Go back not much over a year and buying a computer was a much simpler task. You could have an AMD processor or an Intel processor and that was about it. Then you could pick a speed and a few other factors which were fairly self explanatory. Now of course theres the new breed of 64 bit processors which help confuse the matter somewhat. This guide will set ot the benefits of each and hopefully help you choose which way to go.
The 32 bit processor has probably just about done its dash in terms of what it is capable of. The maximum amount of ram that you can access with a 32 bit processor is 4GB. With a 64 bit processor it is theoretically possible that you could have over 1000 times this much (there are of course other practical limitations which mean this isnt a reality). Basically a 64 bit processor addresses 64 bits of data at once compared to a 32 bit processors... yes, you guessed it 32 bits. This means more complex processes in less time. The performance seems stacked in favor of the purchase of a 64 bit computer however consider these factors -
At the moment there is hardly any software that supports full 64 bit processing. Although there is a version of Windows XP that supports 64 bit processing out at the moment 32 bit drivers are not compatible with 64 bit windows. This means that if you have an old printer or graphics card that doesn't have a 64 bit driver available from the manufacturer under Windows XP x64, you will not be able to use this piece of hardware. Obviously this can be very inconvenient. You can of course run regular Windows XP on a 64 bit processor, but this is almost purpose defeating.
The good news is that with the new version of Windows due out next year (Windows Vista) which will have further 64 bit support it is likely that there will be a surge in third party driver compatability. In reality though, unless you are using processor and memory intense applications for things like graphics editing or music production you probably aren't going to notice too much of a difference.
It comes down to prioritising your needs and looking at how often you upgrade. If you need it and you don't upgrade computers regularly, you should get in now to make sure you can take advantage of the next wave of 64 bit applications. If you don't need it or upgrade regularly, you could cash in on the move away from 32 bit architecture and get a good deal on one. Spend the extra money on something like RAM.