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Bodhitree

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Apr 5, 2021
1,967
2,086
Netherlands
I’ve been of the opinion that personal computers were “fast enough” for quite a few years. When I got my 13” MacBook Air back in 2011 I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Compared to previous chunky Dell laptops it was a very nice little computer. And so I used it for many years.

But on getting an M1 iMac a couple of years ago, it dawned on me that there was more to the computing experience than just ‘being able to do things’. Smooth, responsive computing reared its head. Suddenly all those little waiting periods were disappearing, on app launches, document opening, doing all kinds of small things. The M1 brought an overall much more pleasurable experience to my computing. It seems that there was something beyond just “fast enough to do things”.

The question is, will there be another such an ah-ha moment, when computers double in speed again compared to the M1? Or are we now truly at the point where more speed doesn’t really matter anymore?
 

pgolik

macrumors member
Sep 13, 2011
65
42
A computer feels only as fast as the software it runs. So the question is: will there be new software tasks that will make current Mx machines feel slow. And that's an interesting question. We already are on 64bit software, and I don't think it will be doubled anytime soon, there's no need. Digital cameras (still and movie) reached resolutions that are at the limit of our preception. Current Macs can deal with 50 Mpx photos and 8K video, will that increase (and what for)? Probably the only software application of small computers that is far from the plateau phase is machine learning (so called AI). So yes, I can imagine the current crop of Macs starting to feel slow with new generations of ML-dependent software, assuming that it will be computed locally, not in the cloud.
 

camotwen

macrumors member
Jul 10, 2022
78
66
Not to mention that the faster the machine, the more crap the software tends to become. In the older machines developers were putting incredible effort in memory management and performance. This is no longer the case to a big extent, as they get more value producing SPA applications using electron and whatever crap, maximising for the developper time spent to write something rather than performance efficiency. Websites become enormously huge as they offload everything into user's machines to render in JS, even if in the vast majority of cases it is completely unnecessary, just to have useless "fancy" fade effects and whatnot. There are websites that render all their text in js code run on the client. We live in horrendous times, and with AI things are probably gonna get worse.
 

kasakka

macrumors 68020
Oct 25, 2008
2,363
1,060
The M2 Pro/Max Macbook Pros solved the major issues I had with the 2019 Intel MBP performance and operation (often noisy and choking), as well as the HDMI port issues (HDMI 2.0 speeds only) of the M1.

So for laptop users as well as more casual users, absolutely fantastic.

The desktop machines are not quite there yet tho. They tend to underperform especially in the GPU department compared to what you can get for the same money as a desktop PC, even an ITX sized one. This is an area where power usage is not a huge factor and the current Apple chips don't quite scale to that level.

The bigger issue will always be software. MacOS still has some major issues with external display handling and scaling, sometimes I have to unplug and replug in the USB-C cable just to get my external peripherals working while the same stuff works without a hitch on my desktop PC.
 
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Bodhitree

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Apr 5, 2021
1,967
2,086
Netherlands
A computer feels only as fast as the software it runs. So the question is: will there be new software tasks that will make current Mx machines feel slow. And that's an interesting question. We already are on 64bit software, and I don't think it will be doubled anytime soon, there's no need. Digital cameras (still and movie) reached resolutions that are at the limit of our preception. Current Macs can deal with 50 Mpx photos and 8K video, will that increase (and what for)? Probably the only software application of small computers that is far from the plateau phase is machine learning (so called AI). So yes, I can imagine the current crop of Macs starting to feel slow with new generations of ML-dependent software, assuming that it will be computed locally, not in the cloud.

This is the thing, most commonly used software, even running a large language model locally is not that intensive. It’s just referencing and computing stuff from a 1 GB data file of response weights. Computing an LLM yes, that requires most of a data centre, but that’s not something most people will do. Image generation is more intensive I’ve heard.

Of course it depends on your specific use case, but I’m talking about the experience of most of the casual users who browse, do their email, their taxes, work a bit in an office application, maybe do some video conferencing. Interfacing with AI is part of that but so far it hasn’t been heavy lifting. The M1 seems to handle it all with ease, and we can expect the M3 to be 50% faster.

It just seems that the average experience of computing reached the stage of “fast enough to do useful work” many years ago, and now has reached “fast enough to do almost everything smoothly and responsively”. Unless you’re doing heavy lifting like compiling large codebases or rendering big images from a 3D app, it seems like we’ve plateau’ed.

So is there still going to be a need to upgrade? Because in years to come that is just going to result in a lot of processing power sitting idle, being called upon in very short bursts of a few seconds. Arguably that’s already the case.
 

JPack

macrumors G5
Mar 27, 2017
12,836
24,266
New features are added every day.

You weren't able to OCR on every photo or have live transcript before. If you look at Pixel 8, you can effectively move objects and do Photoshop-style content aware fill with a few taps. None of that was possible before.

When chip stacking technologies improve, we likely see performance rocket again.
 

h.gilbert

macrumors 6502a
Nov 17, 2022
663
1,124
Bordeaux
The question is, will there be another such an ah-ha moment, when computers double in speed again compared to the M1? Or are we now truly at the point where more speed doesn’t really matter anymore?

