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How Necessary Are Desktops For Gaming and Creative Software in Today's Market?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
General computers from desktops to laptops to tablets have come a long way. You can walk into a Best Buy and buy a computer that most likely will run 95% of all the games out there on moderate graphic settings. With the advent of mobile gaming and not much changing in the standards of monitor resolution, many developers are making the entry level for necessary hardware to run their games at a point where again, most computers can run the games moderately well.

Advances in CPUs, GPUs, and integrated graphics are only pushing the envelope. I never thought that even tablets or smart phones would be capable of some of the graphics they have, esp. with the high resolution displays these devices are sporting.

And programs like Photoshop easily run well on most current laptops. Creative software has become better perhaps, but at the same time the software isn't demanding huge extra piles of power. That stopped a while ago. Video rendering and editing can still take a bit longer on a system that isn't as highly equipped, but if that is your focus you will be buying a setup for your job/passion.

More importantly, gaming seems to be more friendly with the current array of computers produced and sold than ever before. Free 2 Play and MMO's generally only stretch so far with graphics anyway. And with the next generation of consoles finally sporting X86 architecture and all the memory they need, I find it hard to believe that game developers aren't going to be focused more on a similar experience and graphics across the board.

And as time goes one these lines become even more blurred and barriers are lessened further. So with all that, do people really think custom desktops are the way to go for playing games and that it is that much better of an experience than a laptop? I can just as easily hook up a monitor, mouse, and mechanical keyboard to my laptop so I can achieve the same interface. Mobile graphics are constantly being pushed and are a large area of focus to continually improve due to mobile markets, component shrinking, heat reductions, etc. SSD's have increased performance, esp. in mobile markets. And external storage devices and things like NAS storage solutions are becoming much more commonplace, as well as the cloud.

Are we near or at a point where a desktop computer no longer is the de facto necessity for computer gaming?

Take a serious second to think about that question. We are all part of a forum where overclocking is traditionally a luxury and an enthusiast venture. Many people love to OVER recommend by suggesting a solution that is not appropriate and overkill. I love seeing some of these large heatsinks on CPU's that have low heat output, and were built in mind with overclocking to a degree (even like the CPU in my rig). So just how much better is building your own desktop? The only part of a desktop I see that has an inherit advantage are aftermarket graphic cards. Hard to fit such a thing into a laptop. And at some point even that may change.
post #2 of 9
For myself, it is a hobby. Much how people enjoy building models and rockets, I enjoy building computers, it brings pleasure in assembling and tweaking. That is the simplest way of looking at it.

Where you start getting into a not so simple answer is when you start looking at what is being built. Truth be told, unless you are going to spend $700 or more on a desktop, building isn't the financially smart move. It is nearly impossible to build a system sub $700 that beats what you can buy, after all, none of us are in a position to lose money on a computer like the big guys. They will sell hardware at a loss in an attempt to sell services with it that are nearly pure profit.

In the performance aspect of things, most your basic computers today posses, out of the box, the ability to handle most every task someone is going to throw at it. Light gaming isn't an issue, in but a few exceptionally low end systems out there. Outside of those few low end systems even a basic computer with a basic discrete GPU will handle a lot of the current "main stream" games out there. Rigs like we see here on OCN are simply in existence because we want them, not because we truly need them.

A great example that ties into one you gave, my wife's laptop. We purchased it a year or so ago, fairly well equipped and does everything she needs without issue. Not that long ago we decided she wanted a little bit of a performance boost in it and a more comfortable work environment in the home to use it. So, I installed a SSD, we purchased a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. When she uses the system at home she turns it on, closes the lid, and plugs the HDMI cable into it, then sits it on her desk. The keyboard and mouse are wireless, and she has a flush fitting USB adapter in the system to utilize those.

Essentially we created a desktop with her laptop for a couple hundred dollars.

Looking back again at desktops, a lot of the OEM systems lacking point are their GPUs. It isn't difficult to buy a Dell or HP and then buy a 7850 or 660 Ti to slap in it. Most of the OEM systems are starting to come with power supplies capable of handling a basic GPU. If you catch a strong enough sale on a system, you can have a very capable "gaming" computer that includes everything you need for pretty cheap.

In the end though, I still feel when it comes to "gaming", desktops are still the leading system for it. Everyday usage, no, but in terms of gaming, they still are. This is quickly changing though, and I would say in the next few years it will almost not matter what form factor you go with.

Interestingly enough, it isn't the lack of performance on laptops and other platforms that keep desktops in the lead, but cost. Laptop systems are still more expensive when compared to their performance capabilities. When we start seeing that $1000-$1100 laptop performance mark dropping into the $700 price tag, then we have a different discussion.
    
