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The "Not So" Late, "And Still" Great Desktop PC

By Julio Franco · 18 replies
Apr 24, 2018
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  1. Talk about a category that doesn’t get much love. Desktop PCs are considered by many to be the dinosaur of the device category. After all, they’re big, bulky, typically heavy beasts that don’t exactly fit the mobility profile with which everyone seems obsessed.

    And yet, they continue to lumber on. Sure, shipments have slipped from their peak and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. However, there were still just under 100 million desktop PCs shipped worldwide in 2017. No matter how you look at it, that’s still a big number.

    More importantly, desktops continue to evolve and improve, and they continue to be the form factor of choice for a wide variety of applications, from professional eSports and PC gaming through professional audio, music and video digital content creation (and let’s not forget cryptocurrency mining). In their fortified workstation versions, desktops still dominate for applications such as 3D modelling, scientific research, and much more.

    Plus, for those who love to tinker with and build their own compute devices, absolutely nothing beats a desktop PC. Whether it’s the range of color light-equipped RGB fans, or the auto engine-style heat pipes, there’s no shortage of ways to customize the look of your custom desktop rig.

    "For those who love to tinker with and build their own compute devices, absolutely nothing beats a desktop PC."

    The customization possibilities continue “under-the-hood” as well, with an enormous range of hardware components and software utilities designed to wring the absolute maximum potential performance out of a given desktop PC system.

    The latest entry into the desktop component fray is AMD’s new second-generation Ryzen (though not Ryzen 2) family of desktop CPUs, topped by the 3.7 GHz, 8-core, 16-thread, Ryzen 7 2700X. Long a sentimental favorite of the DIY PC crowd, AMD has had difficulty competing against Intel from a performance perspective for many years, but last year’s Ryzen launch and the additional refinements in this year’s CPUs have made things interesting again in the world of PC benchmarks.

    Thanks to a variety of refinements to algorithms that dynamically boost clock speed based on workloads and power efficiency (Precision Boost 2 and XFR, or Xtended Frequency Range, respectively), as well as some reductions in latencies to on-chip caches and system memory, these new CPUs offer mid-single digit percentage improvements versus last year’s models, despite having very similar overall architectures.

    "Desktop PCs are clearly not the right choice for everyone, but they clearly are a great choice for a significant, and often overlooked, group of people."

    More importantly, in my mind, are the refinements that AMD has made to their Ryzen Master CPU tuning and overclocking software. Like Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility, Ryzen Master provides an overview of the performance, temperature, and other various settings of each core in the CPU. While its primary intention is to enable overclocking and other performance enhancements—and with the help of some liquid nitrogen can apparently enable speeds up to 6 GHz per core—the refined UI of Ryzen Master offers an IoT-like snapshot of the physical characteristics of the different Ryzen CPU cores. It’s a fascinating example of how people can now get a much more detailed view of their technology devices at work.

    Desktop PCs are clearly not the right choice for everyone, but they clearly are a great choice for a significant, and often overlooked, group of people. Given the renewed competitive energy between Intel’s Coffee Lake generation desktop CPUs and these new second generation AMD Ryzen chips, there’s also a surprisingly strong but typically overlooked set of technologies benefitting today’s desktop market.

    Thanks to these advancements, as well as the continuously growing range of workloads that are being performed on both consumer and commercial PCs, it’s safe to say, we’ll likely still be talking about a desktop PC market for decades to come.

    Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting and market research firm. You can follow him on Twitter . This article was originally published on Tech.pinions.

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  2. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 514   +353

    "just under 100 million desktop PCs shipped"

    I take it these are just OEM PCs? What kind of numbers for user-built rigs? I would suspect take the CPU purchases and adjust them to maybe 80%, which would possibly factor in upgrades to existing rigs and possibly server builds not using server-class CPUs.

