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Definitive 2008 Hardware Guide
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You are currently in Hardware, Internet, Networking, Comms and Security
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Fri Jan 18, 2008 7:00 am Reply and quote this post
LAST YEAR was a bit of a mixed bag for the hardware sector.On the one hand, Intel’s processors and platforms moved forward without a hitch,with quad core entering mainstream desktops.
On the other hand, AMD took the most severe battering it has seen in a goodfew years, while Nvidia basically watched from the sidelines as its GPU andchipsets were delayed for more than six months.
At long last, DDR2 and flash memory pricing reached rock bottom, but onlyafter several players slowed the pace of progress and others disappearedaltogether, meaning what’s cheap today is likely to be more expensive in thelonger term.
So what might we expect to see in 2008?
Intel’s 45nm chips enter the mainstream: those on the inside don’t seem tobelieve that the current "shortage" poses any serious problem. Simply put, Intelis in no danger of facing any performance competition on the desktop from AMD,so until most fabs switch to 45nm, all the initial Penryns will be siphoned offinto ‘enthusiast PC parts – i.e. the expensive, high-ASP servers andworkstations – in order to maximise profits before the competition kicks in.
AMD’s head is likely to start aching even more in several months' time whenIntel starts replacing all 65nm parts with 45nm ones across the board.
Nehalems are scheduled to make an appearance in 2008 – well, at least in thedual-socket workstation, server and super PC arenas, as well as in the usualextreme uni-socket gaming rigs. And yes, they will be very fast, especially inFP, memory and threaded stuff – any of this sounding similar to the Pentium 4promises?
Even if AMD has nothing comparable to offer this year, Intel isn’t going tomiss the chance to charge premium bucks for its premium CPU range and get themachinery in motion before AMD – or whoever buys it – gets its act together.
AMD does 45nm too – even if that’s limited to a few dozen working wafers taken from a test run, and Nvidia has to deliver at least something 45nm thisyear to keep from losing its last bit of credibility. This year, we’ll probablysee selected "limited" Shanghai and Deneb 45nm quad-core chips sent out to a fewfriendly user sites, although its anyone’s guess about speed gains.
Flash storage will be everywhere with huge price cuts and similar capacityleaps, combined with better read/write reliability and faster interfaces. NANDchip vendors are not exactly happy with the pricing right now, but when you haveflash embedded in everything from mobiles to eeePC, Macbooks and PC SSDstorage, and with the real performance benefits far higher than from multi-GPUsor quad-core CPUs – especially once ONFI takes off – the manufacturers shouldbe able to capitalise on that in 2008.
There is likely to be some GPU vendor uncertainty – will Nvidia buy DAAMIT?Will Intel snap up Nvidia? How long can ATI keep feeding AMD within DAAMIT? Andwill Intel’s Larrabee just steamroll the lot of them?

With all these M&A shenanigans, as well as Intel's forthcoming GPU entryacross the board, it will be an interesting year, despite the uncertainty – sowhatever graphics card you choose, even if it’s a £500 multi-GPU monster, itcould theoretically become a white elephant depending on the outcome of theabove.
Confusion over display interfaces: the brand new Displayport is likely to gohead to head with HDMI 1.3 in the bandwidth battle, and neither looks likely towin a decisive victory over the other. On top of that, there is the stillvery-much-alive DVI and the VGA port – not to mention the upcoming USBDisplaylink multi-monitor transmission.
Interestingly, neither of these ports has the capability to drive the nexthigh-end standard – the QWUXGA 3840x2400 60 Hz 9 Mpixel resolution first seen onthe IBM T221. Maybe two links, Displayport or HDMI 1.3 might come close, but itis still not a straightforward, single link connection.
Full HD 24-inch monitors will enter the mainstream: with the 1920x1200resolution available at less than $400(£202), there’s no excuse to scrimp onthis. Plus, such a screen combined with downloadable HD from the Internet mightbe the killer app for HD movies rather than DRM-ed BluRay and HD-DVD.
No more legacy I/O: unfortunately, the simple and reliable PS/2 and ATA IDEis likely to ride into the sunset in much the same way as the old serial andparallel interface. USB had better figure out a way not to bother the CPUunnecessarily for the keyboard and mouse, or else...
Converged comms: 2008 is likely to be the year in which Wimax, Wifi and 3.5Gbecomes a reality on one chip or two. So theoretically, you could be "online"all the time, everywhere. Or, you could take the healthy “radiation-free” optionand switch it off to plug in your gigabit ethernet cable - the throughput isfar more consistent.
Cases and cooling to go even more exotic: whether you’re looking for asuper-duper overclocking rig or a super-silent home theatre PC, there will be aflurry of new cases integrated with 'special' cooling and power systems toaddress all your needs: cryo-freezing, fridge chilling, Peltier thermoelectricor simply a bunch of water pipes. And all of them will look weird.
So, it looks like we’re in for another year of further Intel dominationrather than seeing any renewed competition, even though the latter would be ineveryone's interest – even for Intel.

Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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