The Death of the Desktop: How Kepler Is Killing Off the Gaming PC

Nvidia's Kepler architecture favours power efficiency over raw performance, but what does that mean for the humble gaming PC?

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Today, Nvidia let loose the latest in pixel-pushing horsepower with the GTX 680, which is based on a brand-new architecture called Kepler. I was over in San Francisco to get the lowdown on the card at Nvidia's annual gathering of the press (the results of which you can check out here), and aside from a quite frankly absurd amount of talk about anti-aliasing and stream processors, there was also a hell of a lot of talk about power consumption.

That seemed strange to me. After all, for pretty much the entire history of the desktop graphics market, the emphasis has been on better performance and retina-melting graphics over any paltry concerns about power consumption. And then came the laptops. For as well as unveiling a new desktop part, Nvidia announced its entire line of laptop chips based on Kepler.

The difference this time was that the laptop guys--the ones always in the shadow of their louder, brasher desktop brethren--were suddenly very proud to talk about their wares. Their laptop parts aren't weak versions of their desktop counterparts; they're every bit as powerful, and just as capable of running the latest games. Suddenly, Nvidia's whole power consumption speech started to make sense.

To demonstrate this newfound laptop power, Nvidia booted up Battlefield 3, which was running at 1080p on high settings without any hiccups. It turned out that the demo was being run from Acer's new M3 Ultrabook; a super-slim laptop with eight hours of battery life and a new GeForce GT 640M GPU. I've tried running games like Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3 on the M3 myself, and it does indeed run them at maximum settings.

Now, that's impressive for lots of reasons. For one, the 640M isn't even a high-end laptop part, with the 650, 660, 670, and 675 all sitting above it in the graphics card food chain. But more than that, it's indicative of Nvidia's new approach to GPU design. If the desktop parts use less power, then it's much easier to shrink them down into something that will fit into a laptop, or into something even smaller like an Ultrabook.

And really, that's where the future lies. Desktop sales have been declining for some time, while laptop sales--particularly Ultrabooks--have been climbing. More so if you include Macs like the Macbook Air. If I can play all my favourite games on a sexy, slim laptop at settings that don't make my eyes bleed, why on earth would I need a gaming PC? They're bulky and a pain in the ass to maintain, and they use more electricity than I care to think about.

Nvidia is keenly planning for the future; it knows that the market lies not in the LED-laden gaming PC, but in the portable space. One day all laptops will be Ultrabooks. Much in the same way that one day perhaps all Ultrabooks will be tablets. And if I'm able to get my Battlefield 3 fix on the go thanks to a great GPU, all the better.

Kepler (as well as the mobile-focused Tegra chips) is the first step towards the death of the desktop PC as a gaming platform. It's not going to happen overnight by any means, but in the coming years I wouldn't be surprised if we see Nvidia's laptop engineers take centre stage at its press gatherings; their once proud desktop counterparts relegated to a sideshow attraction in a back room.

You're not dead just yet, gaming desktop, but when your time comes, I won't be sad--I'll just be glad I can still play Battlefield.

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Discussion

128 comments
Samrat_Ashok
Samrat_Ashok

You can't get a laptop with four portable screens.

shanethewolf
shanethewolf

Laptops, Ipads and the like are part of the hipster image. Guys like the writer of this article are more interested in being seen with the latest gadget than about actually enjoying the games. Much the same way as women love to be seen with designer handbags and shoes. Afterall, this is a guy who has falafels and Long Island Ice Tea on his profile.

shyshyshy
shyshyshy

Okay if these laptops cost the same as or nearly the same as a pc, then sure. But until then a gaming pc, because of its cost efficient nature will always be there. One thing I've noticed with laptops is that sometimes when something goes wrong them, you'd have to have the whole thing replaced. But with a pc, I could individually replace the ones that need replacing. And sure, with a pc build, I could invest on the parts that matters most instead of buying the whole hubbub.

