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Tech Of 2013 – A Year In Review

2013-New-Year-3D-Wallpaper

2013 has come and gone. What a year, huh? Its been a rollercoaster of a ride for us all and for the tech industry, nothing has quite been the same since the beginning of this year. I think that, apart from the predictions I made at the beginning of this year (that looks so far away now!), none of us could have predicted the utter insanity that engulfed 2013. So lets look at my tech predictions I made this year, and make a few more for 2014.

On 7 January 2013 I made ten predictions based on my informed opinions up to that point. I was (and still am) a little green behind the ears, but I’ve learned a lot along the way, and in particular learned more about how modern companies have begun to function as their older stalwarts retire, making way for new blood.

My ten predictions for 2013 were:

RABBITS OUT OF AMD’S HAT – THERE’LL BE PLENTY TO GO ROUND

I made the prediction that AMD would surprise everyone and things would be hunky-dory once again with the world. Well, we did get the Volcanic Islands family, the Radeon rebranding, the R9 290/290X, Kaveri and socket FM2+, Mantle, TrueAudio, the next-gen console wins (especially with the PS4 shoving in an entire Radeon HD7870 onto the APU platform) and OpenCL adoption grew thanks to partnerships with Adobe and other software vendors.

Despite financial setbacks and a costly termination of agreement with Global Foundries, AMD is on its way to posting a profitable year in 2014 if they can keep up the pace. Its too early to call it a real win, but they do seem to be on their way out of danger for the moment.

WHAT’S NVIDIA TO DO IN THE MEANTIME, TWIDDLE THUMBS?

Nvidia G-Sync partners for 2014

Nvidia G-Sync partners for 2014

I wrote that Nvidia would be playing it safe and not doing too many things differently and to an extent this has held up well. Tegra 5 with Kepler graphics is only due to release later in 2014, Kepler on the desktop and notebook segments has gone through a refresh with the Geforce 700-series and Nvidia consolidated its efforts with game developers into a single package that allows them to roll out Physx, CUDA and other Geforce-only technologies into game.

Most of the time the game was played safe, although on the pricing front there was a mini-war with AMD thanks to the Radeon HD rebranding and the completely unexpected performance of the Radeon R9 290. On the software side, there were also multiple driver improvements along the way and Nvidia now has its own solution for game recording, streaming to Twitch and a remote-play-like setup with their handheld Shield console, powered by Tegra 4 hardware.

Along the way, G-Sync was also revealed, a method of matching monitor refresh rates to the in-game framerate, removing the need for V-Sync and making frame drops and synchronisation less of a headache. G-Sync, mind you, will only be available in a single monitor made by ASUS until the tech is ironed out in time for Computex 2014, with third-party brands coming out with G-Sync compatible monitors later in the year.

INTEL WILL DRAG ITS FEET WITH DESKTOP PERFORMANCE AS USUAL, QUICKSYNC WILL SUFFER

Yep, this happened. Despite Haswell bringing in some new tricks for achieving higher efficiency, Intel sacrificed any substantial performance increases with their Core architecture, choosing to rather improve CPU performance marginally, while increasing graphics performance to stave off AMD’s progression in the mobile sector with their APUs. Intel’s low-voltage plans also went off without a hitch, bringing us more options for low-power computers and laptops than ever before.

On the graphics front, Iris Pro made several waves due to its ability to more than keep up with a Nvidia Geforce GT640M, one of the more commonly found GPUs inside notebooks with mid-range discrete graphics. Intel’s engineers have a long way to go to improve driver performance, but Iris Pro won’t matter much to gamers anyway – its territory will be in Macbook Pro notebooks and in high-end versions of Intel’s NUC desktop mini-computer.

QuickSync predictably didn’t see any improvements either, as OpenCL adoption began to find its foothold in Intel’s products. QuickSync was more or less a showcase of what Intel’s GPUs were capable of, rather than Intel providing a complete solution for anyone wanting to use it.

However, this wasn’t the case in the mobile market. Haswell almost doubled useable battery life in some cases and provided substantial performance increases thanks to Intel’s tighter controls over clock speed and power usage. It’s unlikely that ARM will ever reach the same performance with the same incredible pace that Intel has managed in the mobile sector. But you never know with the speed at which things turn in this industry.

