Friday, August 1, 2014

The ever-changing world of computer technology--or buy now and be left behind tomorrow

I have been contemplating replacing my “desktop” laptop computer, but I want a system that features the latest in current PC technology, so that I won’t feel behind the curve if I purchase something soon to be outdated just because it is cheap. So I did some research and discovered that Intel is preparing for a “holiday” release of its fifth-generation processor, called Broadwell. This processor differs from the current “standard,” Haswell, in that it is manufactured using a 14 nanometer process, rather than a 22 nanometer process. 

This may mean nothing to the lay person, but it means that Broadwell chips will pack even more than the billions of transistors in the current technology, since nanometer constructions deals literally on the atomic level. The processor chip will be much smaller and will require noticeably smaller motherboards, thus using less electricity and generate less heat, and do so while providing more computing power. This is especially good news for battery life in laptops using power-hogging Windows 8.

Unfortunately, Broadwell is at least six months behind schedule, due to the difficulty in the manufacturing process required, and although desktops and tablets using it may hit the shelves late this year, laptops probably won’t be taking the place of Haswell-based systems until at least the second quarter of 2015. The news doesn’t get much better when one learns that while Broadwell is an “update” on Haswell insofar as the micromanufacturing process, it is still based on the Haswell architecture, so the actual “advancement” is limited to power efficiency. The real advancement in processor technology will come with Intel’s Skylake, which will also be manufactured using the 14 nanometer process, but will be incorporated into a brand new chipset, and use faster DDR4 memory chips of up to 64 gigabytes of RAM. 

The problem for Broadwell is that in arriving so late that Skylake is expected to come right up its fundament late in 2015, the question is why purchase a Broadwell-based system at all? As usual with PC technology, things change so fast that you are always concerned about being made a fool of by being conned into buying “old” technology due to a lack of keeping oneself informed. There are rumors, however, that Intel will delay the launch of Skylake in order to open a longer window in which to sell more Broadwell-based computers, which is kind of cheating the consumer again. 

At any rate, despite those who claim that the PC’s days are numbered anyways—mainly those who only used PCs and laptops for Internet access or whose “work” merely involves “communicating” with other people who don’t do any real work either—Intel hopes that these new, faster and more power efficient processors will go beyond the interest of dedicated gamers and will mark a resurgence in PC and laptop computer popularity. Frankly, I think all of the talk about the death of the PC is a bunch of rubbish anyways (just like the imminent “death” of the paper-based book), and I think it probably won’t hurt to wait another year for the next real advance in PC technology.

No comments:

Post a Comment