back to article Europe's home PC buyers reach for their collective smartphone, sigh: We don't need a new desktop. This is a computer, right?

A general fall in consumer PC sales across Western Europe was particularly marked in the UK, where confidence is "low amidst Brexit-related uncertainty" and sales to consumers dropped by a whopping 17.6 per cent in calendar Q1. hole Intel shortages, weak-ass consumer spending, 'peak' Win10 refresh. No, global PC market didn't …

  1. Korev Silver badge
    Holmes

    Maybe if Intel/AMD produce chips that are significantly faster than their predecessors then people will upgrade. For example, a quick look at the Tom's Hardware CPU hierarchy will show you that CPUs from five plus years ago are still competitive. Looking at the list, after seven years my midrange 3750K is still in the top tier.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Hardware just chuggs along ...

      My main desktop is a 7 y/old AMD Bulldozer, 32 GB RAM. I have had to replace some fans, the PSU & a disk but that is about it; oh - I upgraded the screen a while back. I run Linux so upgrade problems are not an issue. It is still plenty fast enough. I expect to continue to run this for a few more years.

      Laptop: a small HP Stream. Not a heavy CPU which means the battery lasts. Cheap: so that when I drop it under a bus I won't cry (much).

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Maybe if Intel/AMD produce chips that are significantly faster than their predecessors then people will upgrade."

      That's only one half of it. The other would be that Microsoft would need to make Windows and all who sail in it run more slowly so as to need the extra speed.

      1. IceC0ld Silver badge

        That's only one half of it. The other would be that Microsoft would need to make Windows and all who sail in it run more slowly so as to need the extra speed.

        ===

        I believe that THAT particular option is already registered to Apple :o)

      2. tfewster Silver badge
        Joke

        Aha, so that's who released the Spectre/Meltdown info

    3. pleb

      trouble is, it still works just fine.

      Just noticed that my desktop is 10yrs old this month. I'm one who needs little enough excuse to buy some tech - but it still runs just fine. More memory, SSD, and a new graphics card have had to sate my tech lust instead.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: trouble is, it still works just fine.

        "More memory, SSD, and a new graphics card have had to sate my tech lust instead."

        And this rather exposes the big issue with the whole "the PC is dying" thing. Reports like the one here almost always only look at pre-built PCs from the major vendors. But it's easier than ever to upgrade your own these days, and as others have already noted many components simply don't need replacing. There's no point buying a whole new PC when you won't get any benefit from a new CPU, motherboard, sound card, and so on. Even if you don't do it yourself, swapping in a new GPU or some more RAM can be done for peanuts at a local shop.

        So we end up in a situation where the PC is dead and reports constantly come out about no-one buying them, yet somehow Nvidia and AMD are both making a killing selling all the GPUs they can make, while SSD and RAM prices have only just started coming back down after supply finally caught up to the massive demand for them. PCs, especially if you include laptops, are still popular, people are just less inclined to throw out a pile of perfectly decent parts in order to buy a whole new one.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They don't need to, the next gen will just be secure.

      The problem with desktop PC's is there's an app for that as in whatever you as a normal user needs to do, word processing and managing finances outside of an app are becoming less important so the only people left on home PC's are gamers and people that need them for specific tasks. Even pirates and torrents can be moved off PC's (Kodi). That's the way I see it but then I'll always have a PC regardless because I have choice to do with it what I want.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "there's an app for that as in whatever you as a normal user needs to do"

        One of the things I need to do is have a WP application open and visible at the same time as one or more other documents, usually, PDFs are also open. There's often my own little application that takes copy and paste from the OCR'd PDFs and takes out all the spurious line breaks so I can copy and paste clean text into the WP.

        Is there an app that allows this to happen on the minuscule screen of a mobile device? What's likely to happen is that users get trained to accept the limitations of a lesser device and get trained to accept what they need to do as being what they're constrained to do by those limitations.

    5. gnarlymarley Bronze badge

      Looking at the list, after seven years my midrange 3750K is still in the top tier.

      I think the real question should be why should I be buying what I did ten years ago for nearly the same price today as when I bought it? If what I bought is still good, then there is no need to change. When microsoft made the change to a subscription OS, it became obvious that they were not planning on changing it to require faster speeds.

      Unless someone can figure out how to double the CPU speed again, there can only be lateral moves (AKA, adding more cores). And if I don't move to new games, then there is no reason that I would need more cores. (This is the reason why to not "upgrade".)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I think that's basically it. People do still need PCs even if smart phones have taken on some of the work. The reason behind lower sales is simply that PCs last longer and there's no pressing need to buy a new one unless the old one breaks (with the possible exception of top-end gamers).

        To give a few examples:

        The kids can play games on their phones but given the option to play on a larger screened PC with better sound and more power they ditch their phones in a heartbeat.

        Same with things like Netflix and YouTube. They'll use their phones but prefer a larger screen when I let them (although that larger screen could just be a TV)

        Anything with more text than a quick e-mail/IM is so much easier with a keyboard and bigger screen.

        Even looking at Websites is more pleasant on a larger screen with a keyboard and mouse.