    Using any kind of mobile device raises costs significantly for the user. Desktops are by far cheaper (considering equivalent hardware specs), easily serviceable by the user, and much easier to upgrade/replace components. They are also much less likely to get damaged or dropped as they are rarely moved.
    Reehahs, Polycount and vincentyu like this.
  3. thelatestmodel

    thelatestmodel TS Addict Posts: 142   +60

    I for one cannot function if I don't have a desktop PC in my office. It's my home base, my battle station, the hub of my game room. I built it, I know every component, and I can tear it down and rebuild it to be just like new if I need to. I know I'm not alone in this. The desktop PC is not dead and has a very long future ahead of it. Not saying it'll live forever, but it'll certainly take a generation to die out.
    Polycount, doomworm, Stark and 2 others like this.
  4. Eric Mozzone

    Eric Mozzone TS Enthusiast Posts: 27   +19

    I'm not sure I agree with the comment about people obsessing over mobility. In my situation, I have multiple friends including myself who say that mobility does NOT deliver or meet requirements/expectations. Which ultimately causes us to not "obsess" over it. The idea of having a mobile piece of hardware that can deliver the same as a desktop pc I can obsess over, but until that's true, I cannot. Though some "mobile" options out there are very nice, and "close" (in performance) it is still not up to par with current desktop capabilities.

    Why can't you just wait until you're at home to sit on the computer? Whats so important that you have to do it on the run? :p
    Polycount and dob_1 like this.
  5. Vulcanproject

    Vulcanproject TS Evangelist Posts: 530   +665

    Bah. Mobility can suck it. There is nothing quite like having your own colossus of a tower PC flexing its muscles on your preferred workload or game. Nothing can truly match it for performance, which is the point.
    Eric Mozzone, ddferrari and Polycount like this.
  6. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,995   +1,378

    Remember when all the "experts" claimed that tablets were going to make PC's obsolete because of mobility? Yeah, about that...

    You can't do any power computing at all - especially in the architecture, medical, graphics media, and science realms with anything other than a beefed up PC. Even the most powerful laptops struggle with research-level and architecture programs.

    Desktops are going to be around for a long, long time.
  7. Jamlad

    Jamlad TS Maniac Posts: 177   +161

    A few of the commentators are missing the mobility point.

    For the majority of users , casuals, mobile computing power is sufficient for their needs. That $500 i5 laptop is good enough for FB, youtube, etc. and doesn't take up a dedicated space in the house. This is also why PC shipments in general have been falling. The market is maturing to the point where a computer from 2011 is still good enough for the majority (casuals).

    Desktops are going the way of power users. People who need the raw computing power for academic, professional, and gaming reasons.

    You guys are the muscle car enthusiasts wondering why anybody would buy a dinky EV coupee to drive around the city.
    mbrowne5061 likes this.
  8. The error most of these predictions make (X is going to kill off Y) is that they ignore market needs. X isn't going to kill Y if market A can't perform task B on X.

    PC is here to stay.

    Tablets are here to stay.

    Laptops are here to stay.

    Smartphones will be here until hip cancer wipes out 90% of the population.
    Stark, doomworm, Agnomen and 5 others like this.
  9. thelatestmodel

    thelatestmodel TS Addict Posts: 142   +60

    Not quite. I recognize that not everyone needs a desktop. I'm just saying that some people will always need them.
    jobeard likes this.
  10. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,616   +3,076

    Just the ability to take off the cover and play with the thing is enough for me to keep a desktop ...... kind of like having a younger girlfriend!
    regiq likes this.
  11. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,435   +1,414

    SELDOM is there one and only one "true choice". OMG can you envision attempting to write even just a term paper on ANY mobile device? What about the assembly instructions from something from IKEA?

    There are lots of comments making mandatory recommendations like Games you Should Play, Shortcuts Everyone Needs.
    • When the only tool in the tool box is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
  12. GreenNova343

    GreenNova343 TS Maniac Posts: 332   +218

    it depends on the definition of "mobile", & how comfortable you are with it. For example, I can't ever see myself using my smartphone to write anything other than a text message, Facebook comment, or the occasional forum post, because the onscreen keyboard is too small. Nor can I see myself doing it on even a Surface Pro or iPad with the keyboard, for the same reason that I couldn't do it with a lot of laptops: the keyboard size is a little small, the keys don't have the same "feel" as a standard keyboard...& most importantly, there's no number pad (I really prefer the 10-key section when it comes to typing in lots of numbers, especially in Excel spreadsheets). Not to mention the lack of a 2nd screen (use that setup for both work & home on the desktop, & I've grown too accustomed to it to ever go back to a "1 screen" setup for productivity).

