I was quite fortunate to have been invited to an Intel blogger's event the other day re the launch of their new Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. It was interesting to say the least for myself, as well as seeing how Intel marketing staff went about explaining something as complicated as processor technology in layman's terms.
Sorry about above pic, I don't think I brought home the press release CD.
Above is one of their engineers running a PC bought 4 years ago side by side with a PC with an i5 processor in the middle, and an i7 powered PC on the right. They're all running a bench comparison program simultaneously rendering a very large graphic. I forget the results, but obviously the i7 completely demolished the competition.
There was a short seminar on how to choose a processor for our needs. One of the advice given was to 'buy the best processor your money can buy' at the time you're buying your PC, which was the complete opposite of what I had been doing all these years, which was prioritize RAM over the processor.
There was also a brief presentation re user's changing needs over the years.
And finally yet another benchmarking test re hyper threading this time. Here we can clearly see the i7 on the right's amazing 6 core capability compared to the i5's 4 core. You don't need to be a genius to see how easily the i7 can outmuscle anything that's out there, actually. But it's fun to watch just the same.
So buy one immediately?
Which is a point of contention for me, actually. Because while there is no doubt in my mind as to these processor's fantastic capabilities, I had been thinking about the value of constant upgrades for a long time now, and what it means to the business owner, myself included. I posed this question to the Intel engineers as well.
What I asked was: What is the value proposition to a person who is happy with how is system is right now?
See, my situation is that after several years of buying and changing PCs, I have reached a stage where I have determined the optimum set of software and working habits I need to get my work done. Programmers and computer professionals all over the world would probably agree. There is a set of software and hardware tools one needs for their work (in my case, web development) that once you have attained, allows you to go ahead and do your work properly.
Anything less makes work difficult. Anything more is just.. more expensive. In my case, I see no advantage for me to have a bigger more powerful CPU because frankly, I just do not need it.
One of the engineers went a tech route in explaining how it's better to have a faster CPU, but that didn't cut it for me, because I was basically asking a business and usage question. Another of their engineers however, answered it better, explaining how the shorter times would eventually translate to getting jobs done faster and more efficiently. And also cheaper if you factor in electricity costs <-- something I think Intel should hype more about.
And so I arrived at some conclusions:
- My primary gripe is that we are compelled to buy faster and faster CPUs purely because older CPUs which would have been good enough for our needs are no longer sold in the market. The 2 year old CPU I am using now is still appropriate for me today, and will probably still be fast enough for me 2 more years later. But can I buy the same thing then? Of course not. By that time something fantastic would have taken its place with power I honestly do not need. It was different in the 486 and Pentium era, when we desperately needed CPU power. But today, many office people can get by on a Celeron quite happily and never want for anything else for years.
- But is it possible for Intel to still exist selling the same thing for years? No, and therefore, what I ask, that the CPU I bought two years ago still be available for 2 years later, is impossible. Intel needs to make money, so they will sell you a better, faster version of your CPU every six months whether you need it or not.
- So what's the solution? The solution is that new, more innovative personal computing solutions that require all that CPU muscle should be developed, so that we consumers will be compelled to want faster, stronger CPUs. Other than servers, that's the only sustainable direction I can see for 6 and eventually 12 threaded CPUs. As far as the desktop is concerned, the majority of users have reached a plateau, where processors far outweigh what they use their computers for. It's getting to a stage where having one is the equivalent of driving an F1 race car to go grocery shopping.
- And finally, IMHO cheaper energy costs as a result of jobs getting done faster is a far more compelling argument than purely processor power which we already have plenty of. Meralco is the enemy of the Filipino public today. Any way we can keep more of our money going to them is something I wanna hear more about.
This is not to say of course, that I did not enjoy the event. I think of these things quite often, and I relish the opportunity to ask people in the know such as Intel's techies and managers, their opinion on these things. For once I am hoping this article reaches them, as I really look forward to being invited to these things again so we could talk about them at length.
For prices of the i3 and the i5 models, here's a screenshot of PCX's pricelist from their website. The i7 processors are not in the market yet, and I was told if it is it's still priced quite prohibitively.