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post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PostalTwinkie View Post

For myself, it is a hobby. Much how people enjoy building models and rockets, I enjoy building computers, it brings pleasure in assembling and tweaking. That is the simplest way of looking at it.

Where you start getting into a not so simple answer is when you start looking at what is being built. Truth be told, unless you are going to spend $700 or more on a desktop, building isn't the financially smart move. It is nearly impossible to build a system sub $700 that beats what you can buy, after all, none of us are in a position to lose money on a computer like the big guys. They will sell hardware at a loss in an attempt to sell services with it that are nearly pure profit.

In the performance aspect of things, most your basic computers today posses, out of the box, the ability to handle most every task someone is going to throw at it. Light gaming isn't an issue, in but a few exceptionally low end systems out there. Outside of those few low end systems even a basic computer with a basic discrete GPU will handle a lot of the current "main stream" games out there. Rigs like we see here on OCN are simply in existence because we want them, not because we truly need them.

A great example that ties into one you gave, my wife's laptop. We purchased it a year or so ago, fairly well equipped and does everything she needs without issue. Not that long ago we decided she wanted a little bit of a performance boost in it and a more comfortable work environment in the home to use it. So, I installed a SSD, we purchased a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. When she uses the system at home she turns it on, closes the lid, and plugs the HDMI cable into it, then sits it on her desk. The keyboard and mouse are wireless, and she has a flush fitting USB adapter in the system to utilize those.

Essentially we created a desktop with her laptop for a couple hundred dollars.

Looking back again at desktops, a lot of the OEM systems lacking point are their GPUs. It isn't difficult to buy a Dell or HP and then buy a 7850 or 660 Ti to slap in it. Most of the OEM systems are starting to come with power supplies capable of handling a basic GPU. If you catch a strong enough sale on a system, you can have a very capable "gaming" computer that includes everything you need for pretty cheap.

In the end though, I still feel when it comes to "gaming", desktops are still the leading system for it. Everyday usage, no, but in terms of gaming, they still are. This is quickly changing though, and I would say in the next few years it will almost not matter what form factor you go with.

Interestingly enough, it isn't the lack of performance on laptops and other platforms that keep desktops in the lead, but cost. Laptop systems are still more expensive when compared to their performance capabilities. When we start seeing that $1000-$1100 laptop performance mark dropping into the $700 price tag, then we have a different discussion.

Very well put. I completely agree. I still enjoy building computers myself. Although, to a lesser extent. I am now more intrigued in the potential uses and capabilities of some wondrous devices. For example I am very much enjoying my Synology and it was an excellent backup solution that existed outside of my PC, but also gives me the ability to work with some local hosting, remote access, wordpress, plex server, and a number of apps I can install. And I have a Google Chromecast which is pretty nice for what it does. Using things like Apple TV, Airplay, wireless devices hooked up to receivers, and you can have quite the variety of convenience, capabilities, ease of use, and an integrated experience between your devices. I get very excited about such things. Even the abilities with smart phones and tablets has grown tremendously. So as a hobby I love it all. Beyond a hobby I find some of it necessary for work and projects. And anytime I can make something easy to use and create efficiency then I am saving myself time. Of course some of my needs had changed as well like the data redundancy aspect of the Synology.

Moreover, while I still enjoy building and tinkering with computers, I am now more about doing what is within reason. If I have no use of buying a device twice as costly, then I simply won't buy it. But, many enthusiasts will just to say they have it. In the future I doubt I will have the large heatsink I have, less need for RAID 0, perhaps no optical drive, etc. So maybe I just work with a smaller PC build. Not sure. But, I do think, like you said, within a couple years that laptops will continue to drop in price/performance. There has already been a huge shift in just the last 5 years. And with the huge growth in the mobile graphics and scaling CPU architecture even smaller, it only makes sense.

One concern I still have with laptops is that more and more have the RAM soldered in and the SSD looks like a current laptop RAM stick (but, remains very expensive). CPU's will usually be able to be replaced if desired, but the designs make it hard to do so. I remember being able to very easily upgrade RAM and hard drives in laptops. But, I suppose if the RAM is default 8GB or more then I probably don't have much of a need to upgrade it. And the small SSD's will fall in price, while trends like external storage and cloud storage grow every year. But, it seems like a slow process. And I still would probably prefer to put my own SSD in the laptop, although I understand if the unit is thin like a MacBook Air.
post #4 of 9
I think we plateaued years ago in terms of what I'll call "subsistence" gaming, and that's never really been the point. I beat half-life 2 the first time on a dual booted iMac sporting a core 2 duo and no discrete gpu, and after that played even more stuff on an HP laptop with an original i3 and Intel HD 2000 graphics, and I never felt I was missing a core part of the game.

