast-friendly as their high-end brethren is especially gratifying. Trickle down is a wonderful thing. In a sense, so is the consolization of the gaming industry. As much as I’d like to see developers focus on exploiting the power of cutting-edge PCs, having them target anemic console hardware means that the $600 Econobox in our system guide can handle the latest games with the eye candy cranked at decent resolutions.

If you have the budget to spend more, higher-end graphics cards are capable of driving massive displays, multi-monitor arrays, and stereo 3D configs that make consoles look like child’s play. The PC world is brimming with more affordable luxuries, too, like springy mechanical keyboards, insanely accurate mice, and pitch-perfect sound cards. SSDs are probably the ultimate in attainable enthusiast accessories right now. Wicked-fast system drives can be had for less than the cost of a mid-range graphics card, and with the recent spat of BSOD bugs and botched firmware releases, you can feel like you’re living dangerously on the bleeding edge of technology.

Desktop PCs continue to offer the most personalized, powerful, and ultimately premium computing experience around. Even curious noobs should have no problem putting together a slick system, providing a path for the enthusiast community to grow within the desktop ranks. As a pragmatist who favors the best tool for the job, I won’t lament having to share the computing market with PC alternatives. Grandmothers and other users who do little more than surf the web, write emails, and pretend to be friends on Facebook may ultimately be better served by oversimplified devices they can take everywhere. At the very least, the migration of these casual users to more restrictive platforms will decrease the number of tech support calls PC enthusiasts have to field from friends and family. That alone would have me cheering the dire outlook for the desktop PC, if only I believed in it.

Comments closed
    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    heres the thing I haven’t boughten a laptop in my lifetime because there really isn’t one that will do what I want for under 2,000. I want a Good Intel CPU, a dedicated preferably Nvidia GPU, SSD, 4 gb or more, GREAT touch pad and keyboard, and good screen all wrapped up in a well designed(mac book) chasis with win 7 64 bit or newer OS and 8 hrs or more of battery life. Closest thing I can get is a macbook pro with win7 but they touchpad drivers kill it for me and no one on the pc side of things makes a comparible chasis or touchpad.

    • luisnhamue
    • 8 years ago

    @ Geoff>>>>

    |At the very least, the migration of these casual users to more restrictive platforms will decrease the
    |number of tech support calls PC enthusiasts have to field from friends and family.

    really???

    my family keep calling bcoz they dont know this this and those…
    how to change the ringtone…how to set the AP on the the iphone…how to access the wifi…c’on its still the same stuff…they will call u whenever they want to