Temujin_basic
Temujin_basic

"If I can play all my favourite games on a sexy, slim laptop at settings that don't make my eyes bleed, why on earth would I need a gaming PC?" I play games not to look good, I play games cus I just wanna play games. And call me old-school, but I like to play my games at the comfort of my own room. When I go out, I stop playing videogames and hang out with friends n have real interactions. And so far, PCs are still the way to go for its price and its art in building one from scratch. I have nothing against laptops either, but once again, unless gaming laptops can reach the same price as a good gaming PC only then the PC might perish.

Hobbes444
Hobbes444

GameSpot really needs a guy who ACTUALLY builds PCs and is a hardcore PC gamer.

Hobbes444
Hobbes444

@danieldsouza just use an external display, and hook your desktop's mouse and keyboard up to the laptop. then sit back, relax, and play some Battlefield or something.

predatorGS
predatorGS

At least "death of pc gaming" isn't mentioned, getting tired of all these anti pc blogs/posts etc. @jmc88888 exactly

danieldsouza
danieldsouza

Who will want to play call of duty and total war on a 17 inch screen. Laptops are frustrating to use and i cant imagine gaming on one. Mark what's your next article "mobile phones replacing pc gaming".

jonaadams
jonaadams

You don't know gaming like I know gaming. Go visit a LAN party.

jonaadams
jonaadams

This sort of talk will make sense once our experience in game can completely suspend disbeliefe while being done on a portlable device with a Crystal clear head mounted display. Until then, as long as I can ramp up the Volts, and have an advantage of extreme heat disapation, the desktop will be king. Bigger badder software on a bigger badder machine and many more pixels. More advanced AI, ultrabandwidth, modabiltity, all benifit from huge number crunching.

klasco
klasco

My only problem with laptops is how undurable they are especially since they really heat up if you push them and if something dies you can't replace it as easy as you can on a desktop setup.

klasco
klasco

Need to look at ppl who custom build desktops for cos thats were its at. If your main concern is power you'll go for desktops. I have a laptop and a $4000 self built desktop.

DarthLefein
DarthLefein

He must be appealing to the budget audience only. There are enough people, especially database gear who buy \$500 GPUs Pricey gpu not ever disappearing. There is GPGPU technology.

dr_jashugan
dr_jashugan

Well, considering that today tech is more portable than ever, it's no surprise that eventually laptops will replace desktops. :cool:

jmc88888
jmc88888

Sorry, ultrabooks won't take out PC gaming. No one hates on gaming on the go...but everyone would rather play on a 30-70 inch HDTV @120hz or higher rather than a small screen. People are also forgetting that 4k and 16k are on their way, meaning the ability for ultrabooks to process 1080 effectively will be supplanted by the need for desktops to be able to do 4k and eventually 16k. (and after that beyond...of course there will also be tabletop upwards displaying holographic towards the end of the decade) Ultrabooks always have the constraints of power, heat, and size. Eventually the power, heat, and size, capabilities improve, but always AFTER the desktop has conquered them. No one wants their main computing display to be 13-17 or so inches unless they hate themselves...On the go..sure. At home? Hell no. With the increasing teach requirements that are coming, the ultrabook will not replace the desktop anytime soon. Last I checked, PC cases are getting BIGGER. To hold SLI, multiple processors, and from what I'VE SEEN on the drawing boards, even the current behemoths are small compared to what's coming. It just won't be possible to miniaturize this tech while ALSO achieving this tech. The desktop has nothing to worry about anytime soon. Never say never....but almost.

soeppel
soeppel

Q: If I can play all my favourite games on a sexy, slim laptop at settings that don't make my eyes bleed, why on earth would I need a gaming PC? A: 30", 2560x1600.

ZedX-14Pilot
ZedX-14Pilot

@baldrickhead, shanethewolf, and max_1111 I couldn't agree with you dudes more! (Or dudettes even!) When are these so-called techphiles going to learn. Just because it is smaller and mobile doesn't mean it is better or cool, or even worthy of its existence. Gaming will ALWAYS be better on desktops. ALWAYS.