The point has never been to just play the game, it's to play the game better. Regardless of what current low end stuff can do, until it can do what a high end desktop can, there will always be a demand for high end desktops. That's my take on it.
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post #5 of 9
I build a computer for my brother 2 months ago (sig rig) and i was still surprised how much faster it was than my laptop. It was just 100€ more than my 2 y old laptop but the difference in performance was huge.
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post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sisaroth View Post

I build a computer for my brother 2 months ago (sig rig) and i was still surprised how much faster it was than my laptop. It was just 100€ more than my 2 y old laptop but the difference in performance was huge.

I think laptops over the past year has been when they have stepped up to a greater degree. And anything that is more of a fresh install will be faster in the short run in some respects. But, it just depends. Having discreet parts versus integrated is usually preferred. But, that isn't always the case now. There are some great integrated audio and graphics out there.
post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoddimusPrime View Post

I think laptops over the past year has been when they have stepped up to a greater degree. And anything that is more of a fresh install will be faster in the short run in some respects. But, it just depends. Having discreet parts versus integrated is usually preferred. But, that isn't always the case now. There are some great integrated audio and graphics out there.

Yes, in the last 2 or 3 years laptops have made pretty significant strides in the performance/price area, it has been great to see.

Also, the AMD APUs are doing very well, and actually, the one I bought from you just a few days ago is rather impressive! I have used the mobile variants of them in the past with fair success, and I wasn't really sure what the real world performance of the desktop flavor were going to be.

Honestly, it is damn impressive what it is capable of doing. Another big step has been on-board audio, we are now starting to see on-board that is using the same components of a sound card, just mounted to the board.

Awhile back, maybe 7 months ago, I had said on the forums here that within the next few years we are going to see this merging of technology. Where we don't have CPU, GPU, and audio devices, where we literally just have one package that contains everything. If done right it will be a great thing, it could also be really bad for the enthusiast market as well.

Having toyed around with the A8-6600K I bought from you, I honestly can see no reason why anyone that isn't an enthusiast like ourselves here needing anything more. A quick breakdown...

$90 processor from you
$80 SSD on sale from Amazon - Kingston SSDNow V300
Cooler Master N200 case. - $30 shipped.
$15 LG DVD/RW
$60 MSi motherboard - though I bought a Biostar I didn't end up using for $30.
$25 Rosewill 400W power supply
Windows 7 OEM - $80.

So for $380; I have a very small form factor, very cool and quiet, and powerful system. It is completely overkill for a HTPC, and even can do some solid gaming.
Edited by PostalTwinkie - 10/2/13 at 3:53pm
    
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post #8 of 9
For gaming? No. They really never have been. As long as you're fine with 30-something FPS and medium settings, a laptop or your average best-buy desktop will work fine. It's ALWAYS been the top-end where the powerful desktops have been needed. In 2007 you could easily run Crysis on a laptop. On low. At 720p at maybe 30fps. The same year, a Quad core, 4gb ram, 8800GTX SLI rig could run it at 1080p on very high, and get ~30fps. If you really don't care about the visuals and FPS too much, you can get away with almost anything.

Creative software? No. Not at all. Not if you're serious about it. I do renders for a hobby, and every now and then for work. Even on my desktop, I was running into issues in a medium-detail scene. After 20~ minutes of work, I'd need to restart the program because it was hogging memory (clear it). Rendering, even on my 4.5ghz 2600k took over 72 HOURS, even though the animation was only ~3-4 minutes in length (720p). I've got STILLS (single frames) that will take over 12 hours to render at 1080p, even longer if you want it in print quality. Even on Xeon rigs it's still brutal.

Casuals, who touch up family photos and such can, again, get away with a lot. However, even photos will kill you. I've got a 24mp camera, and I love making ultra-HD images (basically a bunch of zoomed in images make up a big picture). For example, during a ski vacation, I took ~56 images at 300mm zoom to make up an image slightly bigger than what I saw at 55mm. The resulting image took my desktop over 40 minutes to combine, and Photoshop CS4 was using ~7gb of ram.


It all depends on what you're doing. If you don't care, you don't care. If you do, you do.
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post #9 of 9
Once any mobile device offers the same ease of updatability and performance headroom the desktop will be gone, most people will just have mobile devices hooked up to their monitors which is already happening. I can plug my Galaxy S3 via HDMI into a monitor and have the performance capabilities of a middle-end laptop or desktop with a hardware footprint the size of my palm.
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