    • WaltC
    • 8 years ago

    Good article, Geoff! It’s always nice to read articles written by people with brains & experience…;) I appreciate the relative novelty, these days, as it keeps me from having to [s<]constantly reread my own posts[/s<]---[j/k!] Yes, since the very first gaming console shipped decades ago, the "analysts" among us have been ignorantly and very inaccurately predicting the death of the component desktop computer ever since. Every time a new and popular gadget comes along we hear the same old tired refrain that is never close to being true. The analysts have always been wrong about the demise of the desktop computer because there are plenty of [i<]compelling reasons[/i<] to buy component desktops aside from being an enthusiast. You covered the enthusiast angle very well and I can't think of anything to add to that perspective. A few other, highly motivating reasons to buy a component desktop that I can immediately think of... 1)**It's not all that well-known among gen x'ers who have only come to computing in the last decade or so, but the component design of the desktop (separate cpu enclosure, separate monitor, etc.) is actually a much more advanced design than the all-in-one computers that some people--heaven forbid--think they prefer today for some reason or another. All-in-one designs hearken from the time before modular desktops, and have been considered both primitive and impractical by discerning customers. For certain computer manufacturers (who shall be nameless for the moment), the all-in-one is more economical to make and can be sold at a higher profit & margins accordingly, which is why they are still being made today. All-in-ones, of course, while making internal hardware upgrades--even monitor upgrades--much more unlikely and awkward than they are for component desktops, are no fun to repair, either, as more often than not the whole enchilada has to go in for repair even if the problem is with a relatively minor, but permanently enclosed, component. IE, take the "enclosure" off at home and void the warranty, etc. OTOH, when you assemble your own component desktop box, every component you buy has its own manufacturer's warranty (1-year-5 years-"life", depending on the component), even your case has its own warranty--so you *can't* "void the warranty" by opening your case and servicing your components yourself: [i<]You[/i<] are the authorized party. 2)**Portable devices will never usurp the market position of non-portable, component desktop computers, and vice-versa. (Possibly excluding some laptops, but I'm not necessarily talking about laptops here as "portables"--laptops, while surely portable, have more in common with component desktops than with smart phones & tablets, imo.) This is really a simple concept that too many people cannot seem to grasp. Portability demands sacrifices of all kinds--from device performance to device screenage (screens just too small to be called "monitors") to device keyboards to supported peripherals, and so on. Everything is pared back and sacrificed on the altar of Battery Life. Component desktops, however, have no such design concerns, and even the most rudimentary and inexpensive of component desktops completely outperforms and outclasses the entire gamut of portable devices. Portables excel at being portable first and everything else, second. Component desktops excel at everything else first and aren't built for portability in the first place. These are two entirely [i<]separate markets[/i<], thus it is quite inaccurate and improper to say that either one will replace or usurp the other. The great majority of people will buy portable devices *in addition* to their desktop component systems--not "instead of" their desktop component systems. That's because component desktop systems are an order of magnitude more useful than portable devices. For instance, take the "phone" out of "iPhone" and what's left? OTOH, disconnect a component desktop from the Internet and what's left is an amazingly powerful computing device capable running a universe of software locally and performing a host of local tasks. (Of course, I need not mention that the "phone" part of an iPhone is quite a bit more expensive each month than the "Internet" connection for my component desktop at home.) Anyhoo...one's a portable phone, one's a component desktop computer--entirely different devices that serve entirely different markets. 3)**Ubiquity of hardware component upgrades for desktop computers. Portable devices, otoh, are generally throw-away and for the most part cannot be upgraded anywhere close to the extent possible with a component desktop computer system. 4)**Ubiquity of multi-source software availability. Having multiple sources for software availability is always better, imo. Component desktops offer this advantage in spades over tablets and smartphones. No contest, really. 5)**Backwards software compatibility. A Windows7 component desktop system is unsurpassed in this category. Extreme example: one company selling digital-download software exclusively, "[url=http://www.gog.com<]Good Ol' Games[/url<]", specializes in selling old Windows and DOS games that are a decade or more old at dirt-cheap prices! Try finding that kind of service for a console or a tablet or a smart phone. 6)**While the first 5 motivators above are reasons over and above the reasons an enthusiast might have for building his own box, this last reason probably does belong in the "enthusiast" category since only a technology enthusiast is likely to care...;) Console technology is heavily based on component desktop computer technology (always has been). You can in essence "own tomorrow's gaming console today" in a component desktop computer system, provided you choose the right components for your box. Indeed--why stop there? If you really want to loosen the strings of your pocketbook then you can buy today what will *possibly* power not the next generation of console--but what will possibly power the next generation of console *after that*...;) And because you can upgrade your desktop computer system through several generations of hardware, and then even upgrade the motherboard itself if needed, you can *always* stay close to, at, or ahead of current State of the Art without ever even once getting rid of your entire box and being forced to buy a new one. When you really step back and consider all of the advantages to owning a component desktop computer system then the hundreds of millions of unit sales of these devices every year, year in and year out, are entirely understandable. Indeed, the pie has yet to stop growing.

      • TakinYourPoints
      • 8 years ago

      [url<]http://i.imgur.com/Httof.gif[/url<]

    • burntham77
    • 8 years ago

    I have gotten to the point where I am adding devices to my computing life but have no plans to replace my desktop PC. Since I rarely travel these days, I have no use for a full fledged notebook, so my desktop remains my one source for PC gaming. If my lifestyle changes to where I am traveling more or visiting friends and family a lot (which would happen if I moved back to DC), I could see myself getting a notebook for on-the-go gaming, but I would not replace my desktop. I love big monitors and upgrading hardware too much.

    I have a Xoom, a Zune and an Android phone for various on the go tasks, but the desktop PC is just too much fun to give up. I know notebooks have become more popular, but I hope that PC hardware makes keep giving us awesome hardware as they have.

    • Jason181
    • 8 years ago

    Are people really complaining that the enthusiast market is dwindling because things are so cheap and easy now??

    Desktop computers have been commodities since the mid-90s with the rise of Windows 3.1 and Intel 386. In the mid 90s there were two, count them, two sites for computer enthusiasts: Tom’s Hardware and shortly after Anandtech. How many do you think there are now?

    The decline in forum activity is a sign that things [i<]have[/i<] gotten easier, and also the enthusiast market is spread much thinner across a variety of sites. I'm with Geoff; there has never been a better, cheaper, or easier time to be or become an enthusiast. Enthusiasts have many reasons beyond overclocking a cpu. Take for instance some of the "need help for first build" posts in the forums. Reading one of these posts makes one realize how much (valuable) information we have to share and from which we ourselves benefit, and often take for granted. If overclocking [b<]is[/b<] the benchmark for an enthusiast, I'd have to say that the number of enthusiasts have exploded given the ease and low cost of overclocking (although admittedly for smaller performance gains than some times in the past). My first overclock was a Pentium 120 to 133. Most people would laugh at a 10% overclock now, but it was a huge price difference. Saving money might have been the motivation for many of us in the beginning, but I for one follow computer hardware as sort of a hobby and to learn the best choices for personal builds, options for family members, home servers, and just for the general curiosity. It seems that enthusiast means something different to everyone. On one end of the spectrum if you haven't designed your own asic and assembled it by hand, you cannot possibly be an enthusiast. On the other end are people who consider themselves "enthusiasts" but basically read hardware reviews and are interested in general computer hardware. Much of the disagreement in the comments seems to reflect that underlying difference of opinion.