ZedX-14Pilot
ZedX-14Pilot

This guy is a tool! Just look at his picture. What is with these metrosexual, single mother raised jagoff's and their wish that the desktops go the way of the dinosaurs? Are you really trying to tell me you would rather game on some weak laptop with a 15" or 17" screen rather than your 42-92" big screen, or 24-32" desktop LED? OH, I forgot. Guys like this actually think angry birds and farmville are real games. So yeah, I guess you guys would. That notion is just as stupid as that PS Vita commercial of the guy walking down the street while playing MLB 12. Who in the hell plays games WHILE they are walking down the street!?!?!? Not only do we have to listen to sh#t like this, but, we also have to listen to people claiming the death of PC gaming, right after it has been reported that PC gaming had its best year ever! Please Gamespot, stop writing crap like this. When are you going to give us stuff worth reading? When you see a laptop run games at desktop graphic levels, THEN maybe you should write an article about this crap. But until then, until laptops and ultrabooks boot and run as fast as desktops, give us articles worthy of our time please.

chrisvader774
chrisvader774

I suppose it's possible, Mark, that your prediction may come true. It is possible that the younger generation's indoctrination to their gaming platforms may dictate the market. After all, teens and college students will likely have laptops for their all in one for both school work and entertainment, and if the laptops offer a level of gaming they have never enjoyed before, it may be possible that if it's what they're used to, they may never feel the need to get a desktop PC. But I must concur with many of the observations here...as long as desktops remain a) more inexpensive overall and b) modular, I think that even if the next generation grows up with portablility in their teens, when they strike out on their own, they may discover desktop gaming a more comfortable (both financially and physically) experience and keep the demand for desktop PCs up. I guess time will tell if you're right or wrong.

Crowgasm888
Crowgasm888

Does the new Nvidia line and this laptop nirvana make provision for my 6x26" Eyefinity setup? How mobile will that be? Can it handle my steering wheel? Is it a touchpad steering wheel? Can the laptop handle 3 6970's? Will it still be 'ultra-slim'? All very silly. When you can build a desktop for 600 that an equivalently powered laptop would cost 2k or above, this article is redundant. Even in 10 years if a laptop (surely outpaced by a smart phone by then, eh?) has the power of a current big desktop it still wont be able to match the features/functionality. Laptops will remain/evolve because of their main asset - that's mobility. Simply as a conceptual object, they're not able to compete with a big desktop set-up on all sorts of levels.

VasileCelMare
VasileCelMare

I can believe I read this sh#t. The only thing that's dying for me is Gamespot and it's extremely retarded employees.

orbit1star
orbit1star

Another day, another writer claiming the PC is dying or dead. Been hearing that from the kids for 10 years now. As laptops get more powerful, desktops also get more powerful. Small will never catch up. Good luck with that prognostication career. p.s. You should keep this article around, so you can go back and look at it in ten years and roll your eyes at yourself. :)

baldrickhead
baldrickhead

Heralding the death of my desktop is like sending a will kit to my half-crippled grandmother... practical yes... but just not tactful. If only ultrabooks were ultrapowered. I just hope that when the time comes I don't have to accept the compromises of portability in the same way we choked on the compromises brought to us by MP3s. Namely, the sacrifice of audio quality for the sake of shoving a thousand songs on an ipod nano. In lowering the standard, now everyone thinks that ordinary 16bit CD audio sounds like a choir of virgin angels. Vinyl fans are practically having seizures. It doesn't exactly encourage manufactures to push the envelope if consumers just say, “yeah, it's good enough”. And I agree with Max_1111 that a lot of time and sentimental value goes into customising a peripheral setup on your desktop that simply just... works. Viva la Desktop!

shanethewolf
shanethewolf

Laptops can make you infertile and impotent. Maybe all this is part of a conspiracy to effeminize future generations of males.

max_1111
max_1111

Don't get me wrong, i love my laptop for what it is, but given the choice, i will ALWAYS prefer to use my desktop machine. The only thing that laptops (or tablets/netbooks/Ultrabooks (what the crap is an Ultrabook anyway?!) etc etc etc) really have going for them (in my opinion) is their mobility. I hate everything else about them; the smaller keyboards, trackpads, generally just "okay" displays... They're all just flat out uncomfortable to use... Sure i could connect it to a whole bunch of desktop peripherals to deal with all those aforementioned grievances, but then why the hell wouldn't i just use a complete desktop machine to begin with?

matok1
matok1

Dec 2020 :: : Wow,, Jee..bring back some memories.. Sent from my "kepler on the move"

