Desktops aren't dead (yet)

Desktops aren't dead (yet)

Summary: Laptops have long since overtaken their desk-bound brethren in terms of revenues, and more recently unit sales. In the first quarter, desktop unit sales dropped 23 percent, while notebook sales actually increased 10 percent compared with the same period last year, according to iSuppli.

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Laptops have long since overtaken their desk-bound brethren in terms of revenues, and more recently unit sales. In the first quarter, desktop unit sales dropped 23 percent, while notebook sales actually increased 10 percent compared with the same period last year, according to iSuppli. Gizmodo even penned an obituary for the desktop this week. But rumors of the desktop's demise are premature. Take a closer look at iSuppli's numbers: Desktops still accounted for 47 percent of all PCs sold worldwide--more than 30 million units--in the first quarter. Desktops are still big business.

Over the past week or so, PC makers have been rolling out their Back to School boxes. The laptops and netbooks get more coverage, but these new desktops are still worth a look, especially to see the sort of features you can get in systems ranging from $300 to $900.

HP has announced several new models. As usual, all of the HP-branded desktops have an AMD-based configuration at the low-end as well as slightly high-priced configurations with Intel processors. The Slimline s5000 is a small form factor desktop that currently starts at $290 (s5100z) with a 2.8GHz AMD Athlon LE-1660 single-core processor, 2GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce 6150 integrated graphics, and a 320GB hard drive. The $370 s5110t has a 2.50GHz Pentium E5200 dual-core processor, 3GB, and a 320GB hard drive; the $450 s5150t has a 2.60GHz Pentium E5300, 4GB, and a 500GB hard drive. The Pavilion p6000 is a low- to mid-range mini-tower desktop that starts at $270 with a 2.3GHz AMD Sempron LE-1300 single-core processor, 2GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce 6150 graphics and a 320GB hard drive. The p6110t and p6150t have the same basic configuration and pricing as the Slimline series.

At the high-end, the HP's Pavilion Elite e9000 series starts at $600 (e9100z) with a 3.0GHz AMD Phenom II X2 545 dual-core processor, 4GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce G210 graphics with 512MB, and a 500GB hard drive. The $700 e9110t has an older Intel Core 2 Quad chip and the top-of-the-line e9150t starts at $900 with the newer Core i7-920 quad-core processor, 6GB of memory, ATI Radeon HD 4650 graphics with 1GB, and a 750GB hard drive. Finally, the Compaq Presario CQ5110F is a basic mini-tower available in only one $350 configuration with an AMD dual-core processor.

Dell has not announced new desktops since the introduction last month of the Inspiron 546 mini-tower and Inspiron 537s slim desktop. A direct competitor to the Pavilion p6000, the Inspiron 546 starts at the same price ($270) as the p6100z and has the same configuration with the exception of ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics. Interestingly the Inspiron 546 is AMD only. By contrast, the Inspiron 537s, which competes directly with HP's Slimline series, is Intel only. It starts at $300 with a 2.20GHz Celeron 450, 2GB of memory, Intel integrated graphics, and a 320GB hard drive. All of these Dell Inspiron and HP Pavilion models offer optional Blu-ray drives and TV tuners. The only obvious difference is that, in addition to glossy black, the new Dell models are available in eight colors, though this option adds $30 to the system price.

Acer has just revamped its desktop line, and looking over the new configurations and pricing, it's easy to see why the company has been coming on strong. The high-end Aspire M5800 starts at $800 (M5800-U5802A) with a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400, 8GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce GT230 graphics with 1.5GB, and a 750GB hard drive. That stacks up well against the HP Pavilion e9150t, which has a Core i7 chip but also costs $100 more. The mid-range Aspire M800 series competes with the Pavilion p6000 and Inspiron 546. The $450 Aspire M3800-U3802A has a Pentium E5200, 4GB of memory, Intel integrated graphics, and a 640GB hard drive, a similar configuration to the Pavilion p6150t, which is also $450. It's harder to compare these two with the AMD-based Inspiron 546, but I'd probably give the edge to Dell here. You can configure the Inspiron 546 with a 2.5GHz AMD Athlon X2 7550 dual-core processor, 4GB of memory, ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics, and a 500GB hard drive for $464. (Note that I used Vista Home Premium SP1 for all these comparisons.)

Finally, Acer updated its small form-factor desktop. The Aspire X3810-B3801A starts at $530 with a Pentium E5200, 4GB of memory, Intel integrated graphics, a 320GB hard drive, and a 20-inch widescreen LCD display. The Inspiron 537s with the same configuration and the Dell S2009W 20-inch widescreen is $644. HP is more competitive: The Pavilion s5110t with a similar configuration and the HP 2009m 20-inch widescreen LCD is also $530. The s5100 series uses the older Intel GMA 3100 graphics, but you get a "free upgrade" to a 500GB hard drive.

