Just how much extra system resources does Vista Aero UI take?

Just how much extra system resources does Vista Aero UI take?

Summary: Whenever anyone mentions the Windows Vista operating system, someone is bound to bring up the fact that Windows Vista is slow and takes up to much in the way of system resources and that is needs some sort of supercomputer to run. This is plainly untrue and the people who are saying this are either misguided, mistaken or lying. However, it is true is that you need more power to run the new Aero user interface. But just how much extra power does this take?

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TOPICS: Windows
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Whenever anyone mentions the Windows Vista operating system, someone is bound to bring up the fact that Windows Vista is slow and takes up to much in the way of system resources and that is needs some sort of supercomputer to run.  This is plainly untrue and the people who are saying this are either misguided, mistaken or lying.  However, it is true is that you need more power to run the new Aero user interface.  But just how much extra power does this take? 

Let's see if we can find out.

Finding out the performance hit of the Aero UI (user interface) isn't as easy as it sounds.  First off, the Windows Vista device drivers are, how shall I put it, far from optimized.  Compare the gaming performance of two PCs that have identical hardware configuration but where one is running XP and the other is running Vista and XP beats it without a doubt.  I expect that it will take GPU makers several months to come out with truly optimized drivers for their boards and until then hardcore gamers are probably better off sticking with XP. 

Another problem is the unreliability of current benchmarking tools under Vista.  Many simply give up at the first hurdle and plain don't play nicely, while many of those that work seem unreliable and give wildly conflicting results.  Nothing that I have access to seemed reliable enough to quote.

So, what does that leave?  What about Windows’ own Task Manager?  It's not all that fancy but it does give a good view into what's going on.

My tests aren't very scientific and consist of seeing what the performance change is like when switching between the Aero UI and the Classic theme.  I chose to take two values - the CPU usage and physical memory usage, both a percentage value.

The difference is small, but it's there alright.  On my main Vista machine (which has a Windows Experience Index of 4.4) which is running Vista RC1 build 5600, I noticed that when I had the Aero UI theme loaded, the CPU usage hovered at around 3% and the physical memory usage at about 27%.  However, with the Classic theme loaded these values dropped to 1% and 24% respectively.  Not much, but there is a measurable performance hit. 

Note:  During these tests I had a couple of Notepad windows open along with the Windows Task Manager.

Interestingly, there's a visible drop is system demand when transparency is disabled for the Aero UI.  Here the CPU usage seemed to drop from around 3% to around 2% (it didn't seem to have any effect on the physical memory used - which is as I expected).

From this we can extrapolate some basic conclusions:

  • On a high-end system, the performance hit of running with the Aero UI is close to negligible
  • The lower the performance of the system, the greater the Aero effect will be (in other words, the less system resources you have available, the more you're going to feel it)
  • It's easy to switch between Aero and Classic

The main drawback of Vista for those who can't or don't want to run the Aero UI is that the Classic interface looks awful.  I hope Microsoft remedies this in the final release.

Topic: Windows

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14 comments
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  • You should use Vista 5728

    I switched from Vista build 5600 to 5728 and there was a noticable increase in UI performance. I think the final shipping version will also be a performance improvement over 5728 (if we take the current performance improvements from one to the next build into account), so really, it should perform great on even avarage PCs.

    Bottom line: There is no need for the nay-sayers to go hysterical over the "slow" Vista UI.
    Qbt
    • benchmarking tools

      "Another problem is the unreliability of current benchmarking tools under Vista. Many simply give up at the first hurdle and plain don't play nicely, while many of those that work seem unreliable and give wildly conflicting results. Nothing that I have access to seemed reliable enough to quote."

      Now we have to change the benchmarking system so Vista won't look like the slow Hog that it really is.....
      Get real Get a MAC......
      jfmiii
  • Here's a way to tell if Vista is a resource hog.

    Just run it on [url=http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=34623]the same 1.97MHz CPU system that ran XP[/url] and let us know the results.
    Mr. Roboto
  • Aero in Vista will be a FAILURE because people will be confused about Aero

    People will expect Aero to work with whatever graphics hardware they have in their PCs and when they find out that they don't have the right hardware, then they will blame Aero for being incompatible with their still good PC hardware. Aero in Windows Vista will help to make Windows Vista to be the FAILURE that Windows Vista is destined to be. Aero is a FAILURE and WIndows Vista is a FAILURE.
    rh0
    • Flame bait!

      [b]People will expect Aero to work with whatever graphics hardware they have in their PCs and when they find out that they don't have the right hardware, then they will blame Aero for being incompatible with their still good PC hardware. Aero in Windows Vista will help to make Windows Vista to be the FAILURE that Windows Vista is destined to be. Aero is a FAILURE and WIndows Vista is a FAILURE.[/b]

      That's quite a bit of assuming. Vista will NOT be a failure. Vista has a lot of good things going for it and once everyone's up to speed on them, they will go for it. Maybe not as an upgrade, but certainly will go for it on a new PC.

      And once the myth that you need a $500 or $750 video card to run Vista is utterly crushed since MOST $40 - $60 cards with 128 MB on board available now will do Aero just fine, people will arrive at the conclusion that it's a cheap enough upgrade to add a little extra eye candy to their older but still not utterly obsolete hardware.
      Wolfie2K3
  • Re: Just how much extra system resources does Vista Aero UI take?

