Can a 1w smartphone computer give you all the computer you really need in day to day modern life?
Back near the end of 2012 I upgraded my desktop Black Box I with some dated discount performance goodies via NewEgg for a few hundred $ :) Lately I have been mostly using my computers (smartphone, tablets, desktops, laptop, Apple TV, ect) as information and media consumption devices. I mainly use my big overpowered desktop for a few special tasks and writing blog entries :)
Does it make sense to use a huge power hungry desktop computer beast for basic computing tasks? Have we come to a point when high performance computing is really more power than a normal one needs or can even make use of most of the time? I find myself streaming HD content on an old 2nd Gen Apple TV, a tiny little under powered streaming computer and it gets me to thinking about how much computer power can I really make use of!
Big screen, full sized keyboard and a optical mouse. I will admit that I love using my desktop because the keyboard and optical mouse and huge LED LCD screen are just a joy to use. Typing on a touchscreen is so tedious I have been eyeing a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad 2 for a long time. The user interface is more complicated then what the screen icons and menus look like, the way we interact with computers with our hands and our eyes affects what we can do with them.
Touching Screens and Consuming Content
Tablet computers are widely regarded as consumption devices. Amazons latest batch of Kindle Tablets are a good example of what I mean. Books, Movies, Games, Music, TV, the Internet. The iPad, Kindle Fire HDX, and countless other tablets aim to give users effortless consumption options with touchscreen selection ease, instant streaming, no clutter, cloud access/ storage, ect.
The old e-reader Kindles like my 3rd Gen Keyboard Kindle are great for reading text (paperback/hardback like text heavy books), and can even render the web (slowly). They were designed for and are designed as consumption computers. Small, battery friendly, efficient, sunlight readable, paper like reading computers with wifi to download content instantly and enough memory to save hundreds to thousands of books depending on how much data each book file contains.
Laptops Reign Over Desktops
Laptops have largely replaced desktops for mainstream computer users of all kinds. The laptop can be used to watch dvd's or stream movies, play music, write college papers, do all sorts of business productivity work, and essentially edit movies and content: laptops are creation computers in contrast to tablets which are largely consumption computers.
With phones like the Galaxy Note 2 we can see that a smartphone and tablet can be blended to create something that is greater and more useful than a small smartphone or wifi only larger tablet.
Laptops Breed with Tablets
With high performance tablet computers with detachable keyboards cases like the Microsoft Surface, someone has figured out that blending windows 8 with a touchscreen is a good idea, and that a tablet with a keyboard becomes more like a laptop, and thus can be used for productivity, in which the touchscreen finger combo replace the mouse, and the keyboard case makes the tablet more like a laptop, fit for productivity.
12hr Battery Apple Air w/Haswell
The march for computing efficiency has started to gain real traction lately. Small ultra-portable computers like the Apple Macbook Air endowed with Intel's latest low voltage Haswell parts give 12 hours of real world battery life out of a relatively smallish 54-watt-hour lithium polymer battery.
Energy Frugal Desktops
In the desktop space, high end performance CPU's have reduced their thirst for power from 125+ watts a few years ago to new higher performance haswell 4770K parts that only pull 84 watts at full tilt. Intel roadmaps show that we can expect even better power per watt performance from their next broadwell pcu platform and the skylake architecture that follows.
Performance Per Watt
Full scale super computers are still pulling 5-9 megawatts of power under full load, but they are throwing out north of 30 petaflops of performance at these levels. A strong focus on energy efficiency is a major goal in the construction and operation of these supercomputers.
Traditionally laptop computers have pulled a relatively high price premium over similarly performing bargain basement desktops setups. For many people a cheap commodity (student grade) 15.6inch windows laptop with somewhat dated slower components is probably going to give more computing power then they can realistically make use of. The major performance bottleneck, the Harddrive, steadily giving way to much snappier SSD's, that give the average user a noticeable boost in real world daily computing speed/ performance.
Cheap DDR3 for Everyone
8 gigs of fast DDR3 is so cheap that even low end notebooks now come with 4 gigs of decent ram. How much ram do you really need if you only browse and write documents and do a little bit of light photo work here and there, listen to music, and other general low load computing tasks. If an Apple TV or Roku box can stream 1080P content with east on a few watts of power, what do any normal person need a high performance computer for ? Speaking of Cheap DDR3, where is the DDR4? It feels like we have been using DDR3 since I started college so many years ago.
OLED Screens to the Rescue
Flatscreen monitors with LED backlighting and TFT LCD IPS actions are all the rage in latops, TV's, new desktop monitors and many smartphones. The screen technology went from energy hogging CCFL to LED, and the next big thing is OLED. Really cool smartphones like the Galaxy Note 2 and upcoming Galaxy Note 3 from Samsung make use of much more sophistocated far more energy efficient Organic LED technology. OLED TV's are on the way this year for ultra-thin bezel free living room viewing delight, and the OLED is bound to be found in future iterations of tablet and laptop computers.
Touch Pads and Mice
Apple has pretty much nailed the touchpad technology, dialed it in, perfected it so that touchpads on Apple products actually work correctly. Other PC/Laptop OEM's continue to ship out half bake touchpads that ruin the end user experience with clunky glitchy finger UI -IO performance that frustrates and disappoints. Optical mice of many kinds have been developed, and Microsoft seems to be leading the way with erognomic glass compatible optical mice that please their users.
I will refrain from commenting much here, there are tons of options of all sorts, pick your poison and enjoy. If you plan on doing a lot of typing, stick to ergonomic hand and wrist friendly technologies. If you are a casual users the chicklet style keyboards on macbooks and other contemporary laptops will do fine. They even have laser ones that project the keys onto surfaces.