Vista DreamScene Performance

Mikey 15 comments
Vista DreamScene Performance

Microsoft quietly launched the Vista DreamScene preview today with mixed reports about the hit on both CPU and GPU.

I decided to take a few screenshots with the Stardock DreamScapes application installed, and tested using Nebula, Sylock and the default Vista Dream.

I also tested the video performance with a 1080i video on the desktop. The following images show the average CPU usage during each.

DreamScene with default Vista video at 44%

DreamScape Sylock at 47%

DreamScape Plasma at 50%

DreamScene 1080i mpg vide0 at 82%

Although these readings are high for an application that is supposed to place all the burden on the GPU, I did not notice a significant performance hit while preparing this article and while using Photoshop and Firefox (with the 1080i video running).

Using the Vista windows flip (Windows and Tab keys) I noticed that only the video content was still moving, while the others simply remaining static.

I should also mention that my GPU temperature did actually rise 3 degrees, my average temperature normally around 58.

Geforce 7900gt

While it's pretty sweet to have the high definition shuttle launch on the desktop, the reality is most of us run our apps full screen so we wouldn't experience the 'Dreams' while we worked.

This is a preview release, and the final may even address some of the CPU spiking.

For those interested, my modest PC specs: AMD Athlon 64 3700, 2gb DDR400, Geforce 7900GT using the unofficial drivers from, 22" Viewsonic LCD @ 1680 x 1250.

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johnny mnemonic

Thursday 15th February 2007 | 10:07 AM

I am not surprised at that sort of cpu spike. A dual core cpu would be better.

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Felix the attack cat

Thursday 15th February 2007 | 10:20 AM

There are some new dreams on the stardock web site. I notice you didnt show the Nebula dream. It barely changes but it looks nice.

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Thursday 15th February 2007 | 01:04 PM

that about what I am seeing but dont notice much impact on my system. where did you get the hi definition shuttle launch video?

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Brad Wardell

Saturday 17th February 2007 | 05:10 PM

The issue is the nVidia card. I should know, I have a 7950. nVidia's drivers on Vista are awful right now.

On your setup, with the ATI, it would have been less than 10%. nVidia is aware of it and working on it.

Next week, Stardock is going to release the first of the dyanmic DeskScapes which should use far less since there's no decoding.

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Sunday 20th May 2007 | 04:41 PM

A few notes for people passing through, and a note to the author.

DreamScene is 'specifically' dependant on Video drivers and the capability of your Video Card. I am assuming that the drivers you were using during your test did non have any VC1(WMV) or MPEG2 acceleration enabled in hardware on the NVidia card.

So, if your video card natively supports WMV decoding in hardware and the drivers are current, your CPU usage should be at maximum 15%.

If your video card natievely supports MPEG2 decoding in hardware (as more do than WMV) and the drivers are current, your CPU usage should be at maximum 15%.

Also as the author notes, this CPU usage is low priority and yeilds to anything you are doing, to the point it will halt the video if your CPU/GPU demands require more than your system can provide.

Also as a side note, the StarDock implementations will 'often' pull more CPU than just a standard MPEG2 or WMV played using only DreamScene from MS.

As a contrast to the above findings.
ATI Radeon X700 Pro
CPU: AMD 2800+
(Which are both fairly old in comparison to what the author was using.)
Max CPU Usage on WMV Files 30% (limited WMV acceleration in the X700 ATI Card, so this is expected.)
Max CPU Usage on MPEG2 Files 15% (MPEG2 is fully hardware accelerated in the X700)

Also if you are running a CPU with even HT or a newer Dual-Core, the CPU usage is very minimal, as one core/HT processor usually never jumps over 5% usage.

So for all users, be aware of the type of video you are playing, and if so, you can convert it to MPEG2 which has more GPU hardware support than WMV on older video cards. Also ensure the Driver you are using is actually enabling the acceleration.

Another thing to note, for video on a destkop 720p is quite up there, most users could convert the video to Standard Definition and would not have a major noticeable effect, and would significantly reduce the CPU usage as well.

Good Luck with DreamScene, it is a nice change from static or simple wallpaper transitions, even if you don't have the need to go full 720p HD as it is capable of doing.

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Sunday 20th May 2007 | 08:18 PM

I've been running DreamScene on Vista 64bit Ultimate for a long time (since release date) on a dual core 4200 64bit AMD processor, 4GB DDR2, nVidia 7900GT and I have to say, CPU use is negligable. This powers 2 * 19" LCDs at 1280x1024.

I run a modified sidebar gadget to monitor both cores (not the single core monitor that ships with Vista) on my second 19" LCD (both off the one 7900GT - both monitors with the animated standard Vista scene) and the CPU does stuff all. It's currently sitting at both CPUs around 7% utilised.

The animation pauses on both monitors if any app goes full screen (automatically) to reduce CPU load but I have to say, for the applications I run day to day (and 90% of users wouldn't push their PC as hard as I do), Dreamscene makes no difference to performance.

The only gripe I have with it is it occasionally will "crash" when I exit from a game (particularly Elder Scrols IV: Oblivion), blacking both screens and refusing to be re-applied. When this happens, I have to set a normal static image as the background, then change back to Dreamscene.

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Wednesday 6th June 2007 | 07:46 PM

You know what the funny thing is,

I can do exactly the same thing with vlc media player running in wallpaper mode on my xp2500+ and get no more than 2% cpu usage,

Vista Ultimate, what a crock

Still havent seen vista do anything well that i cant do in xp.


