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Old 02-25-2020, 08:23 PM
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Will desktop PCs ever be obsolete?


Someone on a thread I made listed desktop PCs as outdated, and it got me to thinking. With how rapidly technology advances, will laptops, smartphones and tablets become as powerful as desktop PCs, eventually making them obsolete?
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Old 02-25-2020, 08:29 PM
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Until better old eyes and hands are invented, there will be room for computers with larger screens and keyboards. Even if we could somehow go to an all voice input, big screens will be desired. You should see some of the screens that sit on my colleagues desks. Twice as big as standard screens -- and those are youngsters with good eyes. They set their fonts at sizes I can hardly read.
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Old 02-25-2020, 08:30 PM
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None of the lesser devices offer the full services of a desktop computer. For some applications, size is unimportant; convenience and power is everything. Take video editing, for example. Although portability can be useful on occasion, the tiny size of laptop keyboards and screens and the limited expansion possibilities make laptops absolutely impractical for my primary editing unit.

And trying to edit video on a phone would be an exercise in personal torture.
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Old 02-25-2020, 08:39 PM
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With how rapidly technology advances, will laptops, smartphones and tablets become as powerful as desktop PCs, eventually making them obsolete?
No. Because of power consumption and waste heat, the top end portable device processors will continue to not be as powerful as the top end desktop processors in any given period. (The top portable device processors can be and are faster than the top desktop processors (and supercomputers) of the past.)

Also, processor technology is moving at a slow crawl compaired to earlier decades.
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Old 02-25-2020, 08:43 PM
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And trying to edit video on a phone would be an exercise in personal torture.
I do it--with this.
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Old 02-25-2020, 08:57 PM
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The configurability of desktops (towers, that is) is far better than anything else, too. I've never needed to look in to completely replacing my hand-built PC that serves as my media center, or the HP Pavillion I bought for my home office (both around 2010 or so) because their parts are SO easy and cheap to replace. I've replaced hard drives, video cards and wireless cards but that's it. Eventually I'll max out on processor and RAM and need to replace the mobo, processor and RAM but I'll still be able to use the cases, hard drives and hopefully the video & wifi.

I see desktops going out of style for non-power users, for casual users, either in favor of phones and tablets or laptops. But the desktop is still super practical for a lot of things, and can keep the pace just fine.
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Old 02-25-2020, 09:07 PM
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I do it--with this.
I sure hope that is a whoosh, as I am familiar with that software, and the comments in that link suggest it is a lemon. Except for short, quick video clips, I can't imagine combining multiple video files, images, sound clips, etc. on a phone. My latest edit took 6 hours on a desktop and it wasn't the most demanding I ever had, either.
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Old 02-25-2020, 09:18 PM
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Someone on a thread I made listed desktop PCs as outdated, and it got me to thinking. With how rapidly technology advances, will laptops, smartphones and tablets become as powerful as desktop PCs, eventually making them obsolete?
Doubtful because larger cases mean more space for chips (CPU, GPU, memory), more airflow for cooling (or watercooling runs), more storage capacity and all the rest of it. Even if you waved a wand and made a tablet as powerful as a high end desktop, you could just stick three in a desktop case and link them together (not literally as such but in concept).

You would need to reach a point where more space couldn't help add more capacity and I can't see that happening.
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Old 02-25-2020, 09:48 PM
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None of the lesser devices offer the full services of a desktop computer. For some applications, size is unimportant; convenience and power is everything. Take video editing, for example. Although portability can be useful on occasion, the tiny size of laptop keyboards and screens and the limited expansion possibilities make laptops absolutely impractical for my primary editing unit.

