A Scottish system builder has embodied the rise in PC average selling prices (ASPs) by lifting the veil on an £83,000 desktop.
Having once produced the UK's cheapest Windows 7 PC, Utopia Computers saw its ASP rise to £2,500 last year after ripping up its business model and moving into high-end machines.
Now it has upped the ante further by building what it claims is Europe's first water-cooled quad CPU workstation.
Pitched at blue-chip clients who need to carry out simulations, Utopia's Sonox C4 machines (pictured) boast up to 96 cores, 192 threads and 2TB of memory. Retailing at between £23,362 and £83,311, they come with four Intel XEON E7 CPUs installed on a SuperMicro motherboard.
Utopia's decision to double the performance of its top-end systems mirrors rising ASPs in the wider PC industry, as flagged by analysts including Context and Gartner.
Utopia director Craig Hume told CRN that entry-level PCs are being cannibalised by smartphones and tablets, squeezing the bottom end of the market.
"We're very much about listening to the people who come to our website and what they are asking for," Hume said. "And that does seem to be more power. And we're quite quick at being able to react to that.
"It's just impossible for an independent retailer to think about competing on price as a value statement. I'd still say our systems are value for money, it's just they're in a niche that isn't as competitive as a £500 desktop."
The ASP of PCs through UK distribution has risen by 42 per cent over the last year, to £475, according to Context, due partly to a shift towards higher-value machines.
Utopia's ASP has already risen from £2,500 to £3,500 this year, thanks mainly to rising demand for GPU-dense workstations, Hume said.
Utopia expects to sell only one Sonox C4 every two months, Hume admitted, but he said their introduction could propel the firm's ASP to £5,000 by next April.
"Up until this point we've only made dual CPU-based systems, and from a cost perspective the Sonox C4 is 50 per cent more at an entry level than any other system we've made, so it's a big step," he said.
The new range was born from the requirements of an individual client, Hume explained.
"They had a SuperMicro server that was running at about 96 decibels," he said. "They were downsizing, and they needed to put the server in the office, and weren't sure if they would have to throw it away. We looked at it and designed a workstation around the SuperMicro motherboard. The company in question deals with working out, as an example, if there was an explosion somewhere what would happen to the building around it; that's the kind of simulation this system can really lend a hand to."
A US outfit already produces a quad Xeon system that is water-cooled, but Utopia is first over the line in Europe, Hume claimed.
"We've been approached by customers in the States, but we tend to find that Europe is a fantastic opportunity for us. While we don't market ourselves actively in Europe, Google does an amazing job of bringing people - from Italy, to Belgium, to Sweden - to us," he said.
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