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I have a decent laptop. i7 quad 2.8, 8gb ram, and Nvidia nvs3100m.

I wonder which of unity 3d and 2d that would be fastest on my system. Sure its hard to tell.

And the question I'm seeking answer for is the following.

2d has no 3d effects, bing. but does the 2d desktop execute more work on the CPU rather on the GPU which the 3D desktop.

All i want is a snappy desktop, i would love to have a mode, like no effects in the unity 3d. In windows you can choose "no effects" which makes everything look terrible but it still an improvement in speed.

So would unity 2d clutter the cpu more then unity 3d?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The only noticeable difference between Unity and Unity2D will be in comparing graphics and how much FPS you can get in each. Since Unity uses 3D effects it will be heavier in graphics and in memory usage. Unity 2D just removes the 3D effects and as a consequence it lowers A LOT the memory usage in comparison with Unity. This is specially true when you have been using the PC for at least 5 days without rebooting/turning it off.

So basically:


  • Better Graphics
  • 3D Effects for Eye Candy Users
  • More Memory Usage
  • Slightly less FPS when playing a game, using a wine game or something that requires graphic power.

Unity 2D

  • Simple Graphics
  • 3D Effects for Eye Candy Users ARE GONE!. Simple and lighter.
  • Less Memory Usage
  • More FPS when playing games than compared to Unity.

For the CPU I have tested both and I can't really say the differ a lot in CPU usage.

I have tested on a Pentium 4, Core 2 Duo and a Core i7. In all cases the different in CPU was less than 1%. nothing noticeable. But on memory, after 5 days straight you will see the Compiz process in Unity go up to 300mb to 400mb.

So for your answer and taking into consideration the CPU you are mentioning and the power behind it. I recommend Unity 3D since you will never notice a different in CPU. Only in graphics but we are talking between 3 to 10fps less (depending on the game). In my case with an Nvidia 8500, an Nvidia 9500 and an Nvidia 440GT the difference was very very little.

If you are in the border of 30fps for a game, go with unity 2D. If you have a power packed video card that goes way above 30fps then you can safely choose Unity that it will neither suck your CPU or your video performance. The only one that will be less and less overtime assuming you do not reset the PC in several days will be unity 3D with the compiz process.

All in all you can go with Unity.

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Thanks for great information. A follow up question, is it possible to disable effects but still use unity with compiz ? Remove the eye candy but still run compiz. – ptomasroos Feb 22 '12 at 21:59
You can disable the effects but the Unity Plugin needs some of them to work correctly. You will need to install the Compiz Settings Manager first and then play with it BUT WARNING!!! this could result in killing the unity desktop, your dog and the piece of pie behind the couch. So be careful. Try disabling each compiz plugin one by one without interfering with the Unity plugin. If something fails go to a terminal and type unity --reset if I am not mistaken. – Luis Alvarado Feb 22 '12 at 22:50

Unity2D will.

  1. Its lighter on resources.
  2. Even tough Unity3D uses 3D acceleration for the effects, all the rest is CPU intensive, meaning there is nothing that the 3D symbolizes that actually uses your card to process except the effects. Opening applications, opening the launcher and the Dash are still CPU processed.

In the end, if your graphics card supports it, both are very snappy, but if you are worried about the effect of the looks each option brings Unity2D will be faster and you will not notice the effects of the composed desktop in your media applications (ie: movie watching, online videos, 3D games, etc).

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It is very tricky to answer your question when you have the most powerful laptop on a market. In my experience, I would say it would not make a difference for both 2D and 3D Unity. However, you will miss out accessibility features from Unity 2D.

The specs you got will do very fine with the processing tasks and effects in any environment. I have dual core Pentium and 4 GB of RAM and I have 3D and it still does fine job. I would recommend 3D for sure.

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