|Desktop PC Platform: Saved By Overclocking|
|Articles - Opinion & Editorials|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Saturday, 28 August 2010|
Desktop PC Platform: Saved By Overclocking
Opinion and Editorial pieces are an efficient means of gathering reader feedback and learning their position on a given topic. For the past few articles of this series, I've concentrated on playing devil's advocate for the demise of desktop PCs. Some say it will live on past the imminent threat of notebook computers, mobile smartphones, and gaming consoles; others think the market has already passed its glory days. Each of my articles posed a narrative perspective describing real-world scenarios that continue to impact this industry. Each topic offered a form of speculative research, which I like to call job security, on the relative health of our hobby. That's right, I called it a hobby.
Desktop computers can be bought easy and cheap in OEM flavors of HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo, Toshiba, Sony, etc. The users who buy a pre-built desktop PC are seldom the same person that visit websites like Benchmark Reviews, and they usually don't get very deep into hardware beyond memory upgrades or the occasional mouse replacement. They're the consumer who browses the web for cake recipes or check email for forwarded jokes. They're also the same users that believe it's bad to shut down the computer after you're done using it. You and I, we're not those people, right?
Back in the day they called OEM systems 'IBM clones', and our custom-built computers were referred to as a 'beige box'. We bought our motherboards from one manufacturer, and video card came from another. There was seldom a time when any two internal hardware components originated from the same company, and we would pride ourselves on the supernatural ability to build desktop computers from scratch. Lian Li became the Mercedes of computer cases, and everyone knew ASUS motherboards were good for years of stable service. It didn't matter what we were doing with our piece-meal PCs, it just mattered that we could. Somehow we convinced ourselves that desktop PCs would always be the preferred platform, forever and ever, amen.
But if all we ever wanted to do on a computer was browse the web and answer email, these simple tasks could be accomplished using any of the devices I've previously mentioned. Sure, we do all of those things on our desktop PCs, but we also like folding proteins with a powerful GPU/CPU to help find cures to common human diseases, and we really enjoy playing our video games in high-resolution detail on multiple displays. We occasionally still use our desktop computers for work, too. So while there are several reasons why desktop PCs may one day become endangered, there are nearly as many reasons keeping them flourishing in the wild... even if the statistics show otherwise.
The desktop enthusiast hardware industry was made popular by knowledgeable members of the community willing to share their overclocking experience with others. Passionate hobbyists aligned with similar goals graciously helped eager learners to tweak hardware components until they performed like the next model in the series, or maybe get a few more frames out of a graphics card to improve video game quality. The PC hardware industry soon caught on, and found a way to substitute their 'next best model' with one that allowed you to do all of the extra work. Motherboards are the perfect example, because now we're seeing hardware components sold as 'OC ready' with an added premium applied to the cost just so you can pay time and money for the possibility of added performance.
One of the points made in my Killed By Overclocking article was that pre-tweaked enthusiast products were slowly driving down the number of people who qualify as overclockers. If you followed my logic in that piece, you'd agree that it's our special ability to do the unthinkable with computer hardware should be revered; not something bottled and sold to the highest bidder. Some may disagree, but I still believe that it's our unique ability to tune every last drop of performance out of component hardware that will keep the desktop platform alive. It's not easy watching our hobby get dumbed-down to the point where the push of a button can replace years of trial-and-error experience. At some point, the real overclockers will return to save the desktop platform.
It's not going to be easy. Too many people have become comfortable with their push-button overclock, and they've become complacent to the technology changes that were once fascinating to them. I would like to think that just because the front-side bus was replaced with something more complicated it hasn't driven entry-level overclockers away from the hobby, but very few people take the less traveled path of enlightenment. At some point, it's going to become important again to understand how and why a particular technology can be stretched - rather than just doing it because we've been sold the ability.
If you're not too weak to stand on your own to feet again, Benchmark Reviews offers several resources to get you started on the road to recovery: