back to article Laptops are on fire! In a good way (if you're selling). PC sales race to highest growth rate since 2011

Fuelled by the pandemic, demand for notebooks continued to go through the roof in Q3 as the PC industry grew at its fastest pace in almost nine years - Dell was the only major top five player to report declines. According to global stats collated by analyst Canalys, shipments to retailers and distributors rocketed 12.7 per …

  1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge


    My big peeve with laptop & PC sales is the CPU makers elaborate smokescreens to obscure the numbers of cores, threads and other performance metrics. This has translated into the various filters the computer makers & sellers show on their websites into also not allowing filtering on these parameters, and instead filtering on things like CPU names. So when trying to select a laptop or PC where performance matters, you have to spend a lot of time looking up specific CPU part numbers (and ) to get even simply stuff like core & thread count. And not all modern Intel CPU's are multi-threaded. A friend bought a laptop recently he thought was a great deal with a 8-core Intel CPU without realizing (until I looked up the specific CPU) that it didn't support multi-threading, so his "deal" was only about half a great as he thought when he bought.

    "Transparency is for losers." seems to be the laptop & PC industry's motto.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Smokescreens

      Some people are disabling Simultaneous Multi-Threading because of security concerns. Benchmarking suggests disabling SMT typically decreases the performance of a CPU by 25-35% - though they didn't test an 8 core Intel CPU because it was unlikely to impact gaming performance (and that the impact on productivity workloads would be expected to be in line with those chips they did test)

      1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

        Re: Smokescreens

        If you believe your system may be subjected to side channel attacks (i.e. run a lot of VM's that you don't control what runs on them), sure, disable multi-threading for security purposes. But that's not a concern for most people especially on laptops & workstations. They want power for gaming or simulation work, in which case when purchasing systems, they want easy filtration on things like core count, caches, clock speed, etc.

    2. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: Smokescreens

      I usually ask the seller or look it up online. If the seller doesn't know I just don't buy from them.

      Laptops really have become overpriced, then again I buy one like once a decade, and end using them until not even the most fantastic Linux can get a use of them.

      1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

        Re: Smokescreens

        My point is that "look it up online" means you have to look up the CPU part number on the CPU makers website, not simply select filters on the PC maker/sellers website. You didn't used to have to do that, and you shouldn't need to. At most now, if there's a CPU filter on a maker/sellers website, it's Intel vs AMD or the CPU family. But within a CPU family core counts, caches sizes, and multithreading vary, so filtering on CPU family is useless. Again, you end up having to look up the specific CPU part number, so a task that was once simple & transparent now requires quite a bid if time & effort if you are truly doing your due diligence.

  2. Conundrum1885

    What is it with SMT

    Seems that this causes problems because certain applications need parallel threads with well defined endpoints to merge the data streams.

    Incidentally one thing I did find is that the older chips with hyperthreading still smoke newer faster chips.

    A 2013 Xeon for example will work perfectly well despite only having 4 cores/HT, because it is specifically intended for servers and will work

    perfectly well for some tasks, thus attracting a price out of proportion to its age.

    Same for my old workhorse Core i3 and despite only having the same number of cores as the T7 series it replaced the machine is still faster.

    Sure I could put in an i5 with similar TDP but the performance gain would likely be at most 26% even doubling the core count due to lower speed.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: What is it with SMT

      >A 2013 Xeon for example will work perfectly well despite only having 4 cores/HT

      I only have two issues with my ancient dual xeon workstation: fan noise and lack of drivers (Win or Linux) for key components so limited OS upgrade potential.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: What is it with SMT

      Last year I built a PC using a 6 core Ryzen which has hyperthreads.

      I left hyperthreading on. Works great. It's also running FreeBSD. Since I don't download and run windows binaries with viruses and trojan horses in them, and generally disable scripting in browsers, I should be protected from side-channel attacks.

      Mitigation can be done in BETTER ways than disabling SMT and/or hyperthreads. You do not remove your toe because it has an ingrown nail.

      icon, because, facepalm.

      [and for a laptop I'd do the same thing - Ryzen, multi-core, and either Linux or FreeBSD. If I need windows I can run it in a VM and make it single core if need be]

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tide going out is good?

    With everyone going for laptops in these uncertain times, is it then a good time to go for desktops? Cheaper and better to get a fixed platform now?

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: Tide going out is good?

      Laptops have their place when you need mobility, desktops have far better performance. I'd rather have one for each purpose than dragging around a bulky top of the range workstation laptop that a decade old desktop can run rings around - and costs more than both combined.

      1. jelabarre59

        Re: Tide going out is good?

        Except that these days you'd be better off custom building that "desktop" machine yourself. Your bog-standard consumer desktop is more likely to be a laptop-derived motherboard in a big box. And then there's those flashy-expensive "Gaming Desktops" with the lights, plastic side-windows, monster fans, but ***NO*** optical drives, or even a place to put them. At the exorbitant prices they charge for those showy boxes, they should have AT LEAST one BD Writer in them, maybe a DVD writer as well.

        (I also think the lights and windows are stupid, but without the optical drives, I wouldn't be buying one anyway).

        1. Robert Moore

          Re: Tide going out is good?

          I just built a desktop, with no RGB nonsense. It is actually getting difficult to buy higher end parts without annoying and unneeded LED lighting. I also agree on the glass side panels. I bought a case with a space for an optical drive, but have not put one in, yet. Most of what I use it for does not need an optical drive so I am test driving the system without. It has been a little over a 2 weeks, and so far I have not missed the optical drive.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Tide going out is good?

      There is a difference between whether you are purchasing for WFH or whether a company is purchasing to supply employees with computers for WFH.

      From a company perspective, it is easier to hand out laptops and expect employees to actually take them home than to give them a desktop. Also, an employee is more likely to return a laptop whereas they might expect the company to collect the desktop...

      Personally, the current WFH market is ripe for AIO systems such as the Dell XPS-18 (2014), which Dell sold for circa 18 months and they and others have never launched comparable replacements.

      Another potential seller is a full-blown W10 desktop VM for Xbox.

  4. jelabarre59

    Dell down?

    Well, even in a pandemic, people don't want to buy crap.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Dell down?

      Trouble is, most of the laptops in the market currently are crap, particularly with respect to the inbuilt webcam. Yes, I've been looking to source a bunch of laptops for a business transforming itself from on-premises to WFH..

      Very few have anything better than a 720p webcam with mediocre performance, which given recent experience is going to result in many people being disappointed or even annoyed at web video calling/conferencing. I can only think that the vendors are currently using up (pre-CoVid-19) component stockpiles and we won't see any improvements until 2021Q2 at the earliest.

      Currently, I'm advising clients to use iPads for Zoom etc. as not only do they have FHD webcams but they are more functional than a USB webcam and less bulky - they slide in flat against the laptop in the bag just like a magazine.

  5. cb7

    "The PC is dead" I believe was the headline repeated a few months ago?

    I can't believe it took a pandemic for people to realise you need a proper computer to do any real work.

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