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Plastic Surgery for your Desktop: Does It Hurt?

Have you ever wondered if those cool programs which lets you skin Windows affect the performance in your games? We have. We decided to benchmark a number of games just to see what would happen if you skinned your Windows. What did we find out? Click and learn.

[review_ad] Introduction


Have you ever felt the urge to change the looks of Windows? Tired of that old WinXP ‘Luna’ look? Then you’ve probably looked at programs like Stardocks WinBlinds and WinStyle. I know I have. The one thing though that always have stopped me using them was the fact that I was worried that running those programs in the background would affect the performance of my machine negative. A few days ago I had to reinstall my machine due to a motherboard change and that presented me with the perfect opportunity to compare the machine is a ‘clean’ state and with WinBlinds and WinStyles installed.

Does it affect the performance or are our machines fast enough to handle these backgrounds programs without missing a beat? Read on to find out!.

The programs


Stardock has a cool range of programs to help you spice up your machine. The programs I used for this test was:

  • WinBlinds which lets you skin Windows
  • CursorXP which lets you use cool 3D cursors
  • ObjectBar which lets you create your own pop up menus, system hotkeys and bars
  • IconPackager which lets you use new Iconsets in Windows
  • WinStyles which lets you create or use complete themes which can include iconsets, cursors etc.

Trial versions of all these programs can be found at www.stardock.com. The benchmarks


This was the system used for this article:

‘Clean’ System

CPU: AMD XP2500+
Motherboard: MSI K7N2 Delta
Memory: 1024 MB TwinMos PC3200 DDR (running 333MHz), 2.5CL
OS: WinXP SP1 with all updates installed
Videocard: AIW 9800 Pro with Catalyst 3.6 and multimedia utilities installed
Other:  

‘WinStyles’ System

CPU: AMD XP2500+
Motherboard: MSI K7N2 Delta
Memory: 1024 MB TwinMos PC3200 DDR (running 333MHz), 2.5CL
OS: WinXP SP1 with all updates installed
Videocard: AIW 9800 Pro with Catalyst 3.6 and multimedia utilities installed
Other: WinStyles, WinBlinds, CursorXP, ObjectBar

The theme that I used when I did the benchmarks was the NVIDIA theme with some an added cursor from the PowerUser theme.

The first thing I did was of course just ‘feel’ how Windows itself felt. Did windows open up at the same speed? Did minimizing/maximizing feel the same? I can honestly answer yes on both accounts. I couldn’t time it but it didn’t feel any more sluggish and that’s the main thing for me.

This is how the NVIDIA WinStyles desktop look

Also the icons are changed in this theme.

When you choose a theme it will download all different parts from StarDocks site. Some of these themes are very cool.

3DMark 2001SE

1024×768 – Default
 GPU
 3DMarks
 
AIW 9800 Pro Clean Install 14499
AIW 9800 Pro WinStyles, WinBlinds Etc 14650

No difference to talk about.


PCMark 2002

CPU – Default
 GPU
 Point
 
AIW 9800 Pro Clean Install 5548
AIW 9800 Pro WinStyles, WinBlinds Etc 5574
Memory – Default
AIW 9800 Pro Clean Install 5320
AIW 9800 Pro WinStyles, WinBlinds Etc 5328
HD – Default
AIW 9800 Pro Clean Install 665
AIW 9800 Pro WinStyles, WinBlinds Etc 685

As expected no noticable changes in the scores even with the different programs running in the background.


IL-2 Sturmovik: Forgotten Battles

1280×960 OpenGL – 4xAA/8xAF
 GPU
 FPS
 
AIW 9800 Pro Clean Install 26,3
AIW 9800 Pro WinStyles, WinBlinds Etc 25,9

Even if there is a slight difference in the average fps it is not large enough to indicate that it is the fault of WinBlind and WinStyles instead of a statistc variation.


UT2k3 Demo

Antalus – 4xAA/8xAF, Botmatch
 GPU
 FPS
 
AIW 9800 Pro Clean Install 1024×768 62,4
AIW 9800 Pro WinStyles, WinBlinds Etc 1024×768 62,4
AIW 9800 Pro Clean Install 1600×1200 36,5
AIW 9800 Pro WinStyles, WinBlinds Etc 1600×1200 36,8
Asbestos – 4xAA/8xAF, Botmatch
AIW 9800 Pro Clean Install 1024×768 73,2
AIW 9800 Pro WinStyles, WinBlinds Etc 1024×768 73,2
AIW 9800 Pro Clean Install 1600×1200 61,9
AIW 9800 Pro WinStyles, WinBlinds Etc 1600×1200 62,0

No difference regardless if we have WinStyle and WinBlinds installed or not.


Nascar Racing Season 2003 Demo

1280×960 – 4xAA/8xAF
 GPU
 FPS
 
AIW 9800 Pro Clean Install 32,2
AIW 9800 Pro WinStyles, WinBlinds Etc 32,1
1600×1200 – 4xAA/8xAF
AIW 9800 Pro Clean Install 24,5
AIW 9800 Pro WinStyles, WinBlinds Etc 24,5

in Nascar Racing Season 2003 we see no effects from the installed Windows handler.


The Conclusion


My quite unscientific tests show that with today’s fast CPU and enough memory there is no longer any problems installing these kind of programs to ‘spice’ up Windows. Some of the themes I tested alter the looks and feel of Windows quite radically and IMHO make it even better so I definitely suggest trying the programs out to see how you like it.

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