Tech Report has a fairly good rundown on the current state of affairs with Windows 64-bit processing.
In short, don’t expect a lot from it anytime soon.
On the eve of 64-bit Windows showing up, I think it’s important to realize that we shouldn’t expect a lot from it for a long time, and when improvements come, they’ll come in dribs and drabs.
When PCs shifted from 16-bit to 32-bit in the early nineties, it took years for software to move from 16-bit to 32-bit, and there’s no reason to expect things to move any quicker this time around.
Of course, that last shift occurred around ten years ago, and if you were around six or eight at the time, you might have not noticed that. 🙂
The real advantages of x86-64 will only emerge when there’s a lot of software that will only run under x86-64, and frankly, there’s an awful lot of 32-bit Windows XP boxes out there, and will be for years to come. Just like there will be plenty of single-processor computers out there, no matter how hard duallies get pushed.
If you look at just about any recent or soon-to-be improvement out there: SATA, PCI Express, DDR-2, SLI, x86-64, dual-cores, none of them give you much or something even any instant gratification. They are all technologies with a delayed payoff.
The real payoff for all these technologies will occur only over time, and unfortunately, for most of these, that payoff will come in dribs and drabs over the course of the next few years. They’re more likely to extend the useful life of your machine than to give you a rush now.
Granted, it’s pretty hard to ask somebody to lay out big extra money for something that won’t pan out for a few years, but in general, these technological capabilities cost (or will cost) little or no more than the old stuff.
So you don’t have to buy a SATA 2.0 drive now, but it’s good to be able to do so later on. x86-64 and dual cores may not do much immediately for you, but it will be good to be at least capable of running them later, and that’s worth a few extra bucks or wait time.
Some items are harder sells because they can’t wait for later, which may not be too big a deal for a completely new system, but could be for a partial upgrade. This is true at least in some cases for PCI Express and DDR-2. (SLI falls somewhere in between; you lay out more for the mobo, and have your options limited should you do only half of the Noah’s Ark routine).
Much will depend on what you already have, your personal inclinations, and your relevant position on the performance food chain. If you have a GeForce Ti3, it ought not be an agonizing decision to go to PCIExpress. If you have an ATI x800, it probably should be. If you’ll never spend more than $200 for video, you’re probably not an ideal SLI candidate.
If you have a socket 754 Hammer system, waiting a year for DDR2 may be a good idea. If you have one of the first Thunderbirds, it probably isn’t.
This isn’t a simple solution for many. Reasonable people will come up with different results. The important things is to THINK about it.
For Those Who Hate These Kinds of Messages
There are people who actually get mad when I tell them, or for that matter, anybody else, to think about these things. I think most of the time, they just bought something, and take offense to someone suggesting that that might not have been the best time to do so.
However, there are some I really think believe as a matter of principle that one should not do this, that one ought to be spontaneous about this, and the best time is whenever the spirit moves you. Actually, “whenever you want to get high off a computing purchase” is probably closer to the truth, and I must admit, thinking interferes with that kind of high.
A couple weeks ago, I got an email from someone who bought a Dell about a year ago, pretty decent machine at the time, and what he basically wanted me to tell him what how he could get a rush for less than $400.
I asked him what he expected to get for his $400, and he sounded like an ad, “More this, more that, more, more . . . .”
I had to tell him that he wasn’t going to get much “more” of what he already had for $400, and maybe not “more” enough for even $1,000. Sorry, but the train has been crawling the last couple years.
What we’re going to see the rest of the year is a lot of “more” that really isn’t going to be “more” coming out of the box. That’s not a reason not to buy it for the long-term benefits, but if you’re looking for a rush, this stuff is time-released.
Not what you want if you’re out to get high, no matter what the pushers tell you.