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back to article Thought sales were in the toilet before? Behold the agony: 2013 was a PC market BLOODBATH

The beleaguered market for desktop and notebook PCs continued its downward spiral in 2013 as shipments plummeted to new lows. According to figures from analyst firm Gartner, worldwide shipments rounded out the last quarter of the year at 82.6 million units, down 6.9 per cent over the same period in 2012. Overall, 2013 saw a drop …

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Unhappy

Yes we know.....

Haven't we discussed this about nine times already in the past 12 months?

Article looks pretty identical to those as well.

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Re: Yes we know.....

It's like those two land wars on the Eurasian Continent.

"It's gonna be ok any minute now...."

If there is any good news for vendors, it is that Gartner analysts believe this to be rock bottom for the market and that many markets will have nowhere to go but up.

"Nope, it's gonna go down further..."

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Happy

Re: Yes we know.....

Yep, same old story.

People have mobiles now...people like their tablets more for casual this and that...the PC is good enough....no point in a new one if Windows is still working OK on the current one....strapped parents are not buying little Johnny a new laptop until he stops looking up porn or playing games and actually does some proper school work on it....

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Re: Yes we know.....

"...strapped parents are not buying little Johnny a new laptop until he stops looking up porn or playing games and actually does some proper school work on it...."

So that'll be NEVER, then?

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Re: Yes we know.....

"...strapped parents are not buying little Johnny a new laptop until he stops looking up porn or playing games and actually does some proper school work on it...."

Besides, he can do most of that just as well on a tablet anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes we know.....

Well - Duh. We are still flat out broke from bailing out the banks, we have to compete with Chinese/Indian wages while paying 1'st world prices for everything and - just to top it up - we also have to pay for the transition to "green energy".

The good thing is that once the ever lower salaries and ever higher living costs manage to kill demand enough to hurt executive bonus packages, priorities will change.

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Re: Yes we know.....

If there's one thing we've learnt over the last decade or so it's that no matter how fucked the company or the economy, executive compensation continues to climb at an incredible pace.

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Hardly surprising

PCs have become good enough for the majority of users that there is very little need to upgrade. With Windows 8 being unattractive to users, there is even less desire to upgrade.

(Even if the Windows 8 interface was not so horrible - touch screens have an inherent problem - fingermarks. By the time a touchscreen PC has been used for a few weeks, it looks bad compared to an older non-touchscreen PC. This further reduces consumer demand.)

At the moment the consumer PC market consists of new users, replacements for really old systems (Vista and older) and replacements for broken systems. Users with working Windows 7 systems have very little need or desire to upgrade.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hardly surprising

There is the problem of forced upgrades from XP, but after much cogitation we've decided to buy used enterprise-grade Win7 desktop machines rather than get OS upgrades for our newish-but-cheap systems. We'll put the latter on the shelf for when Microsoft wake up and remember what their real cash cow is.

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Re: Hardly surprising

Upgrade? My last PC was a Core i7 laptop, I "upgraded" to an Atom based tablet, which is fast enough for most things I do, I still have the laptop for photoediting.

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Re: Hardly surprising

I'm agreeing with AC up there. A windows key is ~£70 for an XP upgrade (Guessing a full install, no upgrade discount and that's even at OEM prices, though no discounts as I'm a consumer, not a bulk buyer). But an ex-commercial/business Windows 7 dual core PC is ~£100 and some Vista machines might be thrown out as scrap. So that's where I'm looking if friends want to replace their XP internet machine but have a limited budget.

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What's the point of upgrading

I don't really keep up with the latest technology but I get the impression from the scarceness of new processor or graphics card reviews and such that there hasn't been the same pace of hardware improvement as in the early years. Due to this the difference between a new and three year old model is not as great as it used to be.

Also everyone keeps going on about tablets taking away sales but no mention of games consoles. Again I don't have direct knowledge but it looks as if most games are now played on consoles and the advancements in PC hardware that were in part driven by the need for better games machines are no longer being made.

In short, why ditch a perfectly good machine for little benefit?

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Re: What's the point of upgrading

PC Gaming market is actually still very healthy, Steam and other online game retailers have really helped keep the PC going as a gaming platform - you get a lopsided impression from high street retailers with racks of console games and a tiny dusty PC games shelf in the darkest corner of the store, because very few PC games are purchased physically nowadays.

