When will hardware outpace software?

Discussion in 'OS X Yosemite (10.10)' started by lowercaseperson, Feb 23, 2015.

  1. lowercaseperson macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2006
    Hey all,

    I've been using Macs since the late 90's, and, don't get me wrong, I know computers are much much faster since then. But as Hardware gets faster and faster software gets bloated at a seemingly equal pace.

    I know for things like rendering and gaming the difference night and day, but I don't feel like day to day light operations are much faster on computers today than in say 2005. Am I that far removed that I just don't remember how slow my first PowerBook G4 was (again with light operations), or do the rest of you feel the same way? When will I click on iTunes and it open instantly, or it be indistinguishable between the time I click on a website and the page being loaded?

    I realize I have much much more RAM than I used to and frankly I *could* just keep everything open - which would make it seem instant...but that's not really what I'm asking. What's on the horizon? Will a 2020 Mac "feel" similar to my 2013 rMBP running 10.10?
  2. mfram macrumors 65816

    Jan 23, 2010
    San Diego, CA USA
    Are you using a Mac with a PCIe SSD? That more than anything else is going to give you the "feel" of the Mac being very fast. Otherwise, the hard drive from a G4 is maybe half the speed of a current hard drive. But the SSD will be several orders of magnitude faster. Modern spinning hard drives are faster than G4-era hard drives. But not significantly faster. SSD is the way to go for speed.

    Also consider displays. The 15" Retina MBP has 5 times the number of pixels as the 15" G4 MBP had. So, yes, the videos cards might be faster but they have to push 5 times as much data.

    Consider your wireless network. The G4 probably had... 802.11b? Now we have Wifi that can go 20x faster. That's more data. Web site publisher keep putting more 'enhanced' content on to keep up with current data rates. More data. You can watch video that's either 1080p or maybe even 4k. What video was available on the web in the G4 era? 640x480? At a much lower frame rate.

    Hardware advances. Software adds more stuff to look fancier or add features since the extra speed is available. It's a never-ending cycle.
  3. lowercaseperson thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2006
    That's my point exactly. So does anybody see the hardware cycle speeding up or the software bloating slowing down?

    Take for instance your example of the display technology - how far beyond 4K will we practically go? For super high end computers...I guess the sky is the limit - but for a personal laptop? Why do you need much more? So will the hardware pull ahead in the next 10 years?

    Don't get me wrong, I love the new things my Mac can do and wouldn't trade them for "instant" speed per say...but it seems to me like (without entering an entirely new realm of GUI such as VR) a lot of the PC technologies are becoming software saturated which FINALLY gives the hardware a minute to truly speed up.
  4. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    What you are describing is not bloat; it is the demands that users place on computers made since the PowerMac G4.
  5. 0007776 Suspended


    Jul 11, 2006
    I'm pretty sure developers will keep finding ways to use everything that hardware makers can throw at them for quite a while. It may just be the developers being lazy and not cleaning up their code, but I don't see any massive speed increases for basic stuff anytime soon.
  6. Beavix macrumors 6502a


    Dec 1, 2010
    Years ago, when the hardware was expensive, the programmers did everything they could to optimize the software for maximum speed and no bloat.

    Nowadays the hardware is cheap and the programmers are expensive. They'd rather throw more RAM and CPU at a software issue instead of spending time fixing it. That's why hardware will never outpace software.
  7. xWhiplash macrumors 68000

    Oct 21, 2009
    Well said. I always find it amazing how a bad console port game can barely run max at 1080p with a GTX 680, yet other games run more than fine max at 1080p on a GTX 680.
  8. Fzang macrumors 65816


    Jun 15, 2013
    Hardware can never outpace software, the way these concepts work.

    I'd tell you to do 100 pushups in 1 minute. You'd train day and night to achieve this. Then you show me that you can do it.

    Then I'd tell you to do 1000 pushups in 1 minute. You'd train even harder and more furiously, and finally you show me that you can do it.

    Then I'd simply tell you to do 10000 pushups in 1 minute.
  9. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    Hardware has outpaced software long time ago. This is why modern CPUs concentrate on energy savings instead of performance increase — they are already more than fast enough for virtually every day to day task. The reason why you don't feel you computer being faster is because its as fast as you can 'feel'. The response to normal operations is pretty much instantaneous on a modern SSD-equipped machine, there is not much to improve there.