And trying to edit video on a phone would be an exercise in personal torture.
And cost! My workplace paid 5k for my desktop last summer because I edit video. For the hell of it the IT guy priced a few comparable laptops and 5k looked like a real bargain compared to 10-14k.
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Old 02-25-2020, 10:08 PM
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Plus if you spill your coffee on the keyboard, it's only a $10 replacement instead of thousands.
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Old 02-25-2020, 10:12 PM
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Plus if you spill your coffee on the keyboard, it's only a $10 replacement instead of thousands.
If I spill coffee on my laptop, I follow up with a splash of a Bloody Mary. Kinda evens it out, y'know?
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Old 02-25-2020, 10:14 PM
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If I spill coffee on my laptop, I follow up with a splash of a Bloody Mary. Kinda evens it out, y'know?
I can't find any flaw in that logic.
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Old 02-25-2020, 10:31 PM
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They've been "almost dead" for 15 years now. Until a $2000 gaming laptop can replace a sub $600 desktop, I think not.
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Old 02-25-2020, 11:18 PM
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We currently have an annoying problem at work with the newer Levapro laptops. They have a single cable which provides LAN, power and the signal from the monitor.

Monitor. As in, the cable doesn't have enough capacity for two monitors, which are still quite convenient for the kind of work we do, especially as a large enough single monitor would be prohibitively expensive.

At least that's what IT tells us. Or they just want to save money and not buy a second monitor.
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Old 02-26-2020, 06:24 AM
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We buy desktops at work whenever possible because they cost less than comparable laptops.

I had used a laptop, but it never left my desk, so now I have a desktop. Every if I had a laptop, I'd add a full-size keyboard; laptop keyboards suck rats.

I was thinking of getting a laptop (with a separate keyboard) when I need a home computer, but now I don't see the point, since if I want portability, I'll just use a tablet.
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Old 02-26-2020, 06:34 AM
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I was thinking computers would evolve into portable modules.

When you're on the go, it's your phone. When you're at the house, you plug it into your "desktop" which is basically just an empty shell that connects your module, keyboard, and monitor together.
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Old 02-26-2020, 06:43 AM
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We buy desktops at work whenever possible because they cost less than comparable laptops.
My employer's default is to provide employees with laptops for reasons of portability; employees can take their laptops to meetings and on business trips. When employees are using laptop PCs at their main office desk, the PC sits in a docking station that connects it to an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor(s), providing them with interface devices that are no different from a standard desktop PC.

Real desktop PCs are only provided when an employee has a clear need for egregious computing power (3D rendering, numerical simulations, etc.).

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Until better old eyes and hands are invented, there will be room for computers with larger screens and keyboards. Even if we could somehow go to an all voice input, big screens will be desired. You should see some of the screens that sit on my colleagues desks. Twice as big as standard screens -- and those are youngsters with good eyes. They set their fonts at sizes I can hardly read.
Large screens are useful for people with uncorrectably shitty vision, but they are also associated with higher pixel counts - the latest and greatest, AFAIK, being 4K (3840 x 2060). More pixels means more information; with a big screen and 8 million pixels, I can have numerous applications open and in view at the same time. Not only is each app big enough to see, there are enough pixels available to render each app with clarity. Even with good vision, you can't do as much with a 1024x768 display as you can on a 3840x2060 display. My desktop monitor at home is 43", and I know someone whose desktop monitor is 65 inches.

Price drops are at least partly responsible for the increased popularity of large monitors. 22 years ago I was excited when I bought a 21" CRT; it was well over $1000 at the time, the equivalent of $1600 today. My 43" flatscreen monitor - with over four times the area and over four times the # of pixels - cost me less than half of that.

Last edited by Machine Elf; 02-26-2020 at 06:47 AM.
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:26 AM
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Only tangentially related, but another person in the thread said that landline phones are obsolete.

I didn't know landline phones were outdated until a couple of years ago.

I guess I'm behind the times.
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:29 AM
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For gamers, especially, desktops will always be the thing because of the video cards you can put in them that you cannot put into a laptop, and because of the very large monitors we like.
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:32 AM
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the latest and greatest, AFAIK, being 4K (3840 x 2060)
Nope.
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:35 AM
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This conversation seems analogous to "Stand Alone Cameras are dead because Phones". Yes, I concede cell phones take nice pictures now. I still prefer my dedicated camera to take pictures. AND, I look at them on my desktop with a large monitor.

yadda yadda get off my lawn yadda yadda
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:36 AM
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What if an alien -- or perhaps a time traveler -- who came to our current year without any knowledge of current technology, attempted to determine the history of computers just by putting them all in a room. He might have an iPhone, a netbook, a large laptop, and a full-sized desktop on the table. It would seem logical that the iPhone came first (too small to be really useful for many tasks), then the netbook (more practical), the laptop (bigger display, no need to squint or enlarge graphics), and finally, the desktop with a nice big display -- maybe dual screens, a keyboard that fit human hands without compromise, and lots of space to plug in or connect stuff. Yeah, that's the evolution of computing!
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:39 AM
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I was thinking computers would evolve into portable modules.