Source: I work for a company which sells gaming PCs online in the UK, sales this year are better than last year, and that was better than the year before, etc. Our view of the market is quite different from that reported by El Reg with monotonous regularity, although obviously these nuggets from 'analysts' are looking at the 'monolithic' companies rather than the smaller outfits like ours.

Obviously, the gaming PC market is a small corner of the overall PC market, which is undeniably shrinking for the reasons cited by other posters - simply no pressure to upgrade, since a PC which ran a web browser and office software three or four years ago will still happily run a web browser and office software.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What's the point of upgrading

I actually think there will be a point where games consoles fall behind PC's for gaming in the living room, all that is needed is a way to get the 'PC' under the TV instead of a console, and something like steam has a chance of doing.

Set a minimum spec for a 'steam box' and then anyone can build it as long as it meets the specs set out for it...

All I hope is that eventually game makers will realise the only reason some of us own Windows is that they don't sell certain games for linux!

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Re: What's the point of upgrading

Intel has done a very bad job of explaining how PC performance has increased dramatically in the last few Years. I started working in a new job a Year ago and was given a brand new bottom of the range HP PC. My existing colleagues already had 4 year old bottom of the range Dell PCs. Everyone was shocked when tests that took 25 minutes to run on their PCs took only 5 minutes to run on my PC. Intel has simply not explained to people who buy PCs that in an I/O intensive task a sandy bridge i3 PC with a SATA disk drive has 5 times the performance of a Pentium 4 with an IDE disk drive. If the 64 bit copy of Windows 7 that had originally been installed on the new PC had not been downgraded to 32 bit Windows XP then the PC would have been even faster. Intel please pay for some TV ads explaining how amazing a Haswell i5 and i7 is.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What's the point of upgrading

"All I hope is that eventually game makers will realise the only reason some of us own Windows is that they don't sell certain games for linux!"

I wouldn't expect that segment of the market would influence them. If you're going to buy Windows to play the game anyway, why release for Linux? And they probably perceive those who won't buy Windows as not putting enough of a dent in their sales to bother over that either. Whether that perception is true or not doesn't really matter - it's what they'll base development on.

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Thumb Up

Re: What's the point of upgrading

Buying a new PC?

A month ago I picked up a mint Dell Precision Workstation from 2008.

Dual 2.8Ghz Quad core Xeon CPUs, 8GB of ram, 875W PSU etc. etc.

£80!

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Re: What's the point of upgrading

That will tick most of the boxes for a gaming machine except for the graphics card one (IIRC) because the onboard PCI-E slot doesn't handle the most recent generation of cards. But as a home office machine it's ideal.

I am running a quad-core Q9300 which I built 5 years ago this March. I've changed the disk drive to SSD, changed the graphics card to play more games and put Win7 on it, and it's still as good as the day I got it. So you're absolutely right - why change machines. It does seem to be that everything you want to do with a desktop machine, you can do with a machine that's 3 or 4 or even 5 years old.

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Re: What's the point of upgrading

Personally, I don't see myself ever running Windows on a Haswell system, simply because they have decided to stop supporting XP and Windows 2003 on Haswell and above. The drop in performance from having to downgrade from 64-bit Windows XP to Windows 7 is not worth the performance gains you get over Ivy Bridge.

Why bother? Windows 7 can't even copy files properly in cases that XP can easily handle, and copying files is a core OS function. Windows 7 is, to me, not fit for purpose - therefore I won't be using it on a productive system.

I will buy Skylake Xeon E3s in due time, but that will be for running the likes of FreeBSD, Solaris and Linux. I will stick with the Ivy Bridge Xeon E3s and E5s for running Windows. Anything Intel produces in the meantime doesn't interest me at all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What's the point of upgrading

yeah, that sums it up..

I can spend MUCH more on something marginally better.

I'd love a better machine for heavy video work, compiling projects even faster etc. but the technology has stalled and the leap in price between something from 5 years ago and something 20% better today is too high.

I'd love more HDD space, I'd love cheap tape drives, but again we've only seen really incremental updates over the last few years so it's not worth it. Unless I go SDD we're I/O limited so almost no improvement at all on 10 years ago, and even if I go SDDs they don't have the capacity I want and aren't suitable for tasks with heavy disk thrashing (which is exactly where the I/O limits come into play)

The current operating systems are worse than the ones before them, giving me even less incentive to buy.

