The Future of Enthusiast Computing

The Future of Enthusiast Computing

I recently spoke with one of our readers who wanted to know why we have been doing notebook articles and giving away mobile parts on our forums. He was upset that a site like Legit Reviews was covering any mobile devices at all because he said that the enthusiast community is currently not interested in laptops.  I rebutted his statements by informing him that notebook sales have out sold desktop sales in the retail channel for more than three months now and that many consumers don?t need a bulky desktop computer.  While the conversation dragged on he told me that I was no longer focusing on the needs of enthusiasts and that it was a shame.  The conversation ended with both sides disputed on the subject. Instead of getting upset and close minded it made me really think about where we as enthusiasts are headed.  Read on as I examine whether or not enthusiasts should be interested in notebooks or not.

Mobile Computing Today:

In terms of notebooks they have advanced greatly over the past couple years. They have gone from bulky black suit cases to small wireless workstations that can easily weigh under five pounds and last for nearly a full work day.  If you say "Centrino" everyone knows what you are talking about thanks to the millions of dollars Intel has pumped into the marketing campaign for their mobile platforms. Now that notebook sales are up and nearly every retailer carries notebooks people are starting to get the beige box syndrome that struck desktop PC's in the late 1990's.  Tired of the pre-configured systems Do-In-Yourself (DIY) consumers are starting to build notebooks by purchasing whitebox notebooks.

It seems like yesterday, but Legit Reviews was one of the first sites to publish an article on how to build your own back in 2004 and every month that goes by it becomes more popular and easier to do.  From 2004 to 2005 we have seen the number of whitebooks on the market more than double while the prices decrease.  Consumers are finally learning that building a notebook is easier than putting together a desktop computer.  (Makes you wonder why mom and pop computer shops charge more for working on them) Enthusiasts have seen the power of the Pentium M core and with the upcoming Intel Pentium M T1700 Processor (2.33GHz, 2MB Cache, 667MHz FSB) mobile platforms have never been faster. Consumers have the choice of how to configure their systems in terms of multiple batteries, optical disc drives, graphics by ATI or nVIdia, different screen resolutions and sizes, and many other small areas.  To make things better we have ATI and now nVidia coming out with unified notebook/desktop drivers that allow enthusiasts to have the ability to get game patches and performance increases from drivers at the same time desktop users.  Enthusiasts have the ability to take off the thermal pads and add some Arctic Silver 5 to and use registry tweaks or software programs to overclock their graphics processors just like on a desktop.  

Mobile Gaming Performance:

With the release of the Geforce 7800GTX we have witnessed the first Geforce 7800GTX that has migrated into a notebook with the same pipes, frequencies, and amount of memory as the desktop cards.  This means that a 256MB 7800GTX should produce the level of performance in a notebook that it would on a desktop machine.  Add in the fact that you can run the latest desktop drivers and overclocking utilities you have a killer gaming rig on the go.  I wonder how nVidia?s mobile SLI prototypes are coming along?

The Future of Notebooks:

Sure, we all want to have a standard ATX ?like format when it comes to notebooks, but since money makes the World go round it isn?t going to happen any time soon.  We are going to see things start to become a tad more modular thanks to companies like nVidia and Intel who are both promoting the Do-It-Yourself market for notebooks.  Why would these companies do something like this?  Take nVidia?s MXM cards for example. Down the road you are going to be able to run into a Fry?s or Best Buy and buy MXM upgrade cards off a store shelf.  Some companies are still tinkering with water cooling in notebooks, but with processors going down to a 65nm manufacturing process and lower power consumption it really is not needed at the current time.

The Role Review Sites Play:

I recently wrote an article how to build an ASUS Z71V gaming notebook that would run around $1500 and have the ability to play all the current game titles such as HL2, WoW, Quake 4 and F.E.A.R.  After I published my article I found that a number of other review sites reviewed the same exact notebook, but under the names of companies like Voodoo PC and ABS Computers.  Some of these sites praised the notebooks and gave the companies awards and told their readers to buy them.  While some consumers need pre-built notebooks wouldn't an enthusiast be more interested in building and tweaking one rather than ordering one and paying top dollar? I think that by showing our readers how to build a notebook and give them the ability to feel comfortable with taking one apart we are doing the enthusiast community a favor. 

Final Thoughts:

I still firmly believe that desktops and laptops are going to be a flip of a coin for many users.  Desktops will always have more room, options, and overclcocking abilities, but notebooks really are not far behind in terms of performance and abilities.  I believe that notebooks are going to play a key role in terms of revenue for many companies too. Only time will tell how notebooks end up doing, but for the time being I believe they deserve a place on the forums and on the site. 

What do you think?  Sound on in the forums for free!