Welcome to our Vista 32 vs. Vista 64 operating system shootout. It is about time that gamers know if a 64-bit operating system (OS) is necessary or better than 32-bit, or not. This has been examined in the past and two years ago this editor concluded that Vista 32 was still the king for PC gaming. ABT has always attempted to show an upgrade path that gamers would likely choose to get better performance. We know the future is heading toward 64-bit OSes, but what about now? We will look at our usual gaming benchmarks and attempt to show where we stand now. For a fact, we know that even Microsoft is making their next Office 64-bit and that is also the only way to use more than 4GB of RAM practically in your PC. We also know that most games are 32-bit optimized and that 64-bit has been largely ignored up until now as Microsoft has been able to workaround the 2GB RAM limitation for PC games. In the past, only FarCry and Hellgate: London ran noticeably better on a 64-bit OS over a 32 bit one – at least of the more popular games. Sadly, Hellgate: London multiplayer is gone except for in the Far East.
Our readers need to realize that this change to 64-bit is not for gaming, but for having the ability to use more system RAM effectively. We just want to determine that we are not losing anything – as 32-bit applications have to run in a sort of “emulation layer” in the 64-bit version of Vista. From our past experience with Vista64, we are pretty confident that there will be little penalty and we are hoping that some of the games that we test are coded to run faster than 32-bit on Vista 64. We did notice very little difference between using both operating systems. With no one telling you “which one”, I think you would have to guess in most situations with identically configured 4GB system RAM-equipped PCs.
Recently, we tested Q9550S to finally answer the question: “Is a quad core CPU necessary to get the best out of today’s modern PC games, even paired with a powerful video card?” We learned that quad core is indeed very important to frame rates in games that utilize more than 2 cores. We did this last review with Catalyst 9-2 and GeForce 180.08 and you will be able to follow the progress of both sets of vendor’s drivers into this review as we have now updated to Catalyst 9-3 and GeForce 180.20. Of course, we will compare our same drivers, apples-to-apples - for 32-bit Vista, as before – against Vista 64 drivers.
We want to know what effect our choice of operating system has on graphics performance and ultimately how it affects the frame rates of the newer games we play. We are consistently testing at two of the most popular demanding wide-screen resolutions, 1680×1050 and 1920×1200, 4xAA plus 16xAF and with maximum DX10 details whenever it is available and with our Q9550S overclocked to 4.0 GHz. We want to show you how Vista 64-bit gaming compares with 32-bit gaming by using a multi-GPU video card, 4870-X2, and single GPU video cards, 4870-1GB and GTX280.