    • WhatMeWorry
    • 8 years ago

    Whips in decline? Not for buggy enthusiasts.

    I’d say the monster ATX PCs are in decline. Eventually, Intel will get their IGP act together or AMD will get their Fusion act together and mini-ITX cases will be the norm. And we’ll have USB 4.0 and 1T SSDs for $100. Gotta love Moore’s Observation.

    I’d say tablets and smart phones are PCs. Don’t they calculate – therefore computers? Aren’t they Personal?

    • thermistor
    • 8 years ago

    The (desktop) PC is most definitely NOT in decline. Examples:

    1) Mobo stratification. 10 years ago the most expensive mobo was how much, maybe $150, and you had really about 3 price points, about $80, $120, and $150 for the uber-board. Now, we have price points all over the place up to $600+. You can get enough slots to run quad graphics cards if needed for GPGPU or just insane resolution or multiple monitors. The co’s doing this are capturing a lot of margin catering to a still-present enthusiast crowd.

    2) Different form factors. Now we have have mini-ITX, touch screen PC’s, big towers, compact towers, HTPC, etc. Walk into a BB 10-15 years ago. A choice of laptops, and towers, all roughly the same. Companies like Silverstone wouldn’t exist without discerning people who want something to blend in with their entertainment centers. Yeah, it isn’t overclocking, but it’s custom PC building. Being an enthusiast isn’t just about water-cooling and over-volting, it’s also about creating something with a cool factor.

    3) Recently there was a column on bringing monitors with bad caps back from the dead. I had done that previously to several monitors, with fairly satisfying results. Anything that requires one to think, study, plan, and execute, rather than just shelling out the dough for something new, I think, is the mark of an enthusiast. It was rather exciting tearing open a monitor for the first time, inspecting the PCB and identifying the crummy caps. It was fun, too. How much fun can you have with a smartphone, other than jailbreaking it? OTOH, playing around with BIOS to make magic smoke, that’s fun…

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    While CPU’s RAM and GPU’s are all moving by leaps and bounds storage seems in a sorta limbo. HDD failure rates are on the rise and warranties are shortening. SSD are fast but equally if not more volatile. I was looking to upgrade my system storage but couldn’t get over this fact. I might replace my GPU for some improved BF3 performance but I doubt I’ll make any drastic system revisions till storage sorts itself out.

      • just brew it!
      • 8 years ago

      [quote<]The only time period where "enthusiasts" were in the majority was the mid-70's when you literally built your own computer (and I don't mean dropping a CPU into a zero insertion force socket here).[/quote<] Ahh, yes... those were the days. When men were men, and building your own computer meant using a soldering iron! 😀 My first video card came as a bare PCB, a bag of parts, and a fairly thick manual which included a parts placement drawing and schematic of the circuit, so you could troubleshoot it properly when you got no signal the first time you tried to fire it up. Owning an oscilloscope wasn't mandatory, but it was strongly recommended... if you didn't at least own a logic probe you were basically screwed.

    • ronch
    • 8 years ago

    Let’s see in ten years whether all these doom-and-gloom predictions are true or not. I, for one, don’t see the PC going away unless they all started cramming all the latest and greatest technologies inside small devices. No, the PC will remain as the recipient of the latest advances in technology, if only because they can cram the hottest chips there first.

      • kamikaziechameleon
      • 8 years ago

      While I’m impressed where phones are I’m not sure they compare for a moment with compters. Laptops might be more under threat than desktops/workstations.

    • cobrala
    • 8 years ago

    Well OF COURSE PC enthusiasts still like PCs. PCs have a place, still, but their place is no longer “for everyone”. The rest of the world, i.e. – the VAST MAJORITY of CONSUMERS, are moving on.

    Bye Bye.

      • chuckula
      • 8 years ago

      You see… you are just reinforcing the WRONG idea. The idea is that up until about oh… 2007 literally every PC in the world was made by enthusiasts and that mass production only began when the iPhone showed up…. This is absolutely ridiculous. The “mass production” PC has dominated the market since the early 1980’s, and you could even argue the late 1970’s with the Atari and whatnot.

      The only time period where “enthusiasts” were in the majority was the mid-70’s when you literally built your own computer (and I don’t mean dropping a CPU into a zero insertion force socket here).

      The fact is that there is a large boutique industry devoted to overclockers and enthusiasts that didn’t exist even in the late 90’s. Overclocking itself has gone from an underground activity to something that Intel and AMD loudly brag about in their own marketing literature!

      The “vast majority” of consumers were NEVER in the enthusiast market, so your entire line of reasoning makes no sense. It’s like saying that the VAST MAJORITY of car buyers haven’t bought BMWs and Mercedes in the last year, so both of those companies are about to go out of business…

        • kamikaziechameleon
        • 8 years ago

        yeah we will either see a further segmentation of markets because of hardware diverging or software could create a bridge. Steam is betaing an app for mobile OS’s. Everything we perceive could change in the next couple years… such is the way of tech.