Acer also gave its Gateway lineup an overhaul. Gateway's first small form-factor desktop, the SX series, is more impressive than all three of the others. The SX2800-01 is available starting this week for $500 with a 2.33GHz Core 2 Quad Q8200, 4GB of memory, Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics, and a 640GB hard drive. A 20-inch LCD display would add $130 to the price, but the SX2800-01 has a more powerful processor and larger hard drive. The DX series, Gateway's standard mini-tower, starts at a little more than $500, but the company is pushing two higher-end configurations. The $750 DX4300-03 has a 2.4GHz AMD Phenom X4 9750 quad-core processor, 8GB of memory, ATI Radeon HD 4650 graphics with 1GB, and a 1TB hard drive. It will be sold on Best Buy's site. The $900 DX4820-02 has a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400, 8GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce G210 graphics with 512MB, 750GB hard drive, and a Gateway FHX2300 23-inch widescreen LCD display. Gateway says this model will soon be available at Newegg.com. All of these are impressive configurations for the price.

I'd like to be able to point to some reviews of these new models, but there aren't any yet. That more than anything else is an indication of which way the wind is blowing. BusinessWeek's Stephen Wildstrom thinks that more stylish all-in-ones--along with new features such as touch-screen controls, a part of Windows 7--could reinvigorate the desktop market. I'm not so sure. There is a market for all-in-ones, but it's a niche, and touch-controls are equally compelling on laptops. What really keeps desktops going are low prices and features such as quad-core processors, 6- or even 8GB of memory, powerful graphics and terabyte hard drives. Over the long run, the trend is pretty clear and lower-selling prices and the rollout of wireless broadband will accelerate the shift to laptops. But desktops will still have their place for some time.

Topics: Intel, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Processors

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118 comments
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  • Desktops will never be dead

    At least for high definition gaming. While I applaud Notebooks like Gateway's P-7811FX and the others in their FX line.... they leave a little to be desired for HIGH-RESOLUTION gaming.

    For gaming in Crysis under 1200*1080.... they do well. For anything above that, unless it's in a VERY OLD GAME (3 or more years old) or one that is 'easy' on graphic processing power like HellGate: London...... they stink, to be blunt.

    And yes, I do know that most people won't care about this with the XBox360 and PS3 out there, but it still comes up considering that a lot of people are getting tired of the 'cannot backup discs' stuff from Microsoft and Sony.
    Lerianis10
    • Xbox 360 and PS3 are outdated now anyways.

      "yes, I do know that most people won't care about this with the XBox360 and PS3 out there . . ."

      Quite frankly, the Xbox 360 and PS3 are looking pretty old and outdated now. The latest CPUs and video cards pretty much blow them away.

      That's the problem with consoles: They're static technology. They don't improve over time.
      CobraA1
      • Consoles

        That's their strength and weakness. In the end, only a niche PC gammer crowd will care. Personally I don't like laptops for my primary computer. I hope desktops stick around for a few more years.
        pdskep
        • Not "niche"

          PC games aren't niche. There are games of all types played by all types of people, and it's a huge business. Between World of Warcraft, the Sims, Call of Duty, Peggle, and even Solitare and Minesweeper, plus thousands of other titles in a wide variety of genres - there's no way it's "niche."
          CobraA1
          • I ONLY game on PCs

            I prefer the mouse keyboard interface, it gives me
            a higher more accurate level of control with MORE
            controls than a gamepad. Wii is interesting, but
            the games aren't that high quality. Although I am
            HELLA excited about project natal. I'm still half
            expecting for someone to scream april fools on
            that, it just looks TOO good. But it wouldn't be
            the first time technology made that jump.
            shadfurman
          • Project Natal? *laughing* Really?!

            Really? If you believe a 360 can handle something like that you're living in a dream world. If you believe it would be anything close to that then you're not thinking. The 360 has been around for quite a few years. It's aging hardware that runs games at a snails pace and crashes without provocation.

            Now, turn around and look at who "produced" the commercial. Stephen Speilburg... Does that say anything to you? Here's two men who make billions (Bill Gates and Stephen Speilburg.) Bill says, "Hey Stephen. I have a couple million to blow. Could you make the XBox 360 look like it can do something other then crash?"
            And Stephen replies, "I can make it look like it's the greatest thing in the world."

            And bam, you get Project Natal. Not only would it have to have a 3D scanner in it. (The skateboard part of the commercial.) It would have to have sensors all over your house to be able to see all of that. (The part of the car driving with people as passengers.) Project Natal is a myth. No "regular" (non-celeb) person has tried it to date. Why? Because actors and singers are paid to be publicity. They're going to say whatever is on those cue cards and then collect their check.

