Things are starting to get silly.
This may catch me some flak from power-mongers, but I'll say it anyway: a quad-core desktop rig offers far more power than the average consumer will ever need to use. Unless you're playing games, multitasking to a ridiculous level or doing some serious video editing, using all that potential is kind of hard. Impossible, if all you do is browse Facebook and Twitter while scanning through your RSS reader.
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While all those GHz are wasted on Joe Blow's desktop rig, they won't be on his 2012-model smartphone. Nvidia's CEO is on record as saying that Tegra 3 is "almost done" and that Tegra 4 is in construction now. We'll see the T3 hit at some point this year, and it should roll out on its first couple of devices around Q4 2011.
The exact specs of the Tegra 3 processor have not leaked yet, but this whitepaper from Nvidia states, "Dual-core processors will be the standard in 2011, and quad-core is coming in the near future."
So- four cores in 2012. Let's say 1 GHz each. What use will you have for that much power? For one thing, you'll need it to drive your 3D smartphone. HTC plans to unveil some details at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona-that's February. We're unlikely to see it hit until closer to the end of 2011.
Which means the bulk of these devices will roll out in 2012, when they can take advantage of Nvidia's quad-core monster.
2012 is going to be a special year for another reason. At least one analyst believes that it will be the year we see smartphone sales pass PC and laptop sales. More than 450 million smart-handsets are expected to ship in 2012, topping 650 million by 2013.
Smartphones started off as ancillary browsing devices. 'On the go' Internet access was awesome when we were all used to being chained to desktops. But as the tech and connectivity improved, many turned to their handsets as primary Internet devices. This has even proved true in less wealthy countries. People like their Internet access to follow them around.
Quad-core smartphones will hit at a time when those of us in wealthy countries look to our mobile phones as a primary computing device. Four cores means faster browsing, the ability to take advantage of the 4G networks that will be even faster in 2012, and the ability to really game. There's no reason a quad-core 1 GHz processor couldn't handle a modern game like Starcraft 2. Sure, Crysis-esque system hogs will always be the PC's domain, but most games don't bog your machine down like that.
2012 is also the year that AMOLED will finally have enough supply to meet demand. So we've got four cores, faster Internet and better displays hitting in the first year smartphones will outsell computers.
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Maybe the Mayans were right. Really, how much better can things get before our mighty cell phones bring down the wrath of jealous ancient gods?