        All of the above seem to work better on a PC (or at least or more pleasant to do) but mostly they are not tangibly improved by buying a new PC.

    6. N2 Silver badge

      Even CPU's from 10 years ago are still pretty good

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting

    Any possibility of a follow up with similar data across the last 2+ years to try and understand the differences between countries? I suspect it's a case of businesses pausing their Win10 upgrade plans and now rushing to beat the Win7 end-of-life.

    It tells the story of the PC market having peaked and being in a steady decline. Business is still pretty much sewn up with Windows/PCs but consumer has gone...

    And I expect Gartner to predict a resurgence in PC sales in next year...

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Go

    knock on effect

    People are abandoning their desktops, and laptops. In the past 6 months, my household has been gifted with Macbook air, and Mac mini, both in great condition.

    I wonder what the next 6 month will bring?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: knock on effect

      Fancy giving one? :-P

    2. Chris Parsons

      Re: knock on effect

      Is 'gifted' just 'given' for hip people?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Desktop/laptop on a 8 year upgrade cycle...

    So for my systems that get used, they get upgraded about every 8 years! Last year, I upgraded my only laptop from something first generation i3 to latest generation i7 with a thunderbolt port. The old system was starting to overheat. The new system was $700, has an nvme SSD drive, thunderbolt, at 1060 graphics... all good upgrades from an 8 year old system. BUT, it won't get upgraded till it dies, and that should be a very long time.

    I just upgraded my now one and only desktop to a Ryzen 5 1600 (U.S. $80), Motherboard ($50), 16GB DDR4 Memory ($80), a 512gb NVME SSD drive ($80), and an RX580 ($130). I will NEVER spend the outrageous amounts for higher end graphics that they are putting out now. Total: $430 US and this is my last desktop upgrade , because I use a notebook most of the time and it has just about as good of everything as this desktop, and I am getting into my late 50s (dont game much anymore... just to teach my kids and grandkids that a keyboard and mouse is the way to game!)

    The upgrades now are not for CPU speed. Things like nvme SSD really does make a difference. having a thunderbolt port to transfer data, run graphics, etc, is a HUGE upgrade compared to USB2/3. Right now, my graphics is run through a USB port to a dock that supports 3 HDMI/DisplayPort devices. To me, that is a feature worth upgrading to. The latest cpus are plenty fast, and (maybe for the first time), other computer features make the difference. I chose a lesser processor laptop that had better features.

  5. werdsmith Silver badge

    My son has the only.PC that is not a laptop, and that is so he can put NVidia stuff in it. It was built from separately purchased components so wouldn’t be on any PC buying stats. It will also last forever in a Trigger’s Broom kind of fashion.

  6. Donn Bly

    What about refurbished?

    Around here most of my small business clients have switched to primarily buying refurbished desktops as they grow or replace old workstations. When you can buy a Dell Quad-Core I7 w/ 16 GB RAM, 240 GB SSD Drive, dual displayport video, and Windows 10 Pro for under $350 why buy something new? At 8x to 10x the price with only marginal performance increases the business case just isn't there for a new general purpose office computer which is primarily running office, a web browser, and some customer-specific vertical market applications. At that price you just buy a couple of extra so that you have spares on hand and don't worry about the warranty, because if they last the first 30 days then they will probably last years -- and if they don't that's why you buy the spares.

    We just throw them on the bench, open them up to make sure that everything is seated, run general diagnostics to make sure that they are good, and do a fresh OS load so that we are at a known starting point -- which is exactly what we do with new computers too so there really isn't any difference in deployment labor costs.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: What about refurbished?

      Mine are all refurbs. The one that is the oldest will get an eventual parts upgrade.

  7. doublelayer Silver badge

    The old ones don't get obsolete

    This is a wonderful time in desktop hardware, where virtually any machine you find that was built in the past ten years will work for a lot of use cases. I do some volunteer admin for a charity nearby, and they frequently come to me asking me to reinstall or update their desktops. Before when I'd did this, I had to deal with machines that would not have much life left--not because they were physically broken, but just because they no longer provided enough power. I haven't done that in a long while. Every machine is capable of handling Windows 10, office, and a web browser. That's pretty much all the people do with them. So they haven't bought any new desktops for at least three years and many of the ones in service are much older than that. The same is true of laptops to an extent--the processors, memory, disks, and graphics continue to be reasonable for quite a while. Laptops are getting better in the realm of size, weight, and screen resolution though. Still, people can use their old machines for longer and in the case of desktops, there seems to be little likelihood that this will change soon.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The old ones don't get obsolete

      "Laptops are getting better in the realm of size, weight, and screen resolution though."

      Not sure about that. In the drive for even greater thinness and lightness facilities are being cut. My preferred supplier, for instance, haven't had one with an optical drive option for some considerable time and the one I'm currently using has an increasingly dodge keyboard.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: The old ones don't get obsolete

        All my machines have optical drives still (because they're oldish), but I don't trust it for storage and I haven't bought a pre-written one for years. On the odd occasion I do try to read something (play a DVD, for instance) I find the desktop drive non-functional - presumably because of accumulated dust.