    • indeego
    • 8 years ago

    “Horse drawn carriages in decline? Not for horse enthusiasts.”

    I mean, yeah, you have a point, people will always tinker, but the markets are definitely shifting. Wintel is no longer the future for a significant portion of the population. A very small business that needs to bill people will not be getting a Windows CE based POS system anymore.

      • kamikaziechameleon
      • 8 years ago

      I don’t think non power users where ever legit pc consumers, their office would try to get 10 years out of a machine, lol. They pay way to much for service and support, ha ha ha. Just replaced a Original AMD 64 bit CPU in my dad’s office with a sandybridge chipset… And that was their draft machine!

        • Rakhmaninov3
        • 8 years ago

        Oh please, 10 years is nothing. My hospital still uses Pentium !!!’s!

        Getting new ones in June, but the old-ass Dells we’ve been using were manufactured in 1999.

        They suck balls.

          • d0g_p00p
          • 8 years ago

          whats a Pentium!!!? is that some extreme edition or something?

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 8 years ago

            He means a Pentium [i<]!!![/i<]

          • Bensam123
          • 8 years ago

          Is it a slocket? 😀

    • Meadows
    • 8 years ago

    Smartphones have more mindshare because they suck. Good god, do they ever suck.

    Allow me to explain: people keep one eye on new releases [i<]precisely [u<]because[/u<][/i<] the new device will do something that the previous device should've been able to do, but didn't. Ergo, the new device is better, more capable, lighter, or whatever else they'll research next. You can't do that with the PC anymore: buy a new PC, and you will find that it [b<]won't[/b<] really do anything [b<]more[/b<] than your current/previous PC already does. As soon as manufacturers "max out" the smartphone, you will find decreased interest, much as it once happened with the PC. (That is, until a revolution is upon us, like holographic touchscreens or mind control keyboards.)

      • odizzido
      • 8 years ago

      I don’t own a smartphone because they aren’t good enough yet. I would love to be able to carry a tiny device that can do everything I need, but sadly the smallest device I can find that does everything I want is 10 inches and one kilo.

      • indeego
      • 8 years ago

      They do “suck” (I hate the software model I feel like I can’t trust 90% of what’s on the Android market and 100% of Apple) but man are they competitive in a space that PC and Mac never really seemed to be.

      And they are also amazing. I mean, I’m [i<]working[/i<] from my freaking phone. Mind you, I can't work as efficiently or do everything I can from my PC, but on a bus trip into work I was able to remote in and fix an issue. That one issue saved me 20 minutes of nervousness, and any users in after that time were working fine. We're talking likely hundred-thousands saved in billable hours... From a freaking phone.

      • thefumigator
      • 8 years ago

      I own a nokia E62 since 4 years now and I can’t live without it.
      I use it mainly when I’m out of home, I hear internet radio, check my gmail, and google maps. with perfect messaging and calls, while not fancy at all as it is in the iphone. Also not fast enough for youtube or video playing. And loading more than 4 tasks makes the whole thing to run slow.
      But yeah I personally give a heavy use not sure anyone would give.

    • End User
    • 8 years ago

    I’ve been building PCs for over 20 years. Planning the build, buying the parts, building the system and then overclocking it is all loads of fun. I don’t see that changing for me.

    • Krogoth
    • 8 years ago

    PCs have already became commodities, they have been there since 2000s. They are just becoming smaller and more integrated. You no longer need to overclock, fiddle around with the BIOS, volt-mod, use oversized HSF and loud fans to get high enough performance to run your favorite games at a buttery-smooth frame-rate. You can pull it off with stock components.

    Overclocking itself is effortless as vendors do at the factory for an extra cost and turbo-clocking has rendered arm-chair overclocking obsolete.

    You can create a powerful desktop system that can handle any non-workstation and server task with a mATX board. You couldn’t pull that off a decade ago.

    PC Enthusiast are now the new pertolheads. The rest of world gets by with rather mundane stuff that gets the job done, while a tiny minority is still willing to play around with their fancy toys (computers/cars) to get more out of them.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 8 years ago

      Why do you even read computer enthusiast sites Kroger, seriously?

        • Krogoth
        • 8 years ago

        The truth hurts, does it not?

        I like reading the news on where the computer world is going, but I’m not fooling myself thinking that everything in PC world is roses and everything nice. The PC world is a different beast from 10+ years ago. The PC enthusiast scene is just a former shadow of itself. The new interest is portable platforms, gaming consoles, home-theater systems etc. The desktop PC has turned into another household appliance.

        The current crop of products of marketed towards PC enthusiast are just overpriced, “rice-up” non-sense.