            Project Natal is a joke, and for Microsoft to say that the 360 can handle it is an even bigger joke. Expect to either have them making you buy a new console. I'd sooner expect this out for computer then for any gaming system.

            Bottom Line: Don't hold your breath waiting for this. Just like the "Donny Brook" engine that... *gasp* Runs quake 3 so smoothly! Microsoft wants your money and if they have to lie to get it... So be it. But the 360 needs a serious upgrade. It's like a 3 year old E-Machine computer from wal-mart compared to the newer desktops and laptops. :D
            Dry_Land_Is_Not_A_Myth
          • There's more than a commercial out there.

            It's not about the commercial. Did you see the
            tech demo
            on E3? It really shows some great potential.
            ZaiberVaireus
          • And the flight simmers

            Don't forget the tremendous number of flight simmers out there either.
            rdhalsteatzd
        • Ever Try To Upgrade the Video Card on a Notebook? (no msg)

          It's not easy.
          Seamus O'Brog
        • Ever Try To Put 5Tb of Disk in a Notebook? (no msg)

          It isn't easy.
          Seamus O'Brog
          • 5Tb Storage for Notebook

            It's called a NAS and you can access it from anywhere in the house. Useless for gaming though ;)
            fletchoid
          • NAS won't fit in a notebook.

            [b] [/b]
            AzuMao
        • Ever Try To Carry 2 40W Speakers with a Notebook? (no msg)

          It isn't easy.
          Seamus O'Brog
        • Ever Try To Stash 2 Routers, a DSL Modem & a Hub in a Notebook? (no msg)

          It isn't easy.
          Seamus O'Brog
    • I own two laptops and three desktops...

      Guess which ones get the most use.

      A hint: They're not portable.

      In all honesty, while laptops have their
      advantages, they're really not a suitable
      replacement for a desktop, even if you have
      perfect vision. Sure, you can move a laptop
      from place to place; you can even sit on the
      sofa monkeying with your investment portfolio
      while your family enjoys the movie on that big
      Plazma HDTV your portfolio managed to earn
      you... if you were lucky, that is.

      But sometimes you want to sit back and see
      what you're working on. Sometimes you want to
      take that strain off your back from hunching
      over that relatively-small, relatively-low-
      resolution display and really SEE what you're
      doing.

      Second monitor? Yes, that's possible, now
      you've got a (maximum) 17" display and a 20+"
      secondary. It works, but is it enough?

      What about storage? Can you take that 2.5TB of
      external storage with you? What? You have
      another thousand pictures to download from
      the camera and no room on your drive? What
      happened to that 500G drive in the laptop?
      Ohhh, full of games and other things. You
      didn't expect to take so many pictures.

      Ok, yes, I'm being somewhat facetious. But for
      me, my desktop computer will always be my
      primary one. I'm just not happy with any of the
      laptops I've owned or used.
      Vulpinemac
    • huge monitors + notebooks = fail

      i agree with you also.

      you just cant compare even the largest notebook screens with watching movies / gaming on a 22" to 30" decent lcd monitor

      no way would i ever want to carry some gigantic laptop in a backpack, bag etc.
      pcguy777
    • Agreed, I run 2 Desktops!

      Much like Lerianis10, I too run games on my desktops (one Windows, one Linux). The Windows system is setup with duel BFGtech/Nvidia 9800 GTX OCX SLI video cards. Something you can NOT do on an laptop. Tied to a 24" widescreen Acer Monitor, games just scream and jump right off the screen!

      Also the fact that I am a disabled person, I can configure the desktop systems to work best with my own personal needs. Again something can not be done with a laptop.

      Like the Logitec USB Marble Mouse (usable on either side of the keyboard), Kinesis Advantage USB special Keyboard (Specially made for people with Carpel Tunnel and other RTS injuries) and Saitek Programmable Cyborg Command Unit that allows me to program the keys to what games I play.
      Even the Kinesis keyboard is programmable too. Not to mention the foot-pedal I can set to any key I want.

      All told, you could not do what I need done to allow me to still use my computer, via a laptop. So I do not see the desktop systems leaving any time soon!
      DarqueRaven
  • Screen size alone guarantees desktop dominance

    I can hardly get off my 25' desktop to use a lap top. It's a day and night difference.
    LBiege
    • You CAN plug your laptop into a bigger screen, right?

      If you don't like your laptop's screen, plug it into a bigger one!
      de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023
      • True enough but ...

        ... laptops usually have less RAM and they usually have to share it with video. Also, they rarely have a full-sized keyboard (or they weight 9 poounds).
        M Wagner