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The future of PCs will bring new chips, new memory types, and even new cables and chargers. Take a peek at what's coming.
The PC's future is so bright, you gotta wear shades
You might write off PCs as archaic or boring. You might take for granted that they'll get faster, lighter, more power-efficient and more convenient to use over time.
But if you stop and consider all the things that go into making a computer better, there’s actually a lot to be excited about. Here are 10 PC advancements that will transform PCs over the next several years.
Extra-thin Broadwell 2-in-1s
Today's Windows hybrids require a tough decision for buyers: Do you go with netbook-like performance and screen sizes with Intel's Bay Trail chips, or do you sacrifice portability in exchange for the power of a Core processor?
Intel's next chipset, codenamed Broadwell, may strike a better balance for 2-in-1 PCs, as it'll allow for 12.5-inch tablets that weigh less than 1.5 pounds and are thinner than an iPad Air.
Despite earlier delays, Intel says PC makers should have Broadwell-based products on store shelves this holiday season.
AMD's power efficiency promise
Although Intel has hogged the spotlight when it comes to power-efficient laptop-tablet hybrids, AMD thinks it has an answer. Over the next six years, the company says its processors will become 25 times more power-efficient, outpacing Moore's law by shifting some of the workload over to the graphics processor.
If AMD can combine its graphics prowess with all-day battery life, it may finally become a contender in 2-in-1 computing.
Intel's wireless PC push
Wireless charging and low-latency screen sharing aren't new concepts, but they may actually gain some traction as Intel throws its weight behind them.
By 2016, Intel wants to push "wire-free" PCs, which can beam screen content to another display via WiGig and stay charged with wireless docking. The idea is that any desktop monitor or TV could become a dumb terminal for your laptop, with nothing extra to connect.
USB Type-C for fewer cable headaches
A couple years after the advent of Apple's Lightning cable, the USB Implementers Forum is readying its response. USB 3.1 will be faster than its predecessor, but more importantly, it'll use reversible USB-Type-C connectors, so you won't have to think about whether you're inserting a cable right-side up.
We'll likely suffer through a dark period of adapters, special USB 3.0-to-3.1 cables and legacy connectors sitting side-by-side with their successors, but it'll be worth the transition to a standard cable with fewer headaches.
Universal laptop chargers
If you've ever lost a laptop charger, you probably know the pain of trying to replace it in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost. Fortunately, the International Electrotechnical Commission will publish a technical specification for universal laptop chargers this year.
We don't yet know what the charger will look like, and it's possible the effort could merge with USB Power Delivery, just as it did with Micro-USB chargers for phones and tablets. Still, the technical spec is an important first step toward saving us from an endless array of proprietary power cords.
Tear-free gaming with DisplayPort Adaptive Sync
Tearing and stuttering may become an ugly memory for PC gamers once DisplayPort Adaptive Sync becomes widely adopted. By matching the refresh rate of the external monitor to the rendering rate of the graphics card, the new standard aims to make gaming much smoother without the lag and choppiness caused by software-based V-Sync solutions.
Look for supported monitors to become available in six to 12 months. (If you're impatient and have extra money to spend, Nvidia's proprietary G-Sync solution will come first.)
DDR3 has been kicking around since 2009, so we’re about due for a better form of memory. With DDR4, users can expect 50 percent more memory bandwidth and 35 percent power savings over its predecessor, potentially helping both high-end and low-end computers.
Intel plans to support DDR4 in an “Extreme Edition” Core chip in the second half of this year, but mainstream PC support reportedly won’t arrive until Intel ships its Skylake chips in 2015.
Hybrid memory cubes for faster speeds at lower power
Micron's moving beyond conventional DRAM. It's cooked up a new technology called Hybrid Memory Cubes, which stacks memory modules vertically instead of placing them flat on a motherboard. The resulting connection offers 15 times more bandwidth and 70 percent better energy efficiency than today’s DDR3 DRAM.
The technology will appear on high-performance workstations and servers next year, but it could eventually reach laptops.
SATA Express for even faster SSD performance
Remember the first time you ran a computer on solid state storage, and realized you'd never go back to hard disk drives? SATA Express might let you have that feeling all over again, as it paves the way for much faster solid state and SSD-HDD "hybrid" drives. By using PCI Express for additional data transfer lanes, SATA Express will bump speeds from 6 gigabits (0.75 gigabytes) per second to 2 gigabytes per second, without the hit to power efficiency that would have come from speeding up SATA alone.
It'll be a while before SATA Express trickles onto mainstream PCs, though we've seen some early support in motherboards and drive enclosures already.
Wireless 802.11ax for less-congested networks
For those who've felt the pain of trying to connect to a crowded public hotspot, the next Wi-Fi standard may offer some relief. Rather than just boosting overall bandwidth, the goal With 802.11ax is to quadruple speeds to individual connections, while also improving spectrum management to cut down on hotspot congestion.
The standard has a long way to go, as it likely won't be ratified until 2019. Devices supporting draft 802.11ax could hit the market in a couple years, though.
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