          • End User
          • 8 years ago

          [quote<]The PC world is a different beast from 10+ years ago. The PC enthusiast scene is just a former shadow of itself. [/quote<] Oh man! Where have you been? There has never been a better time to be a PC enthusiast than right now. The selection, price, and outright cool of what is available today is just astounding. [quote<]The current crop of products of markets towards PC enthusiast are just overpriced, "rice-up" non-sense.[/quote<] Is that jealousy? Envy? Sadness when thinking of a life gone by or perhaps of a life you never had?

            • OneArmedScissor
            • 8 years ago

            I think it was better a few years ago, when you could buy a $50 Core 2 based Pentium and effortlessly turn it up high enough to match the fastest and significantly more expensive ones just by changing it to the same FSB.

            And you could still be using it today just fine.

            There’s been a decline in “bang for your enthusiasm” ever since. While more expensive CPUs have such high stock speeds that overclocking is hardly even beneficial, you can’t just buy the current Pentium Sandy Bridge and do the same thing as was possible in the past.

            • Krogoth
            • 8 years ago

            I have been at the scene for years.

            It used to take technical skill and knowledge to fiddle around with your system without killing it.

            Now it is practically effortlessly with little or no risk to the hardware.

            The performance gains with overclocking and tweaking around the system are practically meaninglessly, as the components are already “fast” at stock for practically everything out there.

            If you are in a market for serious computing power, you are probably looking at the professional arena where overclocking is a big NO. This market values stability and data integrity as much as performance.

            Most of gerbils (me included) were in their diapers or tears in their parents eyes back when personal computers use to require a soldering iron to build it and you had to program everything in it by hand.

            • kamikaziechameleon
            • 8 years ago

            what is a normal task? web surfing and MS word??? I feel like computers are still sludge. As a power user they have a long way to go. Either software needs to sort itself out or the storage pipeline needs to pick its path. Honestly I can’t believe how little performance improvement I get year to year, upgrade to upgrade with solid works, A-CAD, photoshop or 3DS MAX.

            • cynan
            • 8 years ago

            No more need for soldering for the PC enthusiast, eh? Looks like Asus doesn’t agree with you.

            Starting with their new enthusiast line of HD 7970 cards ([url=http://www.asus.com/Graphics_Cards/AMD_Series/HD7970DC2T3GD5/<]DirectCuII[/url<]) Asus has introduced something they are calling VGA Hotwire. It is essentially a DC cable with a few conductors that attaches to headers on compatible ROG motherboards that enable the user to adjust/monitor Vcore, etc, easily from software. And, you guessed it, soldering is required to attach this cable to the actual video card (why Asus couldn't have supplied small pin connectors instead is beyond me). But whatever, I can already anticipate your response: "Modern video cards such as the HD 7970 already provide more performance than anyone in their right mind really needs anyway, so making voltage adjustments to enhance overclocking potential is pointless..." VGA Hotwire may largely be a gimmick, yet the fact remains that the whole point of being a PC (or any) enthusiast is not exclusivley because it fosters a skill set [i<]required[/i<] to get the most out of your computing experience or achieve the the best bang for your buck (though that is probably a large reason why many were first drawn to overclocking). First and foremost it is a hobby. The appeal of hobbies lie in doing them. It is the process itself that is important and rewarding, not exclusively what you get out of it, or for how little relative to what it cost someone else. And just because this particular hobby has been made more accessible in recent years doesn't mean there are no new or persisting "elite" PC enthusiast pursuits. What about those fancy custom enclosures that some spend hours designing and building from scratch? What about overclocking using liquid nitrogen (and more recently, liquid helium) to reach stratospheric clock frequencies? What about those who replace OPAMPs on sound cards (with their own soldering irons, no less) to get that extra db of signal/noised ratio? Or those who replace power circuitry components on video cards to push them to higher stable clocks than ever possible with the stock hardware? Yes, sometimes being a PC enthusiast can involve tedium and is not all glamour (like the days of yore you describe), whether running memtest86+ for hours to diagnose system stability issues or rerouting cables in your new build for the fourth time because you just weren't quite satisfied with the previous hardware configurations... However, those who don't get at least some enjoyment out of these sorts of endeavors on the whole are not what I'd call an enthusiast. And by the sound of it, Mr. Krogoth, you yourself have moved on to bigger and better things.

            • End User
            • 8 years ago

            [quote<]If you are in a market for serious computing power, you are probably looking at the professional arena where overclocking is a big NO.[/quote<] No argument there. My dual X5650 rig is running nice and cool 24/7 at stock clocks. That being said my next gaming rig should come close to matching it after I OC the hell out of it. A pointless exercise from your point of view but a heck of a lot of fun for me. [quote<]when personal computers use to require a soldering iron to build it and you had to program everything in it by hand [/quote<] And back in the good old days you had to start a horseless carriage with a hand crank. Whoop-de-friggin-do.

          • kamikaziechameleon
          • 8 years ago

          “The truth hurts, does it not?”

