back to article PC sales aren't doing so great – but good God, you're buying mountains of Nvidia graphics cards

If you thought the slump in PC sales was going to hit Nvidia like it whacked Intel and AMD, then, well, you were wrong. Nv just reported a record quarter to round off a record year in terms of sales. In the three months to January 31, revenues from the graphics chip giant's PC cards rose 25.4 per cent on the year-ago period to …

  1. Halfmad

    Homebrew PCs are simply becoming more common

    If you can build with lego, build in minecraft then you can build a PC these days, no longer do you have to pay attention to the colour of cabled pins when connecting it's an absolute doddle.

    Bottom line is people can either buy from one of the large PC retailers or spend less and get a better PC they themselves can service and upgrade for years. People are increasingly doing the latter either on their own or with friends.

    Now let's hope AMD can up their game, we need TWO strong GPU manufacturers as a minimum.

    1. Vinyl-Junkie

      Re: Homebrew PCs are simply becoming more common

      Actually there's a third way; you can get a specialist builder to build it; I have the skills to build my own PC, but I don't have the time or the inclination as I work in IT and don't particularly want to carry on doing so when I get home. To me the extra £100 or so to get a specialist builder to build exactly what I want is worth it.

      Judging by the activity on the forums of such builders this is becoming the preferred way for many people to buy their PCs.

      1. Andy Non

        Re: Homebrew PCs are simply becoming more common

        The high street doesn't sell what I want any more. I wanted a new high-spec Linux desktop computer and bought directly from the manufacturer in China (eggsnow) via amazon.co.uk. It came with Ubuntu pre-installed and I put Linux Mint on it. Got a great computer with excellent service and at a good price. No way I was going to buy a Windows 10 desktop off the high street and then discover that Windows 10 or the manufacturer had hobbled the firmware making it only work with Windows 10. I've already had experience of Windows 10 screwing up the BIOS / UEFI / bootup on my laptop, so don't want it anywhere near any of my new hardware.

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

          Re: Homebrew PCs are simply becoming more common

          Why did'nt you just order a blank PC to your spec from a british company like Novatech?

      2. lurker

        Re: Homebrew PCs are simply becoming more common

        I work at one of the specialist builders you mention, and I think that while 'PC sales' on the whole might be on the decline, gaming PCs and 'custom built for you' gaming PCs are definitely growing, hence the increased sales of NV GPUs.

        There is no real growth in overall PC sales because all you need to do for most work/home uses is run a web browser and maybe MS-office (though even that is moving into the cloud), and a PC has to get very old to become incapable of doing that, so mostly the market is just replacing aged units which fail.

        1. Updraft102 Silver badge

          Re: Homebrew PCs are simply becoming more common

          Exactly. PC sales have long been driven by the obsolescence cycle. There are not many categories of durable goods that have to be replaced every three years even when they're working perfectly well, but that was the PC market through the 90s and the early part of the 2000s. That short product life cycle came to be accepted as the norm for PCs (much as it is accepted as the norm for smart phones now), and now that PCs are typically kept until they cease to function (like most things), we're hearing about how they're dead now. Oddly, no one says toasters are dead, even though they usually are only replaced when they stop working.

          Now that a six year old PC performs perfectly well for most things, there is no longer a compelling reason to upgrade if your PC is functioning as intended. It used to be that you had to upgrade or the world would pass you by, with your old machine failing to run the software everyone else uses. No matter how spacious hard drives get, how fast CPUs become, or how large a system's RAM, the developers of software have always been more than willing to use all of those resources up to give the user a few more bells and whistles.

          That progression has slowed greatly, and it might be argued that it has gone into reverse in some ways. For years, everyone had to have more power, more memory, more storage. Now that we have Windows 10 promising a new software paradigm wherein a single "app" will run equally well on a mobile device and your desktop PC, the performance bar has been lowered significantly. Mobiles are far behind desktops in every performance category... they have far less powerful CPUs, much more limited RAM, and several orders of magnitude less onboard storage.