When you're on the go, it's your phone. When you're at the house, you plug it into your "desktop" which is basically just an empty shell that connects your module, keyboard, and monitor together.
You can already do things like that. But it will never be as powerful as the top CPUs at the time, because top CPUs need a heat sink the size of Idaho and use almost as much electricity.
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:42 AM
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What if an alien -- or perhaps a time traveler -- who came to our current year without any knowledge of current technology, attempted to determine the history of computers just by putting them all in a room. He might have an iPhone, a netbook, a large laptop, and a full-sized desktop on the table. It would seem logical that the iPhone came first (too small to be really useful for many tasks), then the netbook (more practical), the laptop (bigger display, no need to squint or enlarge graphics), and finally, the desktop with a nice big display -- maybe dual screens, a keyboard that fit human hands without compromise, and lots of space to plug in or connect stuff. Yeah, that's the evolution of computing!
So those room-sized computers from the 50s must be really advanced!
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Old 02-26-2020, 08:06 AM
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So those room-sized computers from the 50s must be really advanced!
Room-sized computers do presently exist - and they are really advanced.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercomputer
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Old 02-26-2020, 08:54 AM
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The docking stations mentioned are a fix but generally a desktop setup can be a lot more ergonomic. Having the keyboard attached to the monitor means they can't both be where they should.
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Old 02-26-2020, 09:18 AM
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We will have full screens and keyboards. But not an actual 'Desktop PC'. It will be a thin client, and your C:\ drive will exist on a server, or perhaps the cloud.

They already do this for where I work for about 90% of the people.
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Old 02-26-2020, 09:40 AM
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Wow. According to Wikipedia:

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The maximum angular resolution of the human eye is 28 arc seconds or 0.47 arc minutes,[18] this gives an angular resolution of 0.008 degrees, and at a distance of 1 km corresponds to 136 mm. This is equal to 0.94 arc minutes per line pair (one white and one black line), or 0.016 degrees. For a pixel pair (one white and one black pixel) this gives a pixel density of 128 pixels per degree (PPD).
Assuming that 32" monitor is at a distance of 2 feet, the human eye resolution of 0.016 degrees (for a line pair) corresponds to 0.00670 inches. A pair of pixels on that monitor is 0.00726 inches wide. That's a pretty good match in terms of resolution, though I think I'd still prefer a larger absolute size. Take that 32" monitor and blow it up to 50" - with the same pixel count and viewing distance - and I'd be happy.
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Old 02-26-2020, 10:10 AM
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Someone on a thread I made listed desktop PCs as outdated, and it got me to thinking. With how rapidly technology advances, will laptops, smartphones and tablets become as powerful as desktop PCs, eventually making them obsolete?
Generally size means room for more power. Miniaturization is expensive. The most powerful video card currently on the market, for example, could never fit in any smartphone, tablet, or even a laptop currently on the market. I don't see that changing anytime soon.
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Old 02-26-2020, 10:17 AM
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What if an alien -- or perhaps a time traveler -- who came to our current year without any knowledge of current technology, attempted to determine the history of computers just by putting them all in a room. He might have an iPhone, a netbook, a large laptop, and a full-sized desktop on the table. It would seem logical that the iPhone came first (too small to be really useful for many tasks), then the netbook (more practical), the laptop (bigger display, no need to squint or enlarge graphics), and finally, the desktop with a nice big display -- maybe dual screens, a keyboard that fit human hands without compromise, and lots of space to plug in or connect stuff. Yeah, that's the evolution of computing!
Only a computer-illiterate time traveler would come to that conclusion (I know this might come off as an indirect slam on you but that is not intended)
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Old 02-26-2020, 10:27 AM
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We will have full screens and keyboards. But not an actual 'Desktop PC'. It will be a thin client, and your C:\ drive will exist on a server, or perhaps the cloud.