          No master Yoda, because it isn’t truth… it looks, and sounds like truth but is spoken by a false prophet…lol

          But seriously you reference a time that never existed. Because it comes from your mouth doesn’t make it so. As a person who has only ever been a power user computers only became affordable to upkeep in the last 6 years. when a company bought a computer in the 90’s they thought it would be a 10 year investment. There are win 98 machines in my office right now! My dad’s office just upgraded the drafters cutting edge machine from a AMD first gen 64 bit CPU to a sandybridge chipset! I think they realized that people don’t invest in computers and started targeting the people who buy what they make instead of targeting the low margin pc distributors like dell.

          They realized volume isn’t everything!

          • MadManOriginal
          • 8 years ago

          It’s not about the truth hurting, I don’t even completely disagree with you although your opinions are too extreme, perhaps that’s just typical internet ‘take extreme opinions to be noticed’ posting. What’s funny about it is you’ve been saying the same things for [i<]ages[/i<]. I can remember your posts about video cards from years ago - your X1800 or X1900 was 'fast enough' and there was no need for faster graphics chips, then your 4850 was 'fast enough' and there was no need for...mhmm. It's funny because you actually disprove your own point and I always felt you were just jealous and/or angry when new stuff came out that you couldn't buy. Portable platforms are definitely on the rise, I'll give you that, but guess how that came about? Advances that were based upon computer technology, that's all mobile devices are after all. As for gaming consoles, they pale in comparison for 'enthusiasts,' especially hardware enthusiasts, because the hardware is set in stone. At best those two areas are 'software enthusiast' havens because the hardware as a whole is predetermined. Home theater 'enthusiasts'? lol, welcome to the late 1980's. No, you read far too much in to my post, just take it at pure face value - why read an enthusiast site, why bother keeping up with 'where the computer world is going' if to you, the 'computer world' is dead? You provided no logical answer to that. I think you either just like the attention your long-time consistently negative posts bring, in which case I am just feeding the troll but oh well, or you are just a negative person in general and want to bring down others to your own level of misery.

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            I think it is a safe bet that Krogoth is not impressed with your post…

            • Krogoth
            • 8 years ago

            Holy over-analyzation batman!

            You are looking way too deeply into a silly opinion.

            • dmjifn
            • 8 years ago

            +1. Kroggers makes solid hits once in a while but I agree that they are silly and not worth analyzing. 😉

        • Kurotetsu
        • 8 years ago

        Because it allows him to inflate his sense of self-importance by reiterating what other, actual, competent analysts have been saying for years. Then declaring himself to be some sort of ‘arbiter of truth’ for doing so.

          • Krogoth
          • 8 years ago

          Nope, just stating the obvious.

      • cygnus1
      • 8 years ago

      What a damn debbie downer

      • Mopar63
      • 8 years ago

      Guys as much as we might hate to admit it he is not wrong. We are seeing a plateauing of the hardware in the PC world. We have reached the point that with some very specific exceptions overclocking yields only minor at best real world boosts, not like back in the days of the Celeron 300. Even in video cards, unless you are a hard core multi-monitoring uber geek there is no need for multi-card setups or even spending more than around $250 to get performance that gets you great game play.

      I do not think this means PCs are dying however, quite the opposite, it means PCs for great gaming are now accessible to the masses and that is a good thing.

        • setzer
        • 8 years ago

        I tend to agree with Krogoth in this matter,

        Other than gamming or other niche situations (HPC), almost any dual-core system today is capable enough for almost all tasks, just add an SSD for the OS/Apps and you are set.
        Gaming is interesting, in one hand on the PC we have better image quality, more precise input methods but on the other hand almost every single time you have more issues than playing the games on a console (G4WL and Batman spring to mind).
        As for the need for overclocking, that is a moot point most of the time, if you play with good image quality at the optimal screen resolution and at a good and consistent frame rate what is the point of overclocking? Generating more heat and more power consumption for no apparent gains? Saving a bit of cash can get you a faster processor and/or graphics card and in my opinion that is preferable (within reason) to overclock, safer more stable and less expensive in the end of the year (we tend to forget electricity bills, but depending on what you are doing, that money saved skimping on the cpu/gpu to then overclock will have its price in the end).
        Also let’s not forget multi-core gaming, yes because games are really multi-threaded now a days (most don’t even use 4 threads never mind the fact that quads are main-stream for a couple or more years).
        GPU’s, again the same issue, enthusiast is great, but in my experience paying for premium cards or multi-gpu setups never really pays-of, premium cards just last a generation more at the most, I had a 9800GX2 in a computer and a 3850 in another, the 9800GX2 lasted 2 years and half (but costed 5 times the price of the 3850, at €550 vs €100), I replaced the 3850 for a used 4850 in one and half years (total 150€) but in the end both played the same games at mainly the same IQ and performance and in the end both were replaced for 6850 cards, total cost of going with the 9800GX2? 700€ versus 300€ for the 3850>4850>6850, and like I said, at the 4850 switch both were performing similarly.
        Before I get flamed, I don’t run multi-monitor or more 1080p+ resolutions, so, enthusiast hardware is nice, but unless you really need enthusiast grade hardware it’s not a good buy.