          What that means, of course, is that an "app" that is capable of running on a smart phone (even a high-end model) or tablet will only be using a tiny fraction of a PC's power-- and with the Microsoft app market in its nascent stage, it is doubtful that any new apps developed for the platform will require anything more than a mid-range mobile device.

          If that is the new development target, there's even less reason to upgrade. A high-end smartphone or tablet of today is roughly equivalent to a midrange desktop from about eight years ago, so that's all you would need to run an app for a modern mobile device. That's where the "mobile first" strategy of Microsoft inevitably leads us on the PC desktop-- eight years into the past.

          Of course, this is all predicated upon the idea that Microsoft's "neither fish nor fowl" OS actually does work in one of its primary purposes, which is to force a well-stocked Windows app store into being (at the cost of an inferior experience for PC users). I seriously doubt it will work, personally. I think expecting PC users to settle for uglified versions of the programs that would have been state of the art more than eight years ago (with the added bonus of being designed around tiny touch enabled displays, with all of the goofy, ridiculously oversized controls that entails) is doomed to fail, particularly when a robust market of native Windows programs already exists. Absent the free built-in market of desktop Windows 10 PCs promised to them by Microsoft, app devs are left once again to ponder whether it is worth it to produce Windows 10 mobile apps when the market is so small and future so uncertain.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Homebrew PCs are simply becoming more common

      I'd like a strong AMD but sadly that isn't the case and their product support lifetime cycle is crap, 10 years with Nvidia.

      HD4xxx was a product they were still selling in 2011 but FLGRX support was dumped in 2012 and no W10 support other than the crappy MS supplied driver so that means no HDMI output for your lappy for starters.

  2. Crisp Silver badge
    Trollface

    Why do I need that GeForce GTX 980 Ti?

    3D business graphics of course!

    Oh! And CUDA! I hear that's pretty big. It's essential for learning new programming techniques really...

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Why do I need that GeForce GTX 980 Ti?

      "3D business graphics of course!"

      And since you are driving two screens, you need SLI ;)

      All those fans make it quite noisy - so you are going to need some liquid cooling too I reckon.

  3. Ru'

    Another factor may be that as CPUs have essentially stayed the same for the last few years (as far as game performance goes, and probably most other things) people are keeping their PC but upgrading their GPU (where performance is still increasing with each new generation).

    1. lurker

      There is definitely some truth in this. All the progression in CPUs is in the field of efficiency / TDP properties (due to increased prevalence of mobile and rack-mounted devices to support 'the cloud'). The difference in IPC between a 2500k from 5 years ago and a 6600K from the current gen is negligable, but the latter draws a lot less power and consequently has better thermal characteristics.

      1. druck
        Happy

        Your no-faster but cooler CPU, does give you the opportunity to fit an even hotter running GPU in the case.

      2. P. Lee Silver badge

        >All the progression in CPUs is in the field of efficiency / TDP properties

        I'm waiting for some enterprising laptop maker to stick an external PCIe-x16 Gen3 external connector on their system to connect up to a proper-speed box for graphics. I want cool, quiet and mobile but I also want to put some zombies back in the ground every now and then. Hotplug-PCI with a power switch for each graphics card. That would be great!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Another factor may be that as CPUs have essentially stayed the same for the last few years (as far as game performance goes, and probably most other things) people are keeping their PC but upgrading their GPU (where performance is still increasing with each new generation)."

      Yep. My PC Progression has been:-

      ~198? Tatung Einstien

      ~1991 Intel 8086 (5MHz)

      ~1993 Intel 386 (10MHz)

      ~1995 AMD 586 (120MHz)

      ~1998 AMD k6-2 (500MHz)

      ~2000 AMD Thunderbird (1000MHz)

      ~2003 AMD Athlon 64 (3200MHz)

      ~2007 Phenom Quad core (2300Mhz x4), which has had 3 graphics cards over it's life.

      2016. Thinking about replacing the Phenom because it got hammered down to 15FPS in Far Cry 4 when blowing up a lot of stuff up with explosives, though i'm probably going to wait for the AMD Zen thing next year, on the basis that it's likely to be a big step forwards and last about as long as the Phenom.

