Laptop 1 or Laptop 2?
August 24, 2010 4:14 PM   Subscribe

Buying a new laptop, I have worked down to 2 choices. One has Win7 (32-bit) and 4gb DDR2 ram, the other has Win7 (64-bit) with 3gb DDR3 ram. Same price. I don't really know enough about the difference between 32/64bit or DDR2/3 to make a decision. Can you explain the difference and offer advice as to which is best.
posted by Petrot to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A 64 bit os can use more than 4 gb of ram.

64 bit os'es are the future of computing though most applications are currently written for 32 bit os'es. But those apps work on 64bit os'es
posted by dfriedman at 4:27 PM on August 24, 2010

Incidentally, if you can spring for a 64 bit version with 4 gb, I'd go with that.
posted by dfriedman at 4:35 PM on August 24, 2010

DDR3 RAM will have higher performance than DDR2 for some programs.

64-bit will have higher performance than 32-bit for some programs.

Eventually, most if not all programs on your PC will fully utilize the features inherent in DDR3 and 64-bit.

You should be able to easily upgrade to 4gb (or 6gb or 8gb) of DDR3 in the future.

However, other considerations: Laptop 2 also has HDMI-out; Laptop 1 has a DVD Burner and a video card with dedicated memory.

I guess it helps to know what you are using the laptop for.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:36 PM on August 24, 2010

Response by poster: jabberjaw: I guess it helps to know what you are using the laptop for.

Sorry, that aspect had totally slipped my mind.

Main thing is that I will be dualbooting Ubuntu Lucid. Otherwise, I do a lot of video/photo editing, and like to multitask often with the usual video/internet/music. I occasionally play games like Age of Empires.
posted by Petrot at 4:46 PM on August 24, 2010

The 32 bit OS will generally only use a little over 3GB of that 4GB, and you will never be able to add more.
So buy the 64 bit OS with the faster DDR3, and it will be upgradeable.
posted by ArnoldLayne at 4:50 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

It may not matter all that much if the games you are playing don't require much graphic power, but the AMD 4330 graphic processor of laptop 1 is more powerful than the AMD 4200 of laptop 2. They're both low-end, but the 4330 could allow you to run some games that would choke the 4200.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:46 PM on August 24, 2010

64bit: much easier to upgrade RAM than processor, if you ever decide you need it. And as above, it is the nebulous future.
posted by ista at 5:52 PM on August 24, 2010

The machines are almost identical except that the Dell model uses the Turion processor which sips much less power than the Athlon II and it has the slightly nicer video card with dedicated RAM. I'd go for this model. You could play modern games on medium or low settings. I don't think you really need to worry about 64-bit and having more than 4 gigs of RAM. Most people never upgrade the RAM on their laptop.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:58 PM on August 24, 2010

You're really choosing between option 1 with ~3GB memory vs. option 2 with ~2.5GB memory because of OS limitations (in 1) and the video cards used (on 2). I want to mock option #1, for pairing a 32bit OS with 4 gigs of memory when it can "use" only about 3... but since it's expandable to 8GB, upgrading to 64 bit at some point seems to be expected. I would actually check if there were 64 bit drivers available for that model before I made a decision.

Assuming they exist, I'd choose #1 based on primarily the video card -- there's quite a difference in performance 512MB dedicated memory and any amount shared memory, and you would definitely note the difference in some of the tasks you mentioned.

I'd only got for #2 if I needed HDMI, or if no 64 bit drivers were available for #1.
posted by Pufferish at 6:11 PM on August 24, 2010

Lots of people in this thread are saying that "a 32-bit os" can only use around 3GB of RAM. This may be true of older processors and older OSes.

But, there's a neato feature in many (most?) modern CPUs called Physical Address Extension. It lifts the limit on the size of physical memory addressed by the operating system as a whole. However, it remains true that a single application cannot address more than 4GB of RAM. In practice, this means that you can hold more programs in memory at a time, each with large datasets; but, that you will not increase the size of dataset that any given program can work with.

I know for a fact that Ubuntu installs the PAE-enabled kernel by default if it detects you've got the RAM but choose a 32-bit system. I'd be awful surprised if the right "edition" of Windows didn't include PAE support as well.

There are plenty of programs out there not recompiled for 64-bit systems, or more heinously, coded in such a way that it takes more than a recompile to translate them. And there are plenty of really shitty 64-bit translations released by all sorts of companies (Flash for 64-bit linux catapults to mind). So, there's something to be said for running a 32-bit machine.

The kludge of having the full 32-bit compatibility libraries on a 64-bit machine is a fool's game. I wish you luck if you go that route.
posted by Netzapper at 6:37 PM on August 24, 2010

I'd be awful surprised if the right "edition" of Windows didn't include PAE support as well.

Windows only supports PAE in the server editions, so the fact that he'd be running Windows 7 means he would still have problems accessing all 4 GB.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:51 AM on August 25, 2010

go for the 64bit since you can go above 4GB for RAM
posted by WizKid at 7:30 AM on August 25, 2010

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