The focus seems to be on smaller and smaller, with more and more cores, that's not what I need for a lot of the tasks I do which is often bound by the single core performance.

So what is the point of upgrading when the technology hasn't advanced sufficiently and the bottlenecks that I currently suffer with haven't changed? There is demand for sufficiently better technology, I don't believe this 'good enough' thing because we've been 'good enough' for about 15 years and there were still significant advancements in that time.

The problem is the products for people who really want something better don't exist at any reasonable cost, so people aren't buying, I have no interest in investing £2000 in a new machine and going 'meh' when it's not much better than the one I have.

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Happy

Re: What's the point of upgrading

@Flatpackhampster

Well I have a HD 7870 plugged in right now. Remember PCI-e is all backwards/forwards compatible. Also 16GB of ECC ram, two 1TB SSHDs, eSATA card, Soundcard and soon a USB3.0 card.

It's designed to run two GPUs as standard.

As for Mr Jones comment about Windows 7 not transferring files properly but XP will, I think you have it the wrong way chap.

Windows 7 will transfer files all day long with no issue. If there is it will give you options and then carry on.

Whereas XP will get halfway though a 8GB transfer of 10000 files and go "Oh this is a system file! Can't do it!" and just stop dead in its tracks.

So so helpful. XP should die a horrible death for that alone.

Could be your Windows 7 build is messed up so you might need a IT tech to look at it for you.

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Re: What's the point of upgrading

It's advancing, but not in the way it was. The advancement now is focused on power savings and efficiency, not the ever-increasing speed demands of old. It's also reached the point where even with the windows bloat, a five year old PC is still easily enough for most users. A new PC may be better, but it isn't a must-have upgrade any more.

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Re: What's the point of upgrading

"how PC performance has increased dramatically in the last few Years"

It hasn't really. Performance for the money has gone up a lot at the low end. I would have to spend a pile of money to just about double the performance of the 4 year old machine I am using and I didn't spend a pile of money on it 4 years ago.

I spend a lot of time in CAD applications and am prepared to pay more than most for processor performance and 4 years on the available performance increase isn't really tempting me.

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Re: where games consoles fall behind PC's

I'm not much of an MMOer myself, and the last other game I devoted any real time to was Civ 3, but whenever I browse the gaming forums it looks to me like the PC gamers don't think the console players ever caught up.

On the Linux front, I actually know someone who worked on the Mass Effect series. According to him they were initially excited about developing a game (pre-Mass Effect) on Linux. Then they looked at the available tool sets and declared it hopeless. Maybe things have improved significantly since then.

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Re: What's the point of upgrading

> get the impression from the scarceness of new processor or graphics card reviews and such that there hasn't been the same pace of hardware improvement as in the early years.

Yes, this is correct: it's not at all like in the old days when you had to update every year or not be able to run the newest games, nowadays a five year old PC can play all new games just fine. The reason hardware evolution has stalled is that all games are developed for consoles and then ported to PC, and the consoles have 7-10 year generation spans. Yes, this really does mean that all the games released in 2013 were designed to run on budget hardware from 2005.

2014 will be a bit different, because the consoles have just changed generation, so really old PC's will not be able to hack it when "next gen" games start showing up on PC. The emergence of 3D headsets (which require beefy hardware), and the new Steam machine consoles which are considerably more capable than the XBox1 and Playstation4, will also tend to push PC hardware evolution forwards.

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Re: What's the point of upgrading

Precisely. Both my desktop PC and laptop are approaching 4 years old. Both are Core i5 (2.6GHz in the laptop, 3.2GHz in PC), 6-8GB of RAM, both now have SSDs. Only major upgrade I've made (apart from the SSDs) was to replace the budget graphics card in the PC, and even then it was to a £170 Radeon.

Result, it boots in a flash, can run Skyrim at 1920x1200 with all the detail on maximum. So, why replace it? Go back a few years and an upgrade to a dual/quad core CPU from an old single core CPU was quite noticeable, and ditching a clunky P4 made a world of difference. These days, if I spend hundreds of pounds replacing my PC with a Haswell system, I honestly doubt that I'd notice much difference over my old system.

Intel are right to focus on power efficiency improvements with Haswell, but for me the difference doesn't justify a new system - especially (laptop wise) when it'd mean downgrading to an awful 16:9 screen!

