I am planning to buy Dell Vostro 3700 to replace my aging and terminally ill desktop (Dell Dimension 8200 circa 2001!).
The intended usage is general purpose home office -- accounting, e-mail, web surfing, multi-media viewing, photo, music & video archive, minor photo-editing (but no photoshop or video editing) Word/Excel/PPT, etc.
I need some help with configuration options:
Core i3 370M (2.4 GHz) vs Core i5 460M (2.53 GHz)
Integrated Intel GMA HD (on-board) vs. Nvidia GT330M with 1GB Graphics Card
Win7 Pro 32 bit or 64 bit
Do I need >3 GB RAM? If so, I have to select 64 bit OS
Fingerprint Reader (How good is it on Vostros?) -- Worthwhile or not?
I am trying to get the most bang for my bucks -- budget is around $800 to $850.
The reason I am buying Dell is because I have had a very good experience with Dell desktops and laptops so far (10 years), mostly for small business.
I've had good experiences with Dell myself, so it's a smart choice. You should be fine with the i3 and the intel graphics for your use. However, if you want a bit more zip when it comes to photo editing and multimedia viewing, it won't hurt to go with the nvidia card. You can go either way memory wise, but it never hurts to go with 4GB of memory.
To be able to use 4 GB RAM, I should have 64 Bit OS, but is there a performance difference between the 32 bit Win 7 Pro vs. 64 Bit version -- in either direction? And what about the application compatibility -- do most of the common software (MS Office, QuickBooks, TurboTax, etc.) run on both platforms or do I need special 64 bit version?
Given that my budget does not permit i5 & nVidia graphics card, which one would give me more bang for the bucks? Would having a discrete graphics card drain the battery faster? My concern is that the std. 6 cell battery may not last more than 2 hours with nVidia option. I have not been able to find 9-cell battery option on Dell configurator.
In regard to the OS question, no there is no performance difference between the 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows. As long as you do not run any "legacy" software, you should be fine with a 64 bit version, especially in regard to MS Office and everything else you mentioned.
You'll probably get the most bang for your buck and get the best battery life by going with the i5 and staying away from the Nvidia GPU.