My next upgrade.
The hardware world moves on at an amazing pace, but the last couple of years it has been kind of slacking in the speed department. Bottle necks which were easily removed 5 years ago, have stuck their head up now in the year 2004.
If you compare the speed upgrades one could receive from upgrading his PC one year after the next when the Pentium I was still around, you'd be amazed. The leap from 486 @ 120 MHz to a Pentium @ 120 MHz was nothing short of amazing, you'd almost get double the performance.
And not only the CPU got a massive speed bump, your video card, memory and hard drives speed all went up by 20-50%.
Bottle necks: Hard drives were always the hardware item in ones PC that dragged down overall performance, sure going from ATA33 to ATA66 gave a need speed increase, but then what? We are still waiting for the next big upgrade for the massive storage media.
SATA has been introduced, but as predicted by Anandtech and many others, it won't be until the next revision of SATA before we see any noticeable improvements over PATA Technology. The hard drive transfer rate has very slowly increased over the past years, grinding almost to a halt at this current date.
Western Digital's raptor tries to overcome the delays while accessing many small files in random order by increasing the rotation speed of their disks up to SCSI standards, 10.000rpm. SCSI drives are loud, very expensive and have reached not so long ago the screeching fast platform of 15.000rpm, and I'm not only talking speed wise. These storage drives make a lot of noise and emit massive heat, don't want to put your hand on that disk after it has been running for a couple of hours.
So there we are stuck with medium expensive storage media which comes not in the close neighbourhood of the performance obtained by the rest of the system. CPU and Memory can flood these poor disks with data in an eye blink.
Tests of people running immensely expensive ram drives in their 66Bit PCI slots have nothing but good experiences with them. No more waiting for windows to start, for that file to decompress or that file copy to finish.
Memory FLASH cards were not only named for their specifications, but also for their inherit speed as the data is put on the media in... a flash.
At Cebit we've seen some 4 GB flashcard on display, too bad the transfer rates are not up to par to actually make use of it as an alternative "system" drive. You think CPU's and Graphic cards have come a long way? Think again, the big companies like Intel/AMD/nVIDIA/ATI and many more are slowing down progress just to get that extra $ from you.
Releasing products with only a minimal speed increase and priced high enough to discourage anyone not into computing to ever consider buying one to start off with. While they pile up more money on their little mountain we get to see P4 2.4 2.53 2.66 2.8 and so on. Gone are those days where an upgrade from that old PII 450 to your new PIII 1 GHz meant having a system that was twice at fast at doing ANYTHING. If you upgrade your 2+GHz machine now to one of these A64 or P4 3+GHz bad boys you'll be disappointed. They'll still cost you the same, but the speed increase will be far less impressive. You can skip a few generations of product releases and upgrade every 2-3 years, but with game developers getting a good taste of all this feature rich hardware they'll make sure you won't experience a good gameplay experience with your current rig. Far Cry looking good on that Direct 8 card? Sure, until you saw those screens with the Shader Model 2 in action.
So what does this boil down to? Timing and luck. The upgrading game is like playing the lottery, you'll never know if you have chosen the winning ticket. “Will the RDRAM train have a nice long track to run on?” Guess not, and guess what I'm stuck with!
Does this mean that the older hardware can't keep up? Not at all, there still a lot of fun to be had with yesterdays hardware, even when stressing them with the latest games. You'll have to take the occasional in-game hick-up with this of course, and all the glitter and glory will not be yours, yet.
What am I upgrading to? The way things are looking AMD seems the way to go, Socket 939, dual channel memory, both high and low end CPU's. But when? And will it be affordable? If we go back a couple of months and look at the launch of the "budget" S754 CPU's and motherboards it might well be an affordable one. 400 $/€ for a CPU and motherboard of the next generation, just make sure you have that PCI-Express slot on there, otherwise you'll be once again on a dead end track when it comes down to video card upgrades.
Will we ever relive the days of huge speed jumps? Who knows, the way the hardware companies are milking their "flock" I don't see it happening anytime soon.
Feel free to point out the errors of my ways in this thread
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