        Though if picking the right components for your usage and build yourself your machine is the idea of an enthusiast, in that case I consider myself one 😛

        The trick is in the balance.

        Taking the petrolhead metaphor from Korgoth, why do you need a car that goes at 300km/h if the speed limit is 120km/h and the only thing you do with the car is going shopping?
        Sure a lamborghini is nice, but I prefer to see through the rear window while parking, not getting my engine in flames or hit my head on the roof with every speed bump…

        In the end, what matters is choice, if you want to spend your money in monstrous hardware that will mostly idle and can afford it, go ahead, nobody is stopping you, TR is here for helping you make better choices and that is why I like TR.

        • kamikaziechameleon
        • 8 years ago

        The current bottle neck is in storage, HDD are hitting density, read/right, and storage limitations and also increasing in failure rates. SSD’s have really figured themselves out yet either. Until our pipeline for code is solid all tech is going to flounder and feel similar in speed. This is part of why smart phones feel so fast relative to desktops. If we start to see a more uniform quality in high speed storage I think allot of waiting people like me will jump on, this will also change the utilization of ram and function of the page file!

      • indeego
      • 8 years ago

      Why are you always so downvoted?

      FInding myself agreeing with more and more of your opinions. meh or not…

        • Krogoth
        • 8 years ago

        Because, I bet most of the downvoters don’t realize how most of the world views desktop computers.

        They probably weren’t into desktop computers until 2000s.

          • kamikaziechameleon
          • 8 years ago

          since 96! and i’m only 25 🙂 I remember playing flight sims on dos, and doom! oh those where the good times! 😛

      • kroker
      • 8 years ago

      Yep, 640KB is more memory than we will *EVER* need 😉

      I remember many people saying why would anyone need 1TB of HDD space when they first came out, don’t put all your eggs in one basket etc. Now they’re upset that HDD prices have gone up and complain how they wish they would have bought a 2TB/3TB disk before the Thailand flooding.

      Aren’t you guys tired of always being wrong? It will NEVER be enough, we will always find new ways to use the better hardware.

        • dmjifn
        • 8 years ago

        Agreed. If we stop now, we’ll never get holodecks.

          • just brew it!
          • 8 years ago

          A company called Zebra Imaging is actually working on it. They’ve already built a small-scale proof-of-concept demo system; it’s just a matter of scaling things up by several orders of magnitude.

          I think we’ll have something resembling a holodeck in 10-15 years.

            • dmjifn
            • 8 years ago

            Wow – I thought I’d picked something that had little chance to arrive in my lifetime.

            • paulWTAMU
            • 8 years ago

            And the porn industry will never be the same.

      • tootercomputer
      • 8 years ago

      I agree in a lot of ways with what you say, as PCs have become much more powerful off-the-shelf. Everything has gotten better and cheaper pretty much. Geez, I spent over 2K in 1994 for a Gateway 486 system with Windows 3.11WFW. It was pretty state of the art, but even then I thought it was a bit of a dog performance-wise.

      What I have noticed over the past few years is the drop-off of people at enthusiast sites. I remember the AMD Venice days when some enthusiast sites had forums for specific motherboards and there would be many daily posts for this or that tweak for this or that mobo. Now so many of those brands of mobo have dropped by the wayside, and enthusiast sites have consolidated to a general “motherboard” category with far fewer daily posts. I would really be curious to know what the stats are on home-built systems now, whether the numbers are trending up or down.

      I really hope the enthusiast market can continue, as there is nothing I love more than a new build, or tweaking an old one. I’m am looking forward to building a new system when IveBridge comes out.

      • kamikaziechameleon
      • 8 years ago

      If you think regular consumers or business EVER were on the leading edge of tech your are just plain wrong. You reference a time that never existed. My office only got computers in the last decade… we just got rid of our blu print machine this month… computers are still rising in utilization. No one can work on a smartphone its not stable/accessible/functional enough to do anything beyond text/gps/email. They still take crummy photos, and crap video.

    • chuckula
    • 8 years ago

    If it were possible to up-vote a story, then this story would be more than worthy of one!

    People who say that enthusiast PCs are on the decline have an *extremely* short memory when you look at history. It used to be that “enthusiast” was just taking the exact same parts that were in every commodity boxed PC and trying (usually against all odds) to overclock or do something great with the hardware. These days, there’s an entire industry that specifically caters to enthusiasts. Not to mention the fact that major companies like Intel and AMD intentionally put out boutique parts that they know won’t sell in huge volumes because they are smart enough to know that credit in the Enthusiast community trickles down into the mass market too.