WagenMan
WagenMan

Hello people, a laptop is still a PC. @Vackillers, less caffeine man. He clearly meant "desktops" not PC gaming as a platform in general. Put your hubris in check. @x2rufff4u, www.angermanagement.net @Temujin_basic, Aren't they getting closer to that by developing products that were meant for both from the beginning? It's almost like games that are designed for console and pc at the same time, but it's always pc that gets the shaft. In the end they follow the money and desktop sales are falling. @coldscooter, I agree, theres no place like home for my game time, but I wouldn't mind if my rig was smaller and if I wanted to, I could disconnect it from my 30" screen and play in the kitchen or put it under my arm while I watch my house burn down.

x2rufff4u
x2rufff4u

Who made this article? What an idiot that desktops are dying! ALL I see is an idiot posting the decline of desktops. Well Duh! In this economy who needs a new desktop that costs 600 to 1500 for a good one?! Hell my old dell P4 HT is still good! Runs everything I need, but a laptop hell ya everyone is going mobile! OFF-TOPIC: IPADS?!? Find a Ipad 1 on craigslist for less than 200 NOT HAPPENING!! IPAD 2 less than 300?!? NO! Why?!? Stupid idiots lost money since the IPAD 3 came out. Buy an IPAD 2 for 349. IPAD 1 should be 249$. IDIOTS

Temujin_basic
Temujin_basic

Unless a $700 laptop can perform as fast and as good as a $700 PC, only then gaming desktops will perish.

Jawad2007
Jawad2007

not gonna happen there is no way the laptob well replace the desktop ...... even not in 10 years!!!!!!!!!11

coldscooter
coldscooter

Oh dear Mark Walton. As much as enjoy your usual articles, I fear you may have embarrassed yourself a little with this one. I really think most desktop PC gamers (i assume that's what you mean when you simply say 'PC') care very little about the mobility of their gaming rigs. If I want to immerse myself in a game, I want to be in the comfort of my own home, when I have the time to invest. I have no desire to play the games I truly love in a starbucks or during the commute to work.

Shawshoe
Shawshoe

pc's are "a pain in the ass to maintain." wtf does this even mean? them goldang pc's, whut with their updatin them drivers and whatnot. i dont want to be wastin my brain juice on that mess.

AnarchyRising
AnarchyRising

"Death of the desktop PC as a gaming platform" .. It will never happen.

vackillers
vackillers

one mroe thing, laptops cost twice as much as a desktop gaming machine, THAT in itself will never take the place of a desktop machine, untill you can buy an affordable, high performance laptop that doesn't cost over $2000 it will NEVER replace a desktop gaming powerhouse.

vackillers
vackillers

@ 4th3ist : he says it in the damn tittle.........."How Kepler Is Killing Off the Gaming PC " yes hes talking about desktop pcs and laptops, laptops are not a desktop replacement, you can change a harddrive and ram out, that is it... its a restrictive medium no matter which way you look at it, to even compare a laptop to a desktop is rediculas in itself anyway as the graphics cards inside laptops are NOT equivilent to their desktop counter-parts anyway, look at any benchmark on the net and that will tell you that. Yes he mentioned death to pc gaming, and implied it in many many phrase's as well.... did you read it all? did you take it all into context at all or did u just breeze through the review and not take anything of what hes said into context?

baal46
baal46

"Kepler (as well as the mobile-focused Tegra chips) is the first step towards the death of the desktop PC as a gaming platform." LOL, oh really?

4th3ist
4th3ist

@vackillers He didn't say anything about the death of PC Gaming. Did you read this article at all?

