It never fails. I approach my Holiday Break and some nice companies out there come a’knockin’ on my door and ask me if I would like to play with something shiny and new during my time off. And I, being the sucker/whimp, gladly smile and hold my hand out to play with a new toy that never comes in a box with a bow under a tree.
Each year the new software applies to the current situation surrounding the computing that we do these days. And this year is no different. Many of the low cost laptops and computers coming out of Sam’s Wholesale and Costcos have been in the 64 bit variety. And even more gaming systems have been showing up in x64 as well. Some of the reasoning for this is that 64 bit flavors of Windows support more than 4 gigs of RAM. Well they actually see and can use more than 4 GB of RAM. 32 bit versions of Windows can see up to 4 gigs but only use around 2 to 3 GB depending on the processor and software running on the system. The larger numbers on the RAM count has been proven to sell systems to those who only look at the numeric values on the price tags. So x64 systems with 8 GB look very attractive to those buyers who don’t realize that Youtube and World of Worcraft don’t use 8 GB of RAM.
Who does use that much you ask? Well some graphic artists, some science majors, some musicians but mostly high end gamers or those who want to run a desktop system as a server. If you don’t fit into any of those categories don’t fret. Because you aren’t missing out on much if all you do is generally surf the net or create documents. 64 bit won’t hurt but it also won’t dramatically change your computing experience either.
Of course.. I upgraded to 64 bits after I tore into a system at work. My new year’s resolution come early is to break things at work before I move on to breaking them at home. And thanks to two companies I was able to experiment with 64 bit Vista in a real test lab before I moved on to running it full time. Now here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to move into the land of x64.
RAM: I ran x64 Vista Ultimate on a newer Dell Optiplex 755 at work. This system is a newer Dual Core with 4 GB of RAM and a better system bus. What I noticed was that the system flew with amazing responses for an ATI HD2400 video card and on board sound. Windows popped up in quick fashion and even some of the AERO effects seemed to run a little differently. The Windows Experience on this machine is a little off but it was close to a 5. And for this box x64 was a great improvement.
On my home box, however, the changes were not as noticeable. The home system is a 2006 Dell XPS custom 400 with 2 GB, a NVIDIA 7300le and my love/hate Sound Blaster X FI Music. Again using Vista Ultimate x64 as my guide, I loaded things up pretty close to the box at work. Now this is an original Core 2 Duo with a slower bus. And man did I ever notice the changes. I don’t run too many things that are multi threaded, therefore, my chipset spiked at times with heavy usage when I installed programs. The AT I was using at any given time locked up for a second or just sat there until the computer decided it was done with one project and it could then move on to talking again. That wasn’t a surprise but it helped that I have most of my install screens memorized. I too noticed some changes in AERO and my Windows Experience went from a 3.1 to a 3.2 in x64. Whoo hoo.. a .1. Stop the presses..
On the older system with less RAM I noted that things just didn’t move as fluidly as the newer system with 4 GB on board. I know that isn’t earthshattering. And it isn’t a big shock to me either. But I wanted to stem off the flow of questions that will come, as they do so often, with any ideas that come from those who ask me “Should I upgrade to [insert product version here}”. So the usual answer still applies. If you have newer hardware with lots of RAM then knock your lights out. If you don’t then you ain’t missing nothin’ and you can go about your business unabated.
If you are looking to move on to 64 bits you do have some AT to play with though. System Access was the first out of the gates with version 3.0 of their product line. The cool thing about SA is that you can test how things are going to work by simply loading SATOGO via the web without a lot of mess with digital driver signing. I used SATOGO a lot in my testing and I highly recommend this as your first line of attack when giving your system the once over. And if you are a Screen Magnification user this is your only line of attack at the moment. You can of course find System Access To Go at..
But those nice people at Freedom Scientific must have traveled to the North Pole as they have released their public beta of JAWS for x64 just in time for the Holidays. You can land a copy of that bea at the address below…
I’ll have more on x64 later on as I play with it more over the weeks. But if you don’t have a need for it or if your system doesn’t run with it natively you can rest knowing that you aren’t missing out on much for the moment. In a year or so, or when you decide to upgrade, it may be a good spec to consider when you move to a place where you are considering Vista or Windows 7.