I'll be on this planet another 50 or 60 years. Surely there's going to be another moment like this.
 
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theorist9

macrumors 68040
May 28, 2015
3,746
2,875
Two points, both fairly obvious:

1) It depends on what you're doing. For instance, I do a lot of work in Mathematica, a program that is typically used interactively--you might try using it to solve an equation, look at the result and, based on that, decide what the next step should be. I often run into evaluations that take several minutes to complete. For such tasks, ideally you'd want your computer to be at least 100x faster (!), so your wait time would be 6 secs instead of 10 minutes.

2) Even if you are fine with how fast your computer runs now, you always want them to be getting faster. You might argue there's no practical point in caring about, say, the fact that next year's machine is 20% faster, since that's not a difference you're going to notice. So you might say they should devote resources to something else. But you need to think about the long term. If we took that attitude every year, then 10 years from now we'd be where we are now. By contrast, as @JPack pointed out, software is always adding capability (and, yes, bloat as well), which means that you need computers to keep getting faster just to keep up. That seemingly insignificant 20% yearly increase gives you a computer that's 1.2^10 = 6x faster a decade from now. And trust me, you are going to want that extra speed to run the next decade's software. If you don't believe me, try running today's software (both OS and apps) on a computer a decade old. It works, sure, but it's hardly optimum.
 
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XboxEvolved

macrumors 6502a
Aug 22, 2004
810
1,006
Anytime I get a computer, the first week or two I try to find something that will bring the computer to its knees so I know the limits of the machine, or how patient I will need to be. I kind of share your thoughts about computers nowadays, specifically Macs, because for the first time ever, I couldn’t get it to slow down like I was able to before. I had to start reaching for other stuff. Now of course, you aren’t going to be doing crazy ass 3D work, or a whole lot of AAA games on a M1. Still, it amazes me that I can play something like RE: Village on it, and I will be able to play RE4 and Death Stranding on it here soon. It completely boggles my mind actually.

So I would say yeah, in general, 2D on down they are insane, but one can always use more power and computers will continue to need more power due to the ever advancing software breakthroughs.
 

Analog Kid

macrumors G3
Mar 4, 2003
9,062
11,866
Not to mention that the faster the machine, the more crap the software tends to become. In the older machines developers were putting incredible effort in memory management and performance. This is no longer the case to a big extent, as they get more value producing SPA applications using electron and whatever crap, maximising for the developper time spent to write something rather than performance efficiency. Websites become enormously huge as they offload everything into user's machines to render in JS, even if in the vast majority of cases it is completely unnecessary, just to have useless "fancy" fade effects and whatnot. There are websites that render all their text in js code run on the client. We live in horrendous times, and with AI things are probably gonna get worse.

I agree with everything here except the "horrendous times" characterization. Computers are tools. Tools are there to make our lives better. The fact that developers don't need to spend time optimizing every cycle means that we can get much more complex applications in our hands much more quickly.
 

H_D

macrumors regular
Jun 14, 2021
240
265
Already, the new generative features of Photoshop result in waiting time that reminds me Gaussian blur in the past. Time was when there was one undo in PS and picking something with the magic wand took minutes — now these tasks fly but AI-based new featureless slow. Same is basically true with any kind of Video and 3D - there will never be a machine that is fast enough, depending on what you do. If you’re a writer and onlyuse, say, is writer, mail and Safari, sure, any M2 MBA will be overkill. If you work on 16K movies or heavy data analytics or AI… different story.
 

BanjoDudeAhoy

macrumors 6502a
Aug 3, 2020
871
1,546
I had several PCs (long before switching to Mac) that were fast enough - for the time.
Then software got more features, the internet got more bloated (because really, not everything needs to be a video, not every article needs a myriad of photos and oh boy, all the ads) and then those PCs were no longer fast enough.

That's not even talking about games because that's an even worse story.

Also, screen resolutions getting larger, requiring bigger images to still look appealing, requiring more computing power. My first ever screen had a resolution of 640x480. You'll find ***** stickers and emoji in apps that are higher res than that these days.

So yeah, at the moment, they are fast enough. And right now I can't imagine I'll need more performance than the M1 in my computers. But there will come a day when I'm huffing and puffing and sighing at how slow it feels. (That thought seems bonkers right now.)
 
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pgolik

macrumors member
Sep 13, 2011
65
42
Also, screen resolutions getting larger, requiring bigger images to still look appealing, requiring more computing power. My first ever screen had a resolution of 640x480. You'll find ***** stickers and emoji in apps that are higher res than that these days.

