PCR takes a look at the current state of the graphics sector

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The economic climate may be causing headaches around the world, but every cloud has a silver lining. The throw-away culture that characterised the credit rich times is giving way to a trend towards repair and upgrade.

For several years now, channel experts have told us that the key is to find a way to convince users that a PC is more than a box and an operating system – and that upgrades are a far better alternative.

"In this financial downturn the option for consumers to upgrade rather than buy a new PC has become a lot more appealing," states Sapphire’s UK and Nordic sales director Neil Spicer. However, he warns that it is important not to equate value with cheap. "In these tough times we realised we needed to stay very competitive on price whilst also offering the end users quality, performance and reliability."

The trick is to correctly identify your end users. In hard times, it can be easy to retrench to what you know, but recessions can be a great opportunity to get into markets that you might not have otherwise considered.

"PC upgrades are also well positioned now as businesses look to make savings in their IT budgets," argues PNY’s UK and Nordic sales director Stefanie Summerfield. "Upgrading with a graphics card and compatible memory is a cheaper solution to purchasing new systems." This is a point echoed by Nvidia’s UK public relations manager, Benjamin Berraondo. "For many company departments, a desktop is still the most inexpensive solution for users where portability is not required. The current pace of technological change also means we’re not expecting a major discontinuity to drive widespread system replacement in the immediate future, so it’s likely the upgrade market will continue to grow throughout the rest of the year."

Do the benefits of upgrading a GPU make it the most important part of a PC? "I wouldn’t say that it is the most important component – that is unquestionably the motherboard," argues Enta’s VGA channel manager, Nigel Sutch. "The reason is that because all of the components in a system must attach to the motherboard first, it has a big impact on the stability of a system."

However, that doesn’t mean that the GPU isn’t an integral component in the modern computer. "For the top end of the market, the GPU has certainly increased in its importance," states Enta’s Antec and XFX product specialist, Richard Dolman. "With the drop in price on the larger, more capable monitors, the top end of the market now want to run at the highest resolution possible, with graphic settings as high as possible."

AMD senior marketing manager Sasa Marinkovic agrees: "The importance of the GPU in everyday computing has grown considerably, and with the growth of general purpose GPU computing it is now possible to use the graphics processor to handle tasks once performed by the CPU, easing the load." But Marinkovic says: "It is important to view the CPU and GPU as complementary to each other; with a balanced platform, you can get the best out of one processor by using the other more effectively."

Consumers and professionals are placing an increasingly high value on the quality of their visual computing experience, a trend which has driven the rise of the GPU to become the ‘soul’ of the PC," says Berraondo. "For the most users, the applications that are important to them rely on the GPU."

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