      So, from a "years in service" point of view for each processor then sequentially it's 2 years, 2 years, 3 years, 2 years, 4 years, 9! years. New PC's really aren't required every couple of years anymore, when even a near ten year old computer can still play modern releases without much in the way of problems. That would have been inconceivable ten years ago, imagine playing a game released in 2000 on a 486!

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Farcry

        I was thinking the same, my Phenom Quad core (3100Mhz x4),can just about run Farcry4 but I reckon , as before, another GPU upgrade will make more difference. its just i can never bring myself to spend more than about £90 on a video card. I think I'll push the boat out and hopefully get one of these GTX kerjiggers ,used, for about £150

      2. Fading Silver badge
        Headmaster

        4 MHz Z80

        In that Tatung Einstein (had one as well - CPM compatible).

        Where did you get a 5Mhz 8086? I thought the general clock was 8MHz (was in my PC1640 anyway). Your 80386 was underclocked as well (or was that turbo off speed?) - even the SX normally was 20 MHz the DX normally being 33 MHz.....

      3. Bladeforce

        Tatung Einstein...bahahahaha now there was an MSX rip off

  4. davycrocket

    As mentioned in the article, one thing and one thing only is going to give nvidia a massive boost over the next 5 years and that is Virtual Reality - everybody using the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive needs a flagship GPU in their machine and it is the major topic on Oculus forums (has been for 3 years now).

    PC sales will remain healthy for a few years now thanks to this.

  5. John Savard Silver badge

    Good News for AMD, Not Bad

    Actually, this is good news for the ATI division of AMD: it proves there's a market out there for new graphics cards. If Nvidia was losing money instead, without an improvement in what AMD was doing in that area, then that would mean that AMD, if it made an investment in improving their GPUs, would have difficulty in recouping that investment.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are those games really driving graphics-card sales?

    Perhaps sales are also increasing thanks to democratisation of game dev tools, with Lumberyard just unleashed, UE4 free for development and low sales, and Unity3D free for now anyway… ???

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The return of home builds...

    I’d love to be able to self-build again. But as an expat in a strange land I’m out of touch. Basically I live close to the Amazon but can’t buy from ‘them’! So there’s no easy access to parts, and reliable sourcing is tricky with local corruption and a language barrier.

    I’m worried about just matching PSU and GPU correctly, and can’t even decide on a solid SSD / HDD combo or whether to M2 or not to M2. Survival tips appreciated…. Thanks in advance!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The return of home builds...

      There are a few sites out there what will give you a list of bits put together by other enthusiasts, or you could pick your own parts, and the site will limit your choice based on compatibility. It is what I used recently to check my new build.

      https://uk.pcpartpicker.com/ is a decent example.

  8. Sporkinum

    Oculus

    I was going to be one of those guys buying a high end video card for an Oculus. Once I saw the pricing I changed my mind and dropped my plan. I ended up buying a used GTX660 for $80 instead. This runs anything I have tried so far at 60FPS or better at 1080P.

  9. thermion

    Re: Homebrew PCs are simply becoming more common

    My experience. Larger and better flat panels are becoming more affordable. Recently bit the bullet and upgraded to a 27” 2560x1440 display. Needed a graphics card that would do the job. Nvidia had the edge on performance/price. Had looked at 4K and decided it was too expensive, needing lots more horsepower, power hungry. and uncertain outcome in terms of install and usability. New graphics card and screen was an easy install in Mint 17. Never have had a problem matching components, just do sensible research before committing. Migrated from Windows about 5 years ago. Still have Windows legacy machine, but it rarely gets fired up. I am not in IT. I just need a reliable PC that is nice to use :)

  10. pyite

    Of course NVidia is doing well

    Their cards are the only ones that support VDPAU.

  11. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Gaming

    A new video card perks up a decently spec'ed PC for gaming probably far more than anything else.

    I've bought 3 nVidia cards myself and I didn't buy AMD because 2 of those cards were going in Linux boxes.

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