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Thursday 21st June 2007 | 05:02 AM

If you are gonna go Vista, might as well go Ultimate and then again go 64-bit, otherwise going to Vista is basically just what the name suggests - the visuals. (apart from DX10, certain games, future stuff etc etc of Plus it might kick some manufacturers into developing stuff/drivers for it quicker.

On an AMD Dual Core 4800+, 2Gb RAM, 8800GTX, Running 1600x1200 Dreamscene I get between 8-11% CPU usage, although thats with all the background tasks etc going on and the gadgets on the sidebar, so cannot say all of that is Dreamscene. Temperature wise my watercooled system is fine and quiet cheers!

I personally agree with something I heard , that is any processor time not utilised is a waste, so even if it was sitting at 100% and able to react as quick as it does when I want to do something else i'd be happy.

I have had it crash a few times and had to go into the background options and select it again to reinitialise it, but they'll work out those bugs in good time.

All in all I am happy with Microsoft Vista Ultimate, and the Dreamscene Desktop feature. Maybe one day they'll release an Operating System that users of the previous one don't slate it while they are correcting issues with it just like the version they use went through when it was released (i'm sure enough of us remember the plight of Xp!!..drivers anyone, he he)

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Monday 28th July 2008 | 03:37 PM

I am runing Vista U at 4800+ 4 Gigs Ram, 512 Video, I mainly use 2000 and xp pro, so fare my main problem is driver isue, my web came and new printer and, I also have the amd driver cd that came with the system, but the disk has no vista drivers for my mother board, the system is less than 6 months built, vista reads the video, sound, usb ports but no sound, I also have the same problem with sun

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Thursday 11th September 2008 | 02:42 PM

First I want to say this. Microsoft has always released there OS with bugs, and issues. They can't help it. There is so many different hardware and software out there, that not even Microsoft can have a new OS with out bugs and issues. Over 70% of the computers uses Microsoft. The rest use other OS like Sun and UNIX based OSs. Try to find drivers for those OS. Try to install them even if you do find them. Most don't come with installers. You have to put the drivers in the right folder yourself.

Second, by using the new OS like Vista, and reporting the bugs and issues, Microsoft can fix it by the Service Packs and updates. All those Windows 2000, XP uses will have to go to Vista by 2010. Microsoft is planing on dropping support for them like they did for Windows 3.11, 95, 98, and ME.

And the last, over 90% of what is on the market is made for PCs, and the last 10% is for Mac. With all that different software making changes to the OS, bugs are going to show up. That is why Mac has less problems. But try to play your games on Mac, or most of the programs out here. If you hate Windows so much, why are not using a Mac.

Ok I have an Intel Q67oo Quad 4 Cpu, and I have a Nvidia 9800 video card with 512mb, with 4gb of ram. Two Dell 20.1 LCDs on DVI. With Vista Ultiamte x64. With DreamScene, my Cpu usage is about 4 to 8%. I run my computer very hard. I don't have any issues with DreamScene other than the one in the post above about it going to a black screen after a few games. One being "Elder Scrols IV: Oblivion". DreamScene is ment to be used on a computer that has DX10. DX10 will grab the coding, "video" before the Cpu gets it and gives it to the Gpu so the Gpu can process it. If you are running DX9 it will go through the Cpu first, then to the Gpu. Even if you have a DX10 video card. What "TheNetAvenger" states is correct about the video card processing the codex, all DX10 video cards will be able to do this. DreamScene is on low priority, higher priority apps will over ride DreamScene and you will not notice this in the performince of the PC. As for DreamScene stopping when you have a window full screen. Well, most users only have one monitor. So if they go full screen on an app, what does it matter if DreamScene stops running. If the app is in full screen you don't see the DreamScene any way. If you have two or more monitors report your system settings with Microsoft, and maybe they will change it to support dual monitors. But I don't see that happening. Because most people that let Vista report there system configeration only have one monitor. This is why Microsoft put this in XP and Vista so they can develope OSs for the majority of the users on the market.

Go for it. DreamScene is great. I have been fixing computers, and using them from the start. My first PC had DOS on it back in 1990. So watching wallpaper move on my desktop is better than just a pic.


I need a 420 break after this.

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Friday 12th September 2008 | 02:16 AM

Dude dreamscene works fine. I'm running it with nvidia video on background and my cpu is 1-3% total usage. ram at 25% but thats vista with a buncha stuff running. System I'm seeing these stats on are XFX 780i with 8 gig OCZ Reaper HPC 1066 ram. Quad SLI Geforce 9800GX2 SSC and Intel Q9450 OC to 3.2ghz per core. Can go lot higher but it runs nicely as is. Not preview of dreamscene either though.

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Friday 12th September 2008 | 02:18 AM response to this comment by Demon5. Oh and btw I'm running on 24" envision pro series monitor at 1680x1050 with those stats.

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Friday 12th September 2008 | 05:30 AM

Yeah it totally runs fine now. Back when I wrote this article (Feb 2007) it wasn't the best performer.

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Monday 15th September 2008 | 09:34 AM

My system slightly more powerfull than the people who first got on this article. of course it is also faster than 99% of current systems to :)

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Wednesday 17th September 2008 | 05:41 AM

If you are using dx10 you won't see much of a cpu usage. dx10 will pick up the video before the cpu and give it to the video card. If you have dx9, dreamscene will have to go through the cpu to get to the video card. You will see some cpu usage with dx9.

It runs great on my system. I love it. found a great website to get dreams from.

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