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Lenovo ships Windows 7, with optional Win 8 'upgrade'

No surprise why it is getting the sales increase. Guess what ACER and ASUS were trying to foist upon the end user :)

Oh - and the Lenovo BIOS also supports Win XP and Linux Drivers. UEFI can be bypassed, although it is uncertain whether selecting legacy Bios disables rootkit pathways in UEFI :)

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Re: Lenovo ships Windows 7, with optional Win 8 'upgrade'

Do you mean bypassing Secure Boot? The UEFI replaces the BIOS, you can't "bypass" it, although you can tell it to act like a BIOS for older operating systems that can't boot using UEFI, but most Linuxes can.

UEFI and Secure Boot are two different things.

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Ummm..

"...analysts estimate that some 315, 967,516 PCs were shipped worldwide... "

315 million PCs. That may be a decline over the previous year, but that is still a lot of hardware being shipped. (About 10 every second).

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Re: Ummm..

Yes and a lot of these are not replacements for aging systems that still do the job - this kind of article would be more interesting if it placed the sales figures in the context of the size and composition of the installed base. e.g. what % growth in number of PCs used regularly does this represent? Age profile of PCs in use?

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Re: Ummm..

Yup - it's a lot. The difference is the IT sales world has always been about selling products into an expanding market which is why there is so much doom and gloom. Expect vendor consolidation and stupid models that appeal to the 0.0001% of the market that will pay a premium for the weirdness. Unless it's happening already... :-)

On top of that, Gartner's prediction of reaching the bottom of the drop is unlikely to be correct - they never are... You're more likely to get an accurate prediction from dissecting a stool sample than you will from a Gartner report.

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My Core2Duo w/nVidia 9400GS & 4GB of 6400 DD2 RAM isn't much use to play Crysis. But, it can still compile Code well enough, and is well fast enough for everything I need it for. It can also run Windows 7 with a "Performance Score" of 4.7 (Whatever that means?!), and that all down to the shitty nVidia Card I'm using. As I utterly refuse to drop 100's of €'s on some Card that could push a bit more Pixles then I'll ever need. Hell I'm still using the same crappy 1024x768 4:3 LCD Monitor that came with my OEM PC from 2004. I really need to find a decent Monitor. Shame that they're all 1920x1080 now. though....

If you want to get People interested in PCs again. I'd say think smaller. Think Steambox. That system with its Mini ITX and riser Board. Which takes a Duble-Wide Graphics Card. Looks pretty AWESOME from where I'm sitting. Problem is... What would you run on (or in), such a Box. Besides SteamOS hurr-durr. As it sits I'm sure I could run it just fine as it is on my decrepit 2006 Hardware as it is now, with little to no problems at all.

So wheres the incentive to update? When the means average CPU still hums along at about 2Ghz... Ok perhaps 3Ghz now? Even Intel conceded that this was a dead-end. Honestly bar the Graphics I'd be flummoxed as to what I could upgrade to, and more importantly why?

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Agree 'think smaller' is the key and disappointing how lacking in imagination the OEMs have been recent years. HTPC and compact desktops in general have been a neglected market opportunity for ages. Not just great for enthusiasts indeed many businesses could benefit from replacing towers with compact boxes which can start very low cost as don't need screen, battery, and enclosure constraints of laptops.

The new Gigabyte BRIX hardware sounds neat at performance end although I'd personally go for larger than NUC ultra compact to enable thermal management for near silent operation, and ideally faster graphic card option.

Hopefully the interest in Steam Box will encourage OEMs to wake up here. Amazing how many 'desktops' on sale are still pointlessly large tower units.

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FAIL

Would these analysts ..

be the ones telling farriers back in the 1900s that "things will look up".

Or telling sail manufacturers "we're through the worst of it" in the 1800s.

There has been a paradigm shift in the computing landscape. Take my missis (oo err !) as an exemplar. We bought (actually acquired box through work. I've never bought a PC) a PC in 2009 specifically for her. She used it daily. Emails, surfing, and forums, with a little media playing (mainly YouTube).

I got her a nice 10" android tablet in December. She hasn't used the PC since.

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Re: Would these analysts ..

You know, there are still farriers today and there are probably more sails made each year now than back in the 1800s...