They already do this for where I work for about 90% of the people.
The cloud will be the primary home for my data when they pry it from my cold dead hands.
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Old 02-26-2020, 11:30 AM
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Generally size means room for more power. Miniaturization is expensive. The most powerful video card currently on the market, for example, could never fit in any smartphone, tablet, or even a laptop currently on the market. I don't see that changing anytime soon.
You're absolutely right- it's a combination of size and power consumption, neither of which are generally an issue on a desktop, but which are prime considerations for laptops.

For example, I just put together a new PC. The pertinent parts would be the processor and video card. They're a AMD Ryzen 3600x and a Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5600XT. The 3600x draws as much as 95 watts of power, which means that it basically generates nearly as much heat as a 100 watt light bulb. The stock cooler, which runs at around 70 celsius(158 Fahrenheit) is 109 x 103 x 54 mm. A better aftermarket version is 124 x 103 x 157 mm. The video card is 254 x 135 x 46.5mm and runs using even more energy- between 150 and 200 watts.

Both of those require a lot of free-flowing air to cool their parts... to like 50-60c(120-140 degrees F). Laptops typically can't run that hot, or users get uncomfortable.

There's no way to fit comparable performance into a modern small laptop- maybe into one of those old 1990s laptops that was about the size and weight of a paving stone, I suppose.

Plus, running a 95 watt processor and a 200 watt processor requires a dramatic amount of battery capacity- using them for an hour would require a 300 w/hr battery, not including the screen, wi-fi, drives, etc...

Gaming laptops have batteries in the 6000 mAh/14.8v range, which translates into about 88 watt hours. So you could run the processor and video card for a little less than 18 minutes on that battery at full throttle.

So until we end up with something that dramatically decreases power consumption and/or increases battery capacity, desktops drawing wall power are going to outpace laptops in terms of power.
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Old 02-26-2020, 11:36 AM
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And the new 64-core AMD chip (with 256 MB of L3!) has a peak of 280 watts. I very, very seriously doubt that something to match that will ever show up in a phone, tablet, or even laptop.
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Old 02-26-2020, 12:26 PM
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You should see some of the screens that sit on my colleagues desks. Twice as big as standard screens -- and those are youngsters with good eyes. They set their fonts at sizes I can hardly read.
I am using a 32-inch TV as a monitor.
When I initially set up my desktop, I planned to buy a dedicated monitor for it, but connected it to an LCD TV temporarily. But then I found, Hey it's great playing games, and the resolution, refresh rate etc of the screen is perfectly fine for doing work.
No going back now.
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Old 02-26-2020, 12:58 PM
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I sure hope not. I'd hate to do serious work on something smaller than my laptop. As a previous poster stated, many tasks done on a phone are pure torture.
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Old 02-26-2020, 01:22 PM
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I think desktop PCs will go the way of manual transmissions: no longer the default, and perhaps hard to find, but still available for those with performance needs/desires.

At work, I've been issued only laptops for many years (at several different companies). Every few years there will be a switch between Dells and HPs, and there have been some experiments with Surfaces, but I haven't seen a desktop PC in I don't know how long. In order for the laptops to be usable I have to connect them to external monitors and wireless keyboards and mice, but I don't mind that; I definitely prefer having laptops, because it's much easier to work remotely.

At home, I used laptops for the longest time -- also sometimes connected to an external monitor and wireless keyboard and mouse -- but when it was time to upgrade in August 2018 I went with an all-in-one (basically, a desktop PC that looks like just a 27" monitor). It did feel a little like going backwards, and there are still moments when I have to remind myself that there's no connected laptop I can just grab and take with me, but on the whole I'm quite happy with that configuration. (Though I do also have an iPad for casual use in the living room, on planes, etc.)
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Old 02-26-2020, 02:18 PM
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I work off a laptop connected via USB-C to a dock box which handles two large monitors, keyboard, mouse, and a couple spare USB ports I use for charging phones & stuff. Works swell.