        So I don't care about availability of new machines with drives. If I must have one, it'll be external so I can keep it in dust-free in a drawer.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: The old ones don't get obsolete

          I don't care about optical drives on laptops, and nor do many people who have asked me to find them a laptop. The media is simply too old and too small to be used very much. I have a USB drive in my disk that I can connect if I need it. Otherwise, it's extra weight I do not need to carry with me. As for keyboards, there are certainly a lot of terrible ones around around this time, but there were some truly terrible ones before too. I've seen many keyboards on the more expensive laptops that are fine, but sometimes a keyboard is a thing that will be compromised with a laptop.

  8. Updraft102 Silver badge

    All of Europe's home PC users share one phone? That must be rough.

  9. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Not news really

    We've been echoing this on El Reg for years now.

    For routine office work you need a decent screen and keyboard, with the welly to run your programmes- mostly an office suite and some simple drawing/painting/photo editing programmes. Nothing that can't be managed with a machine that's years old.

    For most game players there are consoles of one kind or another.

    For daily life a phone or tablet is all most people need.

    At home we have a big 5 year old Dell PC i7 that I've slapped a couple of extra HDDs into that act as backup/storage for itself and the laptops, and added a pair of external HDDs that I swap round from time to time for backup of my backups. (And there's a second DVD writer that I almost never use anymore).

    I've never needed more than a fraction of its power.

    The 250gb SSD on my Dell laptop was reporting faults a few weeks out of warranty - according to Dell's software, but not according to Windows(?) so I swapped it for a 500gb Samsung SSD while it was still working well, and which interestingly seems to be a bloody sight faster than the one Dell had supplied. And I now see no reason why I'd need to replace this machine in the foreseeable future.

    My daughters use(d) laptops for uni work and frankly didn't need a fraction of the power of those machines either.

    And my wife uses the Dell for typing stuff or when she needs a full sized screen to read and an iThingy for routine use.

  10. truetalk

    Upgrade, why?

    Brexit uncertainty ? I don't think so at all, it's for all the reasons given in the above comments. From a consumer point of view, my Android phone has taken over the bulk of what I do including being able to print documents to my Epson printer. I want to upgrade my I7 laptop, but not for any reason other than it has a dodgy hinge. I look at the specs of new laptops and there just isn't anything that says I must have that. My laptop will only probably get replaced when it becomes so obsolete that I can no longer get replacement batteries. As for my desktop system running KDE Neon, I can still see that running in another 10..15 years. Up until recently I was still running a Pentium 4 as a webserver. The only reason I changed it was to experience some retail therapy and have something shiny & new. The I5 system that replaced the Pentium 4 doesn't really improve upon the Pentium 4 in terms of the actual use the system was used for. E.g the bottleneck is the internet speed not the processor speed. Now if I could get a 1gbit (or even a 200Mbit) internet in a rural area that's where my money would go.

  11. N2 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Just more evidence

    That Windows 10 has fucked up the PC market.

  12. BGatez Bronze badge

    Working on a phone? Only if you REALLY enjoy reading postcards

  13. IGnatius T Foobar !

    A computer

    Honestly, I'll be happy when the day finally comes that I can just plug my phone into a USB-C dock and keep on using the same set of installed software on a bigger screen. You can almost kind of do this today, but it's half baked. Once it's perfected, many consumers won't bother with the computer anymore.

  14. HolySchmoley
    Facepalm

    Smartphone vs actual PC

    "as people continue to move towards using their smartphones for the sort of tasks you'd normally want an actual PC for"

    People who move towards using their smartphones for the sort of tasks [you'd] they'd normally want an actual PC for aren't doing the sort of tasks you'd want an actual PC for.

    Smartphone: messaging, simple email, maps, games / social media / other kiddie stuff.

    PC: substantial typing, spreadsheets, programming, substantial web... actual work.

  15. MarkElmes

    The thing is, even a 13 year old Core2Duo or Core2Quad machine will happily run Windows 10, Office, Chrome and browse the internet. Put an SSD in said machine and they'll be perfectly usable. Heck, add an old and cheap Nvidia 750Ti and you'll be able to play most modern games.

    It's easier than ever to keep old machines chugging along, so there's even less reason for poeple to upgrade when Windows 10 upgrade was free and they use their phones/tablets for most other things.

    I'm sure the PC Hardware market is buzzing along as well as ever!

  16. Gothmog

    HP Vectra

    Me and the Mrs recently had cause to go along to a private hospital. In the reception there was an unattended booth (open door), in which there was a desk, a chair, miscellaneous boxes... all manner of general clutter. And on the desk was a HP Vectra attached to a huge CRT, on which impenetrable data was scrolling. I estimate the Vectra to be at least 20 years old. Leaving aside the issue of security, I was genuinely fascinated to try and understand what the hell it was doing, but we got called for our appointment so didn't have a chance to penetrate their security properly; we went there several times and the booth was always open to anyone to just wander in.

  17. John Doe 6

    Actually the problem is that You really need to do some very heavy work to utilize a CPU or GPU, "normal" people at home do not do such things... and Teh Cloud has taken over much of computation heavy work so the Cloud is also a part of the problem.

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