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How much computer is enough?

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First post, by snorg

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So, in these days of multi-core systems with multiple gigabytes and hundreds of gigabytes or multiple terabytes of disk, how much computer is enough? It seems like at some point, performance gains will level off. We may not be quite there yet, but Windows 7 and up can address 16 exabytes of RAM (I'm not sure any individual will ever be able to use that) so I'm not sure how much further we can go with desktop PCs.

I think we will probably make some sort of exaflop supercomputer system in the next 10 years, and there will be definitely be a continuation of the trend of cramming more functionality in mobile devices.
But I think we've crossed the thresh-hold of "good enough" a while back, at least for the average user (not necessarily the enthusiast).

Reply 1 of 39, by TELEPACMAN

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yep, sometimes I get the feeling it doesn't matter as much as some years ago. Now, anyone can go to a store and say "Here's 300 bucks, build me something, I don't really care." And then the assembler puts together the most outdated parts he have around and, voila, it is ok. It's fine for the average user.

Reply 2 of 39, by snorg

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I know, right? I can actually put together a pretty decent box for about $300 using new parts, if you leave out the cost of the Windows license. It will probably only have 4GB RAM max, maybe a 64GB SSD and be based around an AMD APU but it can be done. You might be able to go as low as $200 but I don't think you could get it below that.

Reply 3 of 39, by TELEPACMAN

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Plus, there's way too many variants of GPUs and CPUs. But anyway, trying to answer your question, I would not be much concerned about "enough" power, simple because... it is an ilusion. Marketing is ruling hardware releases. Somewhere along the path of PC en PC compatibles, progress in technology stoped being the engine behind advertising for the residencial marketm and became the other way around. So, the balance between heavy software and speedy hardware is going to be kept on a pretty good balance, because there is money to be made. Man, how many different i3 an i5 and i7 do we really need?

Reply 4 of 39, by smeezekitty

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snorg wrote:

So, in these days of multi-core systems with multiple gigabytes and hundreds of gigabytes or multiple terabytes of disk, how much computer is enough? It seems like at some point, performance gains will level off. We may not be quite there yet, but Windows 7 and up can address 16 exabytes of RAM (I'm not sure any individual will ever be able to use that) so I'm not sure how much further we can go with desktop PCs.

They already have. GPUs speed and HDD size are still rapidly increasing. And RAM is still growing at a reasonable rate.
But look at the CPU speeds for the last 5 years. Very little increases.

Reply 6 of 39, by Jorpho

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More cores won't help any unless people are prepared to write software that will use them, though – and multiprocessor coding is hard enough with the limited cores currently available. In the end, there's only so much a person with a limited attention span can do with a PC.

Of course, GPU hardware has a ways to go yet, especially since people are now talking about "downsampling".

Reply 7 of 39, by Lo Wang

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Jorpho wrote:

More cores won't help any unless people are prepared to write software that will use them, though – and multiprocessor coding is hard enough with the limited cores currently available

Hard enough doesn't begin to describe it (even with the tools already available, which are far from optimal), but it's a 100% true. We aren't even getting a glimpse of what modern computers can actually do because they're difficult to program for and programmers aren't getting any smarter.

"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" - Romans 10:9

Reply 8 of 39, by GXL750

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The vast proliferation of smartphones and tablets seems to have given older computer further life as now, most mainstream code is written for less powerful devices and made to be more efficient. Hardware introduced from 2007-onward after the 4gb barrier was eliminated will mostly go due to fatigue vs. obsolescense. Nowadays, you can have a computer that is literally a decade old and there's a chance it'll be able to run Windows 10.

Reply 9 of 39, by luckybob

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Easy.

"enough" for me is being able to play the newest games @ 60fps & 2560x1600 resolution. Quite a tall order if i'm honest.

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

Reply 10 of 39, by oerk

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smeezekitty wrote:

They already have. GPUs speed and HDD size are still rapidly increasing. And RAM is still growing at a reasonable rate.
But look at the CPU speeds for the last 5 years. Very little increases.

Dunno about HDD and RAM. HDD sizes are still increasing, yes, but at a significantly slower rate.

RAM prices are mostly fluctuating due to market. Low end is 4 GB, better machines have 8 GB, high end is 16+ GB - this hasn't changed in the last 3-4 years, and I think it's still enough! I'm struggling to fill 8 GB on my home machine which has 16 GB installed. Windows doesn't even use the rest for system cache - there's simply not enough data to be cached.

I for one am glad that the PC speed race era has ended. I don't have the money (anymore) for PC upgrades, and it's good to know that my three year old PC will still be able to handle everything a few years down the line.

Also welcoming the return of more efficient software. Microsoft is heading in the right direction - actually lowering the system requirements with each version since Vista. Browsers and web design - not so much. Mobile devices are coping because they're built specifically for this purpose and hardware accelerate as much as possible. Things a ten year old PC can't do.

Reply 11 of 39, by Tertz

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snorg wrote:

So, in these days of multi-core systems with multiple gigabytes and hundreds of gigabytes or multiple terabytes of disk, how much computer is enough?

Enough for what? If you are interested in modern games - look at their "recommended requirements" section (be ready after 3 years games will want more, even if they will be same as on $5 calculators - it's marketing, nothing personal). If to use office stuff and Internet, then look at requirements of these applications - better older versions as in common they have what you need at home but have much less requirements.
For home I'd buy PC from $300 and a monitor from same cost. To buy new hardware cheaper is just a problem. If you want "modern" PC - it's from $1000, where every hardware is close to avarage prices. For office stuff and a "little of gaming" from $500. Get a pricelist in local computer shop and fit hardware to preferable cost.
You may also find usefull articles at review sites as tomshardware, - there are many similar, on different languages.