OP got me to wondering whether now, or some day, the laptop could be replaced with the smartphone--both use USB-C. I'm not in the mood just now to do the science and see if I can bring my phone up on the monitors and prowl around in there with the mouse/keyboard.
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Old 02-26-2020, 02:33 PM
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I work off a laptop connected via USB-C to a dock box which handles two large monitors, keyboard, mouse, and a couple spare USB ports I use for charging phones & stuff. Works swell.

OP got me to wondering whether now, or some day, the laptop could be replaced with the smartphone--both use USB-C. I'm not in the mood just now to do the science and see if I can bring my phone up on the monitors and prowl around in there with the mouse/keyboard.
You can already hook up bluthooth mice and keyboards to many smartphones, as well as cast your screen to a smart TV. Of course, you're going to be limited to the capabilities of a smartphone and the user experience will be a little bit wonky.
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Old 02-26-2020, 03:05 PM
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I think desktop PCs will go the way of manual transmissions: no longer the default, and perhaps hard to find, but still available for those with performance needs/desires.
I suspect that they'll stay just about where they are; it's not like laptops and tablets haven't been around for about 25 (or more, depending on how you define a laptop) and 10 years respectively. Those who want a laptop or tablet to do their thing have already done so.

They're definitely not as common as they once were, but they're still inexpensive, reliable and configurable to a much greater degree than laptops.
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Old 02-26-2020, 03:07 PM
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I don't think so. I prefer a laptop because its easy to move it if I have to, but I know too many people who like a stationery computer.
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Old 02-26-2020, 03:18 PM
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The cloud will be the primary home for my data when they pry it from my cold dead hands.
I feel the same way. I work for the gov, and we keep our data local. BUT for those datasets that get shared with the public, that goes to the cloud and we do periodic updates of it.

Working on it as I write.
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Old 02-26-2020, 03:52 PM
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We buy desktops at work whenever possible because they cost less than comparable laptops.
For most corporate use cases, there is almost never a reason to purchase a desktop. Most of the activities you need a computer to do can be virtualized and pushed to the cloud or data centers.

If you need a large monitor, a docking station with one or more monitors will do.

I have a desktop PC at home because the main thing I use it for is gaming.

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Also, processor technology is moving at a slow crawl compaired to earlier decades.
I've felt this as well. I don't buy/play a ton of videogames, but generally in the past what has always forced me to purchase a new PC was having my current computer suddenly no longer up to the challenge of running some game I wanted to play. But I think it's been about 4+ years since I've purchased a new PC and games still keep running fine, even at the highest graphics setting



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Originally Posted by camp
This conversation seems analogous to "Stand Alone Cameras are dead because Phones". Yes, I concede cell phones take nice pictures now. I still prefer my dedicated camera to take pictures. AND, I look at them on my desktop with a large monitor.
Stand alone cameras are useful for people who need a level of professionalism or artistry that can't be performed by a phone's camera. What the camera phone replaces is the cheap, disposable or Poleroid camera useful for taking low-quality vacation photos and whatnot.
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Old 02-26-2020, 05:04 PM
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My prediction is when a cellphone can render a realtime, high resolution, 100% photorealistic game (we're talking game quality years or even decades away), then maybe PCs will become obsolete.

Until then, there will always be graphics whores that want something better, which only their PC can provide.
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Old 02-26-2020, 05:16 PM
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I think desktop PCs will go the way of manual transmissions: no longer the default, and perhaps hard to find, but still available for those with performance needs/desires.

At work, I've been issued only laptops for many years (at several different companies). Every few years there will be a switch between Dells and HPs, and there have been some experiments with Surfaces, but I haven't seen a desktop PC in I don't know how long. In order for the laptops to be usable I have to connect them to external monitors and wireless keyboards and mice, but I don't mind that; I definitely prefer having laptops, because it's much easier to work remotely.
This. Desktops will still be around for those who prefer them, but laptops will be considered the standard if they aren't already. I, too, have had a docked laptop at work for years and years and my kids have no interest in our family desktop. My wife, a nurse, can probably count on a two hands the number of times she uses a desktop in a year - it's all tablets, phones and the occasional laptop.
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Old 02-26-2020, 06:26 PM
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We will have full screens and keyboards. But not an actual 'Desktop PC'. It will be a thin client, and your C:\ drive will exist on a server, or perhaps the cloud.
And any time you lose your internet connection, you'll be unable to get at any of your files or records.