    [i]"I noticed that when I had the Aero UI theme loaded, the CPU usage hovered at around 3% and the physical memory usage at about 27%. However, with the Classic theme loaded these values dropped to 1% and 24% respectively."[/i]

    It would be helpful if you mentioned how much CPU and RAM you have. Three percent of RAM when have two gigs of it will not be three percent when you have a half a gig.


    :)
    none none
    • From my experience ...

      ...on an 866MHz box with 512MB of RAM, Vista RC1 (5600) boots to a RAM footprint of about 320MB. It takes two or three minutes to settle down to that level but when it does, it's pretty stable.
      M Wagner
  • What's interesting?

    Of course turning off transparency would boost performance.
    anythingbutmine0
    • Not necessarily

      Transparency would be implemented by the GPU rather than the CPU so it is perfectly possible that it would have no effect on overall system performance.
      Aero in general might improve the performance if the GPU offloaded some of the workfrom the CPU
      Bill Timmins
  • What exactly are your system specs?

    Every time I read about someone who is defending
    Vista and saying that Vista isn't a resource
    hog, they are generally running the OS on a
    system with something like a 2.5Ghz or 3Ghz
    Proc. with 1 to 2GB of RAM.

    What are you smoking if you seem to think that
    these are average system specs? What do you and
    other Vista Aficionados seem to think are
    average system specs? About the only system
    which could probably run Vista Aero without a
    problem is an Off the shelf Mac already designed
    to run OSX.

    Microsoft itself has said that the minimum sys.
    requirements are a 1Ghz proc and 512MB of RAM
    without Aero, and this is for a sloooow machine.
    Maybe that's fine for a new machine, but what
    about all of the other machines out there that
    just don't meet these requirements? My laptop
    for example has a respectable 1.4Ghz proc. and
    256MB of RAM. It was purchased last Dec. In
    order to just barely run Vista slowly, I would
    still have to buy more RAM. I would classify my
    laptop as an average system with average specs.

    It makes a major difference if you have 2GB of
    RAM versus 512MB where sys resources are
    concerned. And this doesn't even take into
    account the 128MB graphics card you have to have
    to run Aero UI. The average sold with a price
    friendly new system is 64MB.

    Bottom line, Vista is a resource hog unless
    you've got the $$$ to spend on a hard-core
    system, for the rest of us, it's stay with the
    OS we've got.
    teddybairs1
    • Average System Specs...?

      [b]Microsoft itself has said that the minimum sys. requirements are a 1Ghz proc and 512MB of RAM without Aero, and this is for a sloooow machine. Maybe that's fine for a new machine, but what about all of the other machines out there that just don't meet these requirements? My laptop for example has a respectable 1.4Ghz proc. and 256MB of RAM. It was purchased last Dec. In order to just barely run Vista slowly, I would still have to buy more RAM. I would classify my laptop as an average system with average specs.[/b]

      1.) 256 MB of RAM is "average" for Windows 2000 based systems from 1999.. 256 MB is hardly even close to being "enough" for XP.

      2.) Microsoft's published spec says the bare minimum CPU will be one that runs @ 800 MHz...

      3.) Hardware is cheap. For what it's worth, most modern laptops these days START at 512 MB - even the bottom of the line models. An upgrade isn't going to bankrupt anyone.

      Just because your computer was "middle of the road" last year means it's bottom of the barrel this year. That IS the way of computer hardware.

      Oh.. And from my experience with Vista - without the extra eye candy load, it runs pretty much on par with XP on the same computer. So if your box has XP loaded on it, it should run Vista more or less the same - provided your "average" computer from last year is up to the minimum specs.
      Wolfie2K3
    • What were you thinking.

      Vista has been in the news way before you bought your laptop. Now your complaining about Vistas system requirement. When I bought my laptop about 4 months ago I made sure it would be able to handle Vista. If it was going to run Aero the laptop would have to have graphics card with its own 128mb of memory. For the past year I would never buy a computer with less than 1 gig of memory, Vista or not.

      When you have been involved with personal comptuers for over 20 years you appreciate how dirt cheep comptuer equipment is tody and you buy hardware that will be able to handle any new software that is comming out within the next two years.

      Dude, what were you smoking!
      davidtristan@...
    • I beg to differ ...

      ... Vista also runs quite nicely on a 512MB machine running at 866MHz. IMHO, it runs better than XP did on a 300MHz, 128MB machine when it was released! No AERO but the Vista Basic scheme looks pretty good.

      Is there any compelling reason why an individual with a six-year-old machine running Windows XP should upgrade to Vista? NO!

      Is there any reason why they can't! NOPE.

      So what if the average Windows XP box runs a 1GHz and has 256MB of RAM? An additional 256MB will cost under $50 and a Vista Basic upgrade (most closely comparable to XP Home) will cost $100. $150 to upgrade may not be worth it to you but Vista RC1 (5600) is not a resource hog.
      M Wagner
  • I wouldn't say that the Vista ...

    ...Basic interface looks "awful" but it would be a good idea for Vista to offer the XP style as well as the Vista Basic style and Windows Classic style when it goes GOLD.
    M Wagner