amd64 or i386 for desktop use?

Roland Smith rsmith at
Wed Mar 5 17:13:06 UTC 2008

On Wed, Mar 05, 2008 at 12:36:33AM -0500, Isaac Mushinsky wrote:
> I have new hardware (Abit ip35-pro, Intel Q6600), and was contemplating 
> installing FreeBSD/arch, but now realise that I am going to have some 
> problems.
> My nvidia card will not be of much use (GeForce 8500GT), since nvidia-drivers 
> are not there for amd64, and the open source nv driver does not even support 
> XVideo extension for these cards. I can downgrade to a nv 7xxx series card, 
> which works better with the open driver. I do not mind loss of 3D support, 
> but would need basic things like mplayer.

Any ATI card up to and including the 9250 (rv280) is fully supported on
amd64, 3D and all. (I know because I've got one :-)
> 2. Any problems with flash plugin (flash7 for now, I do not mean the 
> confounded flash9 headache)?

I've never been able to get a native flash player to work, but I don't
mind doing without. The downloadhelper plugin for firefox can help you
download a lot of movies (e.g. youtube) which you then can play with
mplayer. All the flash ads I'll gladly do without.

> 3. Other casual desktop user problems I should be aware of?

Wine is i386 only.

> 4. Is it worth it? Perhaps I should stay with i386, but it is a pity
> not to be able to use the new machine to its full potential.

Practically you don't _need_ amd64 unless you're running out of address
space on i386. Me, I'm running amd64 because I can. :-) My desktop has a gig
of RAM, and I seldom use more than half of that. Mind you, I'm using a
simple window manager not a desktop environment with lots of bells & whistles.

I suspect binaries on i386 will be somewhat smaller. But amd64 has more
registers which might give some speed advantages. I haven't tested it, but it
might be nice to do a speed comparison between i386 and amd64 on
identical hardware. I don't think the difference will matter for
a common desktop though; the CPU of a desktop is mostly idling anyway.

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