vackillers
vackillers

This is a big wake up call for the entire console industry and for absolutely obserd speckulations like what was written in this silly review, when you as a writing editor are putting out reviews that go out to 100s of 1000s of people, you need to bring ALL FACTS to the table and BROAD look at the industry as whole before you start calling wild accusations about the death of the PC gaming industry. There are games that are made on the PC platform that could NEVER be even possible on console because of so many factors, and for this alone, means the PC gaming industry can never die, the pure advancements in PC tech will always! put the PC gaming ahead in so many ways compared to the restricted format of a console. And lets not forget about the sony and microsoft restrictions they impost on developers in ways of DLCs and other contracted elements eh? frakking rediculas

vackillers
vackillers

errr think you have this entire review backwards.... Death of the PC? seriously? your seriously going to go there? that one of the most rediculas things i've ever heard and is such an old argument its pathetic to even consider that. People who are serious when they think about PC dying as a gaming platform do not take other factors into account, for example, consoles are so far behind in hardware and technology if anything, this is just another step to prove the PCs dominance in technology hardware over any console that is stuck on pre-existing tech for 7 years or however their life span lasts with for the most part, no backwards compatability to play older games which you can have with a PC as PCs can hold multiple operating systems to be able to play games from 15 years ago. As epic games ceo Mark Reign has said in a recent interview at the GDC while show casing their unreal engine 4, microsoft and sony could be in for some serious danger with the next gen of consoles if they dont buckle up and start to compete properly in the hardware development as apples new ipad is already more powerful then the PS3 with dual core cpu and 4 GPUs on it makes it so far beyond the power of any current console right now, they are in serious risk of falling behind so rapidly they will start to loose a lot more then just sales.

jurassic1024
jurassic1024

If I can play all my favourite games on a sexy, slim laptop at settings that don't make my eyes bleed, why on earth would I need a gaming PC? ROTFLMFAO!!!

jalen_222
jalen_222

yeah ... talk about making your 'eyes bleed'. when they can get my 30 inch screen on the laptop i might be ready to listen

Born_Lucky
Born_Lucky

Sorry Mark, you may be looking forward to playing games on a kindergarten size screen, but a lot of us aren't.

shadow580
shadow580

@Spacemancer yeah, I totally agree. I have one that goes up to 85C when I play games such as Skyrim and it starts to throttle, completely killing my fps. The fans are clean and it's positioned on a flat surface in room temperature. It makes it kinda pointless having the power but not the means to use it. Maybe I need a laptop stand for it. Or maybe I should have wondered why I got it so cheap :S I remember one guy that brought a laptop to school that was twice as thick as a regular one. I sat in front of it and it spewed out so much air that it probably raised the temperature in the room by at least 1 degree.

RoadStar1602
RoadStar1602

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

shadow580
shadow580

@jamesbigmac look, all I was trying to say is that laptops have their drawbacks just like PCs. I find it unfair of you to flat out declare that PCs are a stupid idea. How about a comparison. Let's say price is not a factor and both have equal performance. With PCs you lose portability but you can have any kind of setup you want (keyboard, screen size, number of screens, positioning of them, sound system). When you get bored of some part, you replace it. You can upgrade a PC extensively and prolong it's life significantly. Heck, you can even reuse some things until they fall apart. With a laptop you get portability but little to no customization (apart from software, which doesn't count). Some make it possible to upgrade but most are limited to swapping out hard drives and RAM due to the proprietary nature of laptops. If you can swap out the CPU or GPU, it's expensive as hell. If the motherboard melts and you're out of warranty, good luck salvaging anything beyond your HDD and RAM. So there you have it, do you still find the idea of a PC stupid?

sknight175216
sknight175216

@Spacemancer I built my own custom laptop cooler and I can play games for as long as I want without my laptop over heating. Granted it isn't portable like this ha ha, but still.

Spacemancer
Spacemancer

I won't be buying a super-end laptop until they fix the heat problem all laptops have, until then, I'll stick with my liquid cooled desktop thank you very much. Once someone figures out how to keep laptops cool 99% of the time while playing the latest high end games, then I'll be transferring over to laptops.

BlueShark1
BlueShark1

This must be so embarrassing for him.

jamesbigmac
jamesbigmac

@shadow580 I run everything on 1080p with 60fps on everything except Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3. Also, I can customize everything on this laptop except for the screen (obviously). I think it's stupid to stick with the idea of a desktop when there are things like this are already available.

tiggerlu
tiggerlu

I'm old school, i still use a beast of a desktop for my games but love the idea of having a laptop for work/gaming that I can just plug in a big ol monitor into. My biggest challenge is I love using my Mac for work, and it's not exactly a gaming laptop ;-/