    What is on the horizon? Well, the big bottleneck is the RAM latency. Once we get into next-gen RAM with much lower latencies and higher bandwidth, the dedicated GPUs will become pretty much obsolete and we will get a healthy performance boost. And no, a 2020 will not really feel 'faster' than your current 2013 model. However, it will be doing many more things in the background.
  10. chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    descending into the Maelström
    I agree with you on RAM latency, but even that can only help the "feel" so much. The OP gave two specific examples:
    When will I click on iTunes and it open instantly, or it be indistinguishable between the time I click on a website and the page being loaded?​
    The opening of iTunes depends on several factors, all of them local to the computer. Disk speed and latency (SSD improves that), RAM speed and latency (your note on RAM improvements), CPU speed for running the code (CPU speed or efficiency improves that), and graphics speed for drawing things. If one's definition of "instantly" is "under 50 ms" then I'm not sure which of those factors contributes most, but I'd guess RAM isn't at the top of the list.

    Clicking on a website is a completely different matter. There, responsiveness depends on a myriad of factors outside the local computer. In other words, even if iTunes could launch instantly, and even if one had gigabit network speed, the main limiting factors are outside the user's control. Namely: network latency (not the same as speed), routing speed and latency, web-server speed and latency, and even the ultimate limiting factor: the speed of light.

    In short, there are a lot of hidden factors that determine responsiveness, even for tasks that seem like "light operations". Most people don't even know what many of these factors are, but that doesn't make them any less real.
  11. Dubdrifter, Feb 28, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2015

    Dubdrifter Suspended


    Jan 30, 2015
    Many people have found recent OS developments (Yosemite/Mavericks) perform many functions much slower these days, sometimes taking 2-3 more steps to get from A to B.

    Guess for gamers, if the 'OS is going the long way round' then they will see a marked drop off in performance.

    As the laptop tries to be 'all things to all users' gamers will never get the performance they want from a laptop to compare with a gaming machine set up specially for that purpose.

    Likewise I suppose musicians who also push the CPU performance to the max will be held back by the configuration of the OS doing relatively irrelevant things in the background when it should be driving plug-ins, special effects and peripheral apps.

    Maybe the only way specialist users will see a marked increase in performance will be when you can configure your machine for your specialist use, at the point of purchase.

    Honing the fastest hardware combinations with the leanest software OS configuration - which means developing specialist OS to cater for the needs of specialist users - not Apple's thing I gather?
  12. MacVidCards Suspended

    Nov 17, 2008
    Hollywood, CA
    anyone else remember first time on OS X after years in OS6/7/8/9?

    Seemed pretty slug like. Much prettier but you could tell that the prettiness came at a price.

    OS 9 was snappy and quick. The extensions folder wasn't buried to keep you out. You could use the "Chooser" to pick your printer and start printing.

    I understand what the OP is saying, like how browsers kept "better" with more features but always slower. Netscape Navigator took on bloat like a Windows install.

    That said, PCIE SSDs in my cMPs has been a huge help. Even a 2006 Macbook gained some speed from an SSD.
  13. Boris-VTR macrumors regular

    Apr 18, 2013
    I believe that incompetent or legacy software design is actually holding back hardware. Case in point: android vs iOS. Android phones have like 3x better spec yet most of the time they lag behind or are just as fast as iOS devices. Their software is a mess and is holding software behind.
    Another case in point: games. Same game on mac would run with lower FPS than a game on windows bootcamp.
    Summary: i believe that hardware is actually more advanced that software at present time.
  14. lowercaseperson thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2006
    I showed up to the party in early OSX so I can't speak about those ancient iterations of Mac OS, but what your saying makes perfect sense, and I think we see it even within OSX.

    The SSD comment is really an interesting conversation to me. I recently did the same thing with my wife's 07 MBP. It was nearly unusable, dropped in a SSD and it feels like a 3 year old computer...instead of an 8 year old computer.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but this seems like an excellent example of the differences between hardware development and software development. The newest OSX nearly brought this computer to a halt, but the newest hardware was able to bring it back. I know that's a crude description, but I think you see the dichotomy.
  15. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    IMO, this is just an urban myth. I do heavy-duty numerical computations and I haven't seen a single indication that the OS is cannibalising the CPU by running any 'irrelevant things in the background'. If anything, the performance is increasing (albeit very slightly) with each OS, due to improvements in the memory allocator and process scheduler.

    To be more precise: does, say, Yosemite perform more background work as compared to Snow Leopard? Sure it does. The drawing is more expensive, there are some additional services that SL did not have, things like that. But does this background work slow down a CPU-intensive foreground application? No it does not, if that application is coded correctly.

    Of course, if your audio plugin does not communicate properly to the OS that it will need a lot of CPU power to perform a task, modern OS X might classify it as a rogue/buggy process and throttle it down (especially if its not producing any immediately useful result such as user-visible output). But there are APIs to prevent that.

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