Interestingly, my ageing 2015 MBP (it's the 15" model, one of Apple's best) is still fast enough for my work crunching datasets in R, writing complex documents, doing basic image processing, etc.
What brings it to its knees is: working with external 4K displays (it manages, but slows down and heats up appreciably), some bloated websites in Safari (facebook being the worst offender, but also google maps), and RAW photo editing in DxO (even though it's only 24Mp files). I expect the M3 I'm planning to buy to take care of that easily.
Now, will screen resolutions get larger that the 5K displays that are top of the line now? I don't know, it would not change the experience the way moving from VGA (or even from 1080p to 4K) did. Same with digital photos and movies - with current resolutions we are at a point where any increase would give very diminishing returns (at least unless you work for a Hollywood studio). Will the software of the future generate new needs for even more speed? I believe it will, and it will likely be related to generative AI and, maybe, new paradigms in UI (AI assistants, including voice?).
 

MajorFubar

macrumors 68020
Oct 27, 2021
2,126
3,747
Lancashire UK
I agree. My 2011 27" 3.4GHz iMac was easily fast enough for my needs especially after I ditched the HDD for an SSD when it was 6/7 years old. Most people don't need faster machines. That's why mfrs Apple included have to enforce obsolescence otherwise we just wouldn't upgrade.
 
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Zest28

macrumors 68020
Jul 11, 2022
2,282
3,179
Speed definitely matters for the general public, it's just that game support on Mac sucks. For some games, a RTX 4090 only gets you 30 FPS for example.

If Apple was to bring gaming to Mac (which is rumoured to happen), then you would see more demand for powerful Apple Silicon computers.
 

pgolik

macrumors member
Sep 13, 2011
65
42
Gaming beyond the most casual level is a completely different matter, and the rules of general, or even professional computing do not apply. A PC that's good enough to do work in, e.g. human genome analysis, is not enough to run a 5 year old game. Gamers will always need more.
 

altaic

macrumors 6502a
Jan 26, 2004
664
440
Speed definitely matters for the general public, it's just that game support on Mac sucks.
Maybe join a crew that makes games. You might learn something about “sucks.” Make your world not suck. I feel like you can contribute given your passion— redirect it.
 

Bodhitree

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Apr 5, 2021
1,967
2,086
Netherlands
Anytime I get a computer, the first week or two I try to find something that will bring the computer to its knees so I know the limits of the machine, or how patient I will need to be. I kind of share your thoughts about computers nowadays, specifically Macs, because for the first time ever, I couldn’t get it to slow down like I was able to before. I had to start reaching for other stuff. Now of course, you aren’t going to be doing crazy ass 3D work, or a whole lot of AAA games on a M1. Still, it amazes me that I can play something like RE: Village on it, and I will be able to play RE4 and Death Stranding on it here soon. It completely boggles my mind actually.

So I would say yeah, in general, 2D on down they are insane, but one can always use more power and computers will continue to need more power due to the ever advancing software breakthroughs.

I’m not so sure that there will be huge software breakthroughs. Software seems to be getting more expensive but the basic range of tasks we perform doesn’t seem to be that different. Even AI seems to be about automating the same old tasks.

Games are a separate topic from general purpose computing I think, because they are built to take advantage of all available power and deliver 30-60 fps at the time they are released.
 
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XboxEvolved

macrumors 6502a
Aug 22, 2004
810
1,006
I’m not so sure that there will be huge software breakthroughs. Software seems to be getting more expensive but the basic range of tasks we perform doesn’t seem to be that different. Even AI seems to be about automating the same old tasks.

Games are a separate topic from general purpose computing I think, because they are built to take advantage of all available power and deliver 30-60 fps at the time they are released.

I think it seems and feels like that because technology is better at getting out of the way of the end user, but if I take something as “simple” as Pixelmator Pro and what I do in that program now, and tried to do it on even my 2017 MBP, I’d be looking at a spinning beach ball every few minutes, versus now when it all just is mostly instantaneous.
 

Joe Dohn

macrumors 6502a
Jul 6, 2020
838
746
We live in horrendous times, and with AI things are probably gonna get worse.

IMHO, programming-wise they're going to get BETTER. Have you seen how much cleaner and efficient AI code is when the AI gets it right (especially e.g, GPT-4)? The AI doesn't do things like, "I'll just push my much worse solution instead of this simple and efficient one because I have a huge ego."

Sure, right now it needs some cleanup and supervising, but it only tends to get better (which is not good for human programmers, but it's another story).
 

Joe Dohn

macrumors 6502a
Jul 6, 2020
838
746
By contrast, as @JPack pointed out, software is always adding capability (and, yes, bloat as well), which means that you need computers to keep getting faster just to keep up. That seemingly insignificant 20% yearly increase gives you a computer that's 1.2^10 = 6x faster a decade from now. And trust me, you are going to want that extra speed to run the next decade's software. If you don't believe me, try running today's software (both OS and apps) on a computer a decade old. It works, sure, but it's hardly optimum.

You're assuming users will always find ways to push and use that extra power, but that's not really true. Many, MANY users will stick to basic tasks (e.g, the write email-use office-chat triad).

The only way I see regular users pushing it would be if computers came with built-in AI and did the AI tasks locally (so the AI will do everything for them), but even that can only go so far.

I would risk saying your average mom and pop users have reached a plateau a LONG time ago.
 
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