No thanks.
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Old 02-26-2020, 06:33 PM
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My last desktop had a dial up connection.
  #47  
Old 02-27-2020, 05:29 AM
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My prediction is when a cellphone can render a realtime, high resolution, 100% photorealistic game (we're talking game quality years or even decades away), then maybe PCs will become obsolete.
As a slight tangent / nitpick:
"Photorealistic" is not, and never has been, a good benchmark.

Because we have been able to render some things photorealistically for decades e.g. a flawless chrome cube on a flawless, infinite marble surface.
Meanwhile being able to render any real-world situation well enough to fool a human, might be something we get ever closer to, but don't actually hit, for a very, very long time.

So I guess we need to say something like "When a cellphone can generate a human face speaking and showing expressions, of a quality that is indistinguishable from a real actor".
It is longer though...
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Old 02-27-2020, 06:27 AM
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I have a full-sized keyboard, a mouse and a 27" screen. I could go with a larger screen. Using a mouse on a portable surface is a problem. I love touchscreens but given a choice between touchscreen or mouse, I pick mouse. (And I'd really like to have both.)

I don't see anything in the near future that has these properties that isn't something sitting on a desk.

In terms of near-SciFi tech, maybe there'll be implanted systems so that all the I/O is inside the head. Then I'll give up my desktop.
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Old 02-27-2020, 06:35 AM
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I have a full-sized keyboard, a mouse and a 27" screen. I could go with a larger screen. Using a mouse on a portable surface is a problem. I love touchscreens but given a choice between touchscreen or mouse, I pick mouse. (And I'd really like to have both.)
Both is best. Actually all three, if you rope in the keyboard. I see so many people who are a slave to their mouse, and it really slows them down. Instead of using a cursor key to scroll down, they'll mouse over to the scroll bar on a window, take a couple of seconds to line it up, and then drag down. Or they'll mouse to the start menu to open a copy of Windows Explorer instead of using <WIN>+E. Entering an address? They'll mouse over and click in each text box, one at a time, instead of using the tab key to move between text boxes.

There are admittedly some situations where a mouse is better than a keyboard - but often there are situations where a touchscreen is better than a mouse. Having all three, and being flexible enough to switch between them depending on the situation, really speeds up interaction with the PC.
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Old 02-27-2020, 08:00 AM
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Stand alone cameras are useful for people who need a level of professionalism or artistry that can't be performed by a phone's camera. What the camera phone replaces is the cheap, disposable or Poleroid camera useful for taking low-quality vacation photos and whatnot.
Low quality in the sense of composition, etc... Most modern phone cameras have remarkably high technical quality when compared to a lot of point-and-shoot cameras of just a few years ago.

I think ultimately Ashtura is right; when serious gaming (or other computationally intensive tasks) is possible on a phone/tablet platform, then desktops will wither away. Until then though, there'll be a market for desktops for gaming, video/photo editing, simulations (at work), compiling, etc...

Even then, I suspect most people will still hook up keyboards, mice, and monitors to them to make the user experience better.

I still stand by my comment that for the foreseeable future, the proportion of desktops to tablets isn't going to change too much, because as others have pointed out, processor speed improvements have slowed somewhat, and there are significant challenges to powering and cooling the more powerful processors in use today in a laptop/tablet format. On top of that, all three formats (desktop, laptop, smartphone) have been around for at least a decade, and in the case of laptops and desktops, nearly 3 decades, so those who would have switched, already have. And there's nothing new driving adoption of tablets over desktops that wasn't there say... 5 years ago. At best, what we'll see is some number of desktops crap out due to age and be replaced by tablets for people who couldn't afford a tablet 9 years ago.

Plus, lower-end desktops are CHEAP- you can get a desktop that has a processor faster than the absolute top of the line 7 years ago, a one terabyte hard drive, 16 gb of ram, and all the usual I/O capability. Plus, it comes with Windows 10 installed and with a mouse and keyboard, all for $200. That's the sort of price range where there's no real downside to having both a $200 PC and a smartphone to do what they do best.

Last edited by bump; 02-27-2020 at 08:03 AM.
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