ITX WILL TAKE OVER THE WORLD, BOARD BY BOARD

MSI ITX Gaming range for 2013

MSI ITX Gaming range for 2013

Yep, this happened too. Multiple manufacturers, from Gigabyte to ASRock to Foxconn are all making ITX motherboards for the growing enthusiast ITX market. It’s a small one now, for sure, but the benefits of ITX are rapidly piling up and both Intel and AMD’s efforts into simpler, more powerful integrated computers are paying dividends for enthusiasts and businesses that need just enough power in a diminutive form factor.

Mounting ITX rigs on monitors now essentially creates the same experience as an All-In-One. The amount of creativity coming out of the ITX space is astounding. Keep a close eye on it.

LESS PHOWAAAARRRRRR!

Hey, this also happened. More computers than ever before use less energy than ever before. Win-win? I’d say so. The efforts Intel and AMD have made in this space make low-power computing an achievable goal for anyone interested, and completely silent computers with good enough gaming ability (using an AMD APU) are also possible.

With AMD’s Bobcat/Jaguar and Intel’s Bay Trail platforms, we’re getting quad-cores that dip well under the 20W limit for a system running at full blast. They’re that powerful when compared to regular desktop components, but they do damn well considering the temperature and power constraints they have to operate in.

This was probably one of the best/most important tech advancements in 2013 to date.

WINDOWS 9 DEVELOPMENT WILL BEGIN THIS YEAR, WITH A POSSIBLE LATE 2013/EARLY2014 LAUNCH

Microsoft Surface 2 running Windows 8.1

Microsoft Surface 2 running Windows 8.1

Well, this didn’t happen. Windows 8 doesn’t have many fans and 8.1 only barely fixes up the major gripes that some people have with the OS. I’m using it happily, but Modern UI has finally begun to bug me. It’s really a separate split personality in the Windows environment and despite Microsoft’s work in making the transition easier, its still not a good idea for devices that don’t have touch capability.

Like others, I simply treat it as a launcher now. I have shortcuts to all my games and desktop apps and the only three Modern UI apps that have survived are Weather, Windows Store and Maps.

In addition, there’s still no Xbox One integration with Windows 8. I realise that this wasn’t possible in the last year given that Sony caught Microsoft with their pants down, but not having this up and running is quite a glaring omission. That “One OS, one UI” philosophy seemingly hasn’t come together as well as Microsoft promised. While there are several software hooks into the Xbox One through Windows Media Player (and possibly Skydrive), its definitely not what I expected.

4K  SCREENS WON’T BECOME THE NORM, DESPITE THE HOPES OF FANBOYS THE WORLD OVER

Nope, UltraHD 4K monitors are still not the norm. However, multi-monitor setups and large 30-inch displays with a native resolution of 2560 x 1440 are becoming much more common, in addition to the entirely weird 21:9 aspect ratio monitors of the 27-and-29-inch variety.

All I know is that I’m stuck with 1080p for the foreseeable future. Meh.

THE WORLD WON’T END THIS YEAR

Zombies!

Zombies!

It didn’t. Boo. No zombie apocalypse either. Boooooorrrrrriiiiiiinnnnnnnng! You can play Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, though, if you still want some zombie goodness. Or try out Killing Floor, I’m enjoying that one a lot.

VALVE WILL LAUNCH THEIR STEAM CONSOLE AND STEAM ON LINUX AT THE SAME TIME

That they did (last December, in fact). Steam Machines, Steam OS and the Steam controller were all detailed over the course of a week and it shows Valve’s dedication to not only step away from Windows dependancy, but also its obvious ambition to take over the living room with better hardware than the next-now-current-gen consoles. Their execution is slow and precise, the damage – tremendous.

CES 2013 WON’T BE THE LAUNCH OF THE PS4 OR THE XBOX DURANGO

Neither of the consoles debuted at CES 2013 and that’s because neither companies wanted to share the limelight with the rest of the industry in the same week. Instead, Microsoft and Sony both opted to have their own shows with console reveals and both duked it out at E3 2013 and every other tradeshow following that.

In the end, Sony’s stronger PR machine and an eye on what was being said by gamers allowed them to garner so much good will that people firmly believed, following the E3 shows, that Sony had it in the bag and wiped the floor with Microsoft.

That’s all for 2013, but what about the year ahead? Stay tuned for a new list of ten things that will probably happen in 2014 in the tech industry. Advamce warning: there won’t be any mention of zombies in it.

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