    People who say that enthusiast PCs are dead because the segment isn’t huge compared to the mass market forget that 1. the segment didn’t even exist back in the supposed “good ol’ days”, and 2. the big-box commodity market has *always* dwarfed the “enthusiast” market starting with probably the Commodore 64, original IBM PC, and Apple II. If anything, the enthusiast niche has gotten *more* diverse over time.

    P.S. –> “Enthusiast” doesn’t always need to mean the most expensive parts either… I look at it as a build-it yourself to make the PC do what *you* want it to do as being a big part of the enthusiast mindset. I have a freakin’ Atom box that I’d call enthusiast because it’s hosting a RAID storage over multiple gigabit links to my main system, something that you ain’t going to do with a POS from Dell.

      • Deanjo
      • 8 years ago

      Sorry gotta chuckle at that last line. One of my raid storage systems is an old POS Dell that I refurbished (x2 4200+) with teamed Gbit nics. Work was just going to throw it out.

      • Lazier_Said
      • 8 years ago

      Disagree 100%.

      Being an enthusiast used to bring concrete benefits.

      My Celeron 300 @ 504 was faster than anything Intel sold at the time at any price. So was my P3 600 @ 866. So were the 10K SCSI drives hanging off my Adaptec 2940U2W.

      I could play Unreal with 3D positional sound on my Aureal Vortex 2. Creative couldn’t do that.

      My volt modded Panaflos and 80mm Alpha heatsinks were silent. So were my Geforce cards with S370 coolers epoxied on.

      I ran Windows 2000 which worked when every consumer system was sold with Windows ME which didn’t.

      Today a $400 Inspiron out of the box does everything a PC needs to do so well that there’s nothing left to get enthusiastic about doing better. My $400 QNAP does everything the home fileservers stuffed with Promise cards I used to build does. And it’s smaller than a shoebox, draws under 30 watts, and administration isn’t a kludge.

      All I see left to desktop enthusiasm is virgins flaming each other about which incredibly fast and cheap video card they prefer to run without modding because there’s nothing wrong with them to mod.

        • trog69
        • 8 years ago

        As an avid gamer, I know for a fact that you couldn’t be more wrong. Try loading up Metro 2033 on that Inspiron. Heck, just go look on the Bethesda forums to find the countless disappointed new laptop owners as they find out that Intel HD graphics won’t play much of any of today’s graphics-intensive games.

          • cosminmcm
          • 8 years ago

          The HD graphics part is not for enthusiasts, but the CPU part certainly is.

        • DrCR
        • 8 years ago

        QNAP – You must have rather mild io needs.

        I haven’t OCed since getting a P35/C2D Wolfdale, but that’s mainly because all the new games disinterest me. The only Lan parties I go to nowadays are (totally epic) AOE2 lans, which I take my A7N8X, 2600+ Barton core rig to.

        There’s also something I’ve rarely ever see from retail boxen – complete, total reliability. I consider retail boxes disposable computers as their motherboards rarely ever hold a candle to the utter reliability of my DIY builds.

        I’m also quiet, SPCR-spec nut, and that’s something that simply cannot be bought outside of the boutique retail routes.

          • NeelyCam
          • 8 years ago

          [quote<]I'm also quiet, SPCR-spec nut, and that's something that simply cannot be bought outside of the boutique retail routes.[/quote<] This. The best way to get a superquiet, customized rig is to build one yourself.

        • travbrad
        • 8 years ago

        [quote<]My Celeron 300 @ 504 was faster than anything Intel sold at the time at any price. So was my P3 600 @ 866.[/quote<] So is my 2500K (which was $150) @ 4.8ghz. At worst it about matches a stock 3960X, and at best (gaming) it's way faster. How have things changed exactly? [quote<]I ran Windows 2000 which worked when every consumer system was sold with Windows ME which didn't.[/quote<] So your complaint is that Microsoft makes operating systems that actually work properly now? Ok then. [quote<]Today a $400 Inspiron out of the box does everything a PC needs to do so well that there's nothing left to get enthusiastic about doing better.[/quote<] I'd rather play BF3 or do video encoding on my PC than on an Inspiron, but that's just me. [quote<]video card they prefer to run without modding because there's nothing wrong with them to mod.[/quote<] Those video card makers are designing their cards correctly? How dare they! You used to have to solder your memory chips on to a motherboard too, but I don't really think we should revert back to that just so we can feel more "hardcore". I'll take a 30 second memory installation over soldering TYVM.

    • moresmarterthanspock
    • 8 years ago

    I don’t think the PC will become an obscurity. It has become a necessity in today’s world. Nobody raves about the latest and greatest water-heater, or the newest upcoming vacuum cleaners, even though there are still advances, and every once in a while you might see a commercial about a vacuum cleaner. I believe the desktop PC has become so common, that nobody talks about it anymore, even though there are always advances in desktop PC processing speed and power. I hope that the world doesn’t move away from the desktop PC. I hate those touchscreen tablets. I have one, and I cannot type a full e-mail without my fingers hurting. I will always prefer the feedback of a mechanical-spring keyboard.

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