It very much depends on what you are doing. I have a dual monitor desktop set-up and you won't see me replacing that with an iPad or Android tablet any time soon!

The time where everybody who wanted to get online needed a desktop PC have gone. The time where people need a desktop PC to do their work hasn't. A lot of workers still need a PC. A secretary spending all day typing letters and emails isn't going to look fondly on her boss, if he throws out her PC, with keyboard with real switched keys, and replaces it with an iPad.

Likewise, a programmer using two screens for coding reference material and testing isn't going to be happy with a 10" display.

On the other hand, reps on the road all day, that just need email and their sales kit will probably love using a tablet.

Or look at it another way, the introduction of the Smart didn't do away with people carriers and HGVs. They all server a purpose.

Will the PC market shrink? Yes.

Have tablets and smartphones killed the PC? No, there are still a lot of tasks they aren't suited to.

Will the PC die? Probably, but we'll need something a darned sight more effective than a tablet to do away with our current desktops for many tasks.

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Joke

Worst. Year. Ever.

For a given value of "ever". PC were pretty tough in the late iron age. To paraphrase Terry Pratchett: Try getting a druid to upgrade his 33 MegaLith system

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JDX
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Re: Worst. Year. Ever.

It's measured on growth not absolute number.

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Same Deal as Cars

Same deal as cars. The average age of people's cars is the oldest it has ever been.

The performance jumps just are not as big as they used to be, so there is no motivation to upgrade combined with the better quality of existing machines which continue to work just fine, add the global beat down of the middle class, and you have a pretty good environment to put a lid on new PC sales.

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Re: Same Deal as Cars

You left out the skyrocketing prices on the cars. I'm still running an 11 or 12 year old Ford. I could barely afford it when I bought it, and at that what I paid for it would have paid for the first 10 cars my dad bought combined.

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Facepalm

Wow what a shock...

People only have a limited amount of disposable income, and tablets/phones are taking that income rather than PC's...

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Re: Wow what a shock...

don't forget the Sky and Virgin Media subscriptions as well. They easily cost as much as a fairly decent PC as year.

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Re: Wow what a shock...

I wouldn't say taking that income. I've never bought/built a PC for as little as I paid for a tablet.

What tablets and smart phones are doing is cannibalizing the casual user market that use to buy laptop/netbooks. All they really want is to browse the web and check email. Tablets do that fine. They never need a full fledged laptop, it was just the only thing available to them. If the economy were good, they'd be buying the tablet and spending the saved cash on other luxury goods. With the economy in tatters they're spending it on necessities.

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Funny thing, no mention of Apple increasing their US share substantially (in same report)

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The numbers were quarterly - the difference is less (if I've added up correctly) annually at around 6%:

Q1 Apple 1,650,012 11.6 1,535,951 9.8 7.4

Q2 Apple 1,740,500 11.6 1,818,959 12 -4.3

Q3 Apple 2,158,015 13.4 2,208,015 14.2 -2.3

Q4 Apple 2,168,212 13.7 1,687,881 9.9 28.5

Apple sales in the US in 2012: 7,250,806

Apple sales in the US in 2013: 7,716,739

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I wonder how the market for components is going. Last year I built a media PC, this year plan to build a DAW workstation. Having looked into it, there's no point in paying a premium for low grade components. Cheaper and more fun to build your own.

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Anonymous Coward

Not everyone can built their own though.

It's probably not that much cheaper once you buy a boxed copy of Windows? most people have an OEM copy of Windows.

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Not everyone can built their own though.

It's probably not that much cheaper once you buy a boxed copy of Windows? most people have an OEM copy of Windows.

I never understood this concept.... I mean its like some People have never played with Lego Blocks or something, Is it really that hard to insert Tab "A" into Slot "B"? If so then how do they still manage reproduction?

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I doubt you'll get it cheaper

If I were you I'd have a look at a cheap box and then bung a kick ass soundcard in it.

that's how my DAW came into being, a while back now.... 5 years or so. got a cheap pc for about £450 (with a quad core chip in it!) squeezed all the ram I could into it, stuck a 1/2 way decent soundcard in there, bob's your uncle.

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Happy

lots and lots of practice

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JDX
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@Michael Habel

You've got to be a proper, proper nerd to not just feel disdain for those who can't build their own PC, but to express disbelief such people exist. You are more out of touch with the common man than most MPs.

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