    My wife shares a lot of similar views, especially at the smartphone level & with the utility of a multi-screen setup. But... as a college professor, she has additional uses for her iPad & Surface Pro (both provided by the college) that I don't really have, uses that even her Macbook (also provided by the college) isn't able to fulfill. She's also found the iPad with keyboard to be ideal for typing up notes when she's attending conferences -- a productivity use that isn't so much about "content creation" as it is providing data for later usage in the creation of content. And she's used her Macbook for work quite a bit (& an HP Probook before that), so she's also more comfortable typing on a laptop for content creation than I am...although, again, for heavy-duty work (I.e. creation of a new course) she still relies on our multi-screen desktop.

    Devices that leverage mobility are just like other devices: they have their strengths...& they have their weaknesses. But until we get to the point of combined Cray 2 supercomputers/smartphones/gaming desktop devices that fit into our pockets, there won't a "one device to rule them all"...& by that time, just imagine what a desktop version of that device will be even more capable of doing.
    TomSEA likes this.
  13. dob_1

    dob_1 TS Booster Posts: 50   +29

    I have two desktops - one at home, one at work. Mirrored Hard Drives are my first level backups and allow working in either place. No lugging between work and home. One is powerful for video rendering etc, other is average for basic tasks. When a fan failed recently it was a quick $30 fix. Cost for both is similar to one good laptop and incremental replacement of components eases the budget.
    A colleague insisted on a laptop and lugs it between work and home offices. Now less than 3 years on it has a broken hinge and will need a complete replacement.
    Yep - desktops forever! Decent screens, decent keyboard, decent storage capacity!
  14. Stark

    Stark TS Booster Posts: 86   +84

    Desktops are the core for my computing needs, sure a good laptop is great but nothing beats those long weekends sessions of straining your CPU/GPU, both for work and fun.
    Sure my wife may feel right at home with a decent laptop, but I need that extra power a desktop offers. Also it is something I build myself, can troubleshoot and repair, upgrade as and when I need it.
    Not to mention some good option now for SFF and mini itx builds (dat NZXT H200i)..........makes me weak in the knees......
  15. GeforcerFX

    GeforcerFX TS Evangelist Posts: 832   +339

    I tinker with desktops, my main systems are laptops. I like the flexibility they provide me, but I am not a fan of newer laptop trends in construction and upgradability. Luckily I can tear down my main rigs in my sleep and parts are easy to come by still on ebay and some parts vendors. For people that need the absolute maximum performance out of a box they have to go desktop still, but budget gamers can actually get more bang for buck out of a laptop thanks to high ram and gpu prices.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2018
  16. Jeddo7884

    Jeddo7884 TS Rookie

    Mobility? I can build a "shoe box" rig for lan parties! but seriously, wheres the comfort in that? after a long day of work, I cant wait to sit on my gaming chair and look at my setup before I turn on my pc and get lost in its entirety. it will live forever
  17. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Evangelist Posts: 479   +503

    I love my desktop but let's not be delusional over the mobile world, they far exceed desktops and DiY desktops is a small niche regardless of it's appeal to us.
  18. Urgelt

    Urgelt TS Enthusiast Posts: 66   +37

    I don't see mobile vs desktops as 'either-or.' *Most* people don't. You can do things with mobile that you can't with desktop PCs, and vice-versa. They address different market needs.

    The slow-down in PC sales has more to do with the maturity of the market and a slowing-down of year-over-year performance gains than it has to do with growth in the less mature mobile market over the last 5 years. People are replacing old PCs at a slower rate, while sales in the mobile market reflect rapid improvements in performance for mobile devices.

    Those mobile improvements will keep on coming for a few more years. But mobile devices aren't a suitable replacement for large monitors, full-size keyboards, or heavy-duty processing needs, and they won't be any time soon. The two device categories don't compete head to head.

    That is the current situation. It's not set in stone. Technological advances will favor smaller form factors, and new methods of interacting with our devices will come. But today, the two markets don't really affect each other very much. PCs have their uses; mobile devices have theirs.
  19. roberthi

    roberthi TS Addict Posts: 332   +87

    LOL! The only ones that think desktops are dinosaurs are amateurs. Real engineers, gamers and design professionals don't do their crap on mobile. You can see it from most of the comments here already. People have rung the deathbell for desktops for decades now. I could care less if any of the desktop vendors go away...I build my own, anyway.

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