We may not be quite there yet, but Windows 7 and up can address 16 exabytes of RAM

Better look how much modern CPUs support.

I think we will probably make some sort of exaflop supercomputer system in the next 10 years

There is a tendency of reducing improvement of speed for home computers. After 10 years I suppose home PC will be more a terminals. Your software and data is on a "exaflop supercomputer" and you pay every month for a possibility to use it, like today you pay for electricity. No "piracy" and total control of Big Brother. Even if technology would allow "exaflop supercomputers" in every home, then people at power would prefer to hold it. I think at middle of 2000s such decision was done, as I don't see the progress of home electronics wich was befor, but I see as nets became cheaper and accessible in every coner, see as smartphones wich easily may be used for spying became spreaded, see as cameras were set up at streets, see as medias lie with more impudence, as educational level of people degrades in so called "developed states". These are signs of establishing rude dictatorship where mass people should not to have "super computer" at home on principle.

But I think we've crossed the thresh-hold of "good enough" a while back

There is just no serious progress. That's why such impression. We have not much to compare with.

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Reply 13 of 39, by Lo Wang

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Tertz wrote:

see as smartphones wich easily may be used for spying became spreaded, see as cameras were set up at streets, see as medias lie with more impudence, as educational level of people degrades in so called "developed states". These are signs of establishing rude dictatorship where mass people should not to have "super computer" at home on principle.

You'd be hard pressed to find a more wicked, self-centered, self-entitled, narcissistic, proud, shallow, vain, and just downright stupid generation, who are more than happy to voluntarily broadcast their pathetic, mundane existences and every single detail therefor to this dying world and to the NSA. There's a reason for these "clouds", there's a reason for having to practically hand out a DNA sample just for getting an e-mail address, and there's a reason for everything having a camera on it.

Talk about sheep headed for the slaughter.

"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" - Romans 10:9

Reply 14 of 39, by Skyscraper

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I used to switch main rig as often as people change socks, now I have had the same board for 5 years and I expect to still use it 5 years from now. From 1996 to the end of 2003 I built computers as a side job so switching rigs cost me nothing except work, this factor made me upgrade more often then I would have otherwise.

Main PC: Dual Xeon X5690@4.6ghz, Evga - SR-2, 48gb memory, Intel X25-M g2 SSD and a Nvidia GTX 980 ti.
Retro PC #3: K6-2 450@500mhz, PC-Chips m577, 256mb sdram, AWE64 and a Voodoo Banshee.

Reply 16 of 39, by obobskivich

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I remember some years ago going to a presentation given by some Intel engineers, and one of them made a comment about how "computers have been good enough for years" and gave an anecdote of Pentium 1 (when it was new) being perfectly suitable for most people's basic tasks like word processing, e-mailing, and internet browsing. They went on to talk about how Pentium 2-4 were largely just able to offer improvements to the UI/UX because heavier applications could be run, and that we've gotten to a place where the UI for something like Microsoft Word is generally more computationally intensive than the user's actual work as a result. Snorg's initial question made me think of that. It's kind of a dualistic question too - a lot of the "actual tasks" that people use computers for have been well handled for many years (e.g. word processing), but the ways in which people want to do them have changed over the years (e.g. speech to text, voice recognition), and I think that's where most of the "growth" in hardware performance has been directed.

Reply 17 of 39, by snorg

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PeterLI wrote:

I have a W500/W510/W520 in my household and see no reason to upgrade anytime soon. Windows 7 runs fine and my favorite re-release of Age of Empires II HD runs fine in 2560X1600.

You better not buy Witcher 3, then. I have a system with similar specs at home and it brings my poor laptop to its knees. Everything else has run fine, I was hoping I wouldn't have to upgrade that laptop for a while but it looks like it has met its match. I will most likely be playing that on my desktop and not upgrade until I absolutely need to, since upgrading means buying a whole new laptop.

Reply 18 of 39, by snorg

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obobskivich wrote:

I remember some years ago going to a presentation given by some Intel engineers, and one of them made a comment about how "computers have been good enough for years" and gave an anecdote of Pentium 1 (when it was new) being perfectly suitable for most people's basic tasks like word processing, e-mailing, and internet browsing. They went on to talk about how Pentium 2-4 were largely just able to offer improvements to the UI/UX because heavier applications could be run, and that we've gotten to a place where the UI for something like Microsoft Word is generally more computationally intensive than the user's actual work as a result. Snorg's initial question made me think of that. It's kind of a dualistic question too - a lot of the "actual tasks" that people use computers for have been well handled for many years (e.g. word processing), but the ways in which people want to do them have changed over the years (e.g. speech to text, voice recognition), and I think that's where most of the "growth" in hardware performance has been directed.

Yeah I think you're right. Most resource intensive stuff these days seems to be centered around UI enhancements and games. In 10 years you won't really "need" a 50 core desktop with 1 terabyte of RAM to run Word 2025 but you will want it so that Cortana doesn't stutter at you when she asks you how you want to compose your memo. 😉

Reply 19 of 39, by gerwin

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Tertz wrote:

We may not be quite there yet, but Windows 7 and up can address 16 exabytes of RAM

Better look how much modern CPUs support.

Progress...
Intel Pentium Pro, Date released 1995, Maximum memory: 64 GB
Intel Core i7-4790 Processor, Date released 2014, Max Memory Size: 32 GB

I read (and can imagine) that certain processes cannot be spread on multiple cores with all the skill and attention in the world. It is the nature of such a process to do its calculation in a certain order.
The death of CPU scaling: From one core to many — and why we’re still stuck

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