Tablets have been in the spotlight since the past year and things are only going to get bigger and better this year with multcore processors and graphics processors being built into them. There’s a tendency to believe that tablets might replace laptops and possibly desktops. One shouldn’t be disillusioned to think that hardware on tablets are as fast as the ones on desktop computers. Desktop processors have always had the edge on mobile processors and they almost always will.

Are software programs falling behind the times?

Are software programs falling behind the times?

The story so far

Computers as we know it got this fast in stages, where processor core speeds first propelled them ahead followed by the core wars. The race of processors was won by Intel and AMD at different points in time. Processors today come built with six cores, something unimaginable just a decade ago. They’re here and some of them can be purchased for as little as Rs. 8,000. Then, there are the really fast hexa-core processors, the fast being the new Intel Core i7 990X, which was launched just yesterday running at an incredible 3.46 GHz. The processors today are much faster than they ever were but the question in our mind is whether software has kept up?

Does everyone need the performance?

When it comes to operating systems, most of us might have made the move to Windows 7 but there are many of us who still use Windows XP unaware of any issues or missing features. It has all the features necessary to run desktop software such as browsers, office suites, file managers, instant messengers, etc. That’s what most of us use. Windows Vista and Windows 7 as a whole was just a big bunch of refinements, something we could have lived with. Windows XP with a modern day browser can run perfectly fine on a PC from 2007. The software we’ve talked about can run just fine on a single core 2 GHz processor with 1 GB of RAM running Windows XP.

There’s some amount of maintenance that’s required to keep PCs performing flawlessly. I’m talking about the software aspect. Installing a ton of software and services that load up on Windows startup consume memory and constantly take up CPU resources. Antivirus software constantly scan drives for viruses and take up some more resources. It’s rare to find a PC running without any antivirus. The accuracy and effectiveness of the hundreds of antivirus programs is questionable but they seem to act as a good way to attain peace of mind. That’s a completely different argument but antivirus programs have become more efficient in performance but they still have a long way to do. Most users don’t realize all of these issues and assume that just upgrading to a new PC with a faster processor and more memory is the fix to all problems. Attaching infected flash drives, downloading suspicious software and infecting the PC happens very often. How many times have you heard people talk about how their brand new PC is still giving problems or is still not running fast enough just weeks after using it?

Software that need the performance

The software that absolutely require multiple cores and speeds to perform well are games and multimedia authoring tools, specifically 3d modeling and image manipulation software. Service hosting requires power too but servers are designed specifically to do that.  Has software then become more optimized over the years or has it not kept pace with the hardware. Games were always the driving force of the hardware industry when it came to processors and graphics cards. The hype around the current generation (next-generation consoles as they were popularly called then) of gaming consoles were considered to be far superior to PCs when they were released. Games were prettier on the consoles but PCs caught up within a couple of months. Now, the better looking games end up on PCs. Game developers give more priority to console games than their PC counterparts. More ports from console to PC are being made these days than they ever were. Today, a mid-range graphics card priced at Rs. 12,000 is sufficient to run pretty much every game out in the last year with decent quality settings. It wasn’t always like this.

Some hardware components such as hard drives still have a long way to go though. Are we then witnessing a period where hardware requirements have flat lined and we don’t necessarily need PC upgrades as often as we used to? Very few applications need the processing power that’s being offered. This kind of trend occurs every couple of years, but we’ll have to wait and see how long this phase lasts. Is there any reason why there seems a trend in processors where power efficiency is a problem?

What do you feel? What do you use your PC for and is it fast enough? When did you upgrade last and when are you planning on upgrading? Post your opinions in the comments.

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