Published in Reviews

Aero Glass and graphics memory

by on04 March 2007


Review - Part One:
How much memory do you actualy need for Aero Glass?

Windows Vista Home Premium is one of six versions of Vista that you can buy, and at the same time it is a Microsoft recommended version for home and mobile computers. I have to mention there are two additional versions made for Europe only. Due to European monopole laws Windows Media player had to be removed. Hope Premium includes all features from Home Basic with added Windows Aero, Media Center and few other functions.


Today we are going to focus on Vista Home Premium and the system we installed the OS on. Microsoft has set the minimal system requirements for its new OS. Your system is Vista capable if you have CPU that works at 800MHz, 512MB RAM, DirectX 9 compatible graphics card with shader model 2.0 supports  and 32 bit per pixel precision. You also need 20GB HDD with 15GB free space and of course DVD ROM drive from which you can stat your installation.  


We already wrote tons of Vista reviews and we won’t bother you with pros and cons that this OS has. Like it or not Vista is the big thing at the moment, and until we get a service pack that will patch up all the flaws, we have to live with the fact that Vista is somewhat like Swiss cheese, full of holes. In order to minimize issues on the hardware side with Vista, you need to make sure to pick good hardware configuration for your PC.


In this review we will introduce the most interesting details we gazed upon while working with Vista and Intel Vista certified motherboard with integrated GPU.  


We used: 

Motherboard we used was Intel DG965OT with GMA X3000 graphics accelerator that we mentioned before. In case you missed the story let me repeat few details. Intel Graphics Media Accelerator GMA X3000 is the first Intel graphics core which supports Shader Model 3.0 and DirectX9.0c, that qualifies the chipset for the Microsoft Windows Display Driver Model or WDDM. The chip has 8 units which Intel refers to as Execution Units, and they take care of your parallel processing of pixel and vertex geometrical operations. X3000 works at 667MHz and its attributes are scalability and low power usage.  


There is a lot of things that Intel has put on this small DG965OT Micro ATX motherboard. Besides integrated graphics core, there is six SATA connectors thanks to ICH8 south bridge, socket supports Core 2 Duo and the rest of 775 family, and there are 4 memory slots in which you can stick up to 8GB of dual channel DDR2-800 memory. There are also ATA 133 connectors and floppy connector which you can find next to main power connector.  




Both parts of the chipset use Intel’s standard passive heatsinks. If integrated GPU is not good enough for you, there is still an option to use PCIe x16 slot for GPU card. There is also one PCIe x1 slot and two common PCI slots. On the I/O panel you get two PS/2 ports, a parallel port, VGA output for the graphics, one Firewire port, six USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit LAN, as well as optical output and five mini jacks for the Sigmatel STAC9271D audio.


We haven’t found too many things in the box only two SATA cables, one HDD and one floppy cable, floppy disk with RAID drivers and a CD with Intel drivers. But you do get loads of papers with instructions that explain you how to connect all of the hardware with your new motherboard and a setup guide for Intel Viiv.




We installed Vista Home Premium on Segate Barracuda 750GB ES HDD using Core 2Dup E6700 CPU and 2x512MB of Corsair memory. Installation took a bit more then 25 minutes.


Automatically after installation Welcome Center pops up. Welcome Center is a window that presents most tasks that any user will do after they run their Windows for the first time. There you can setup your Internet connection, add user and so on. Actually Welcome Center is very good thing for people that don’t have much experience with Windows.



Aero is what makes people fall in love with Vista when they see it for the first time, although the ones that have seen MAC OS 10 before are not all that impressed.  


Aero however has its downsides. Every part of desktop is rendered in real time, which means that your GPU will work all the time. Hence the article about battery life of your notebooks under Vista and XP, we wrote about it here. For this occasion we used integrated graphics and we based our article only on such systems. How much of your system memory can you "donate" to your integrated GPU. If you have 1GB of memory you can address 256MB to your integrated GMA X3000 easy. On the other hand if you have only 512MB, Vista will automatically reduce the amount of shared memory down to 64MB and that is what your GMA will have to work with.


The things you get with Aero are Transparent Glass, Taskbar Thumbnails, Windows Flip, Windows Flip 3D and Smooth Windows animations. In order to have Windows running on your Intel integrated graphics you have to install the latest Intel drivers.  


Vista Windows are created with a lot of attention, have dynamic reflections and some very relaxing animations. All of this looks rather nice and neat. User can even set everything up according to his own personal preferences, and change colour, level and intensity of windows transparency.



Taskbar live thumbnails. If you go over links with your mouse you get thumbnails at the bottom of your screen that display the content of the window.  



Windows Flip is an upgrade or facelift of the good old alt+tab feature. This time instead of generic icons you see live windows of all of your active windows.



Windows Flip 3D is another new Vista feature. It allowes you 3D dynamic view of all of the active windows that you currently have. User rotates or flip the windows until he finds desired window. Flip feature shows live processes too, such as video if you have one running.


Graphics Media Accelerator X3000 successfully endured real time 3D torture of Vista desktop, and later on we will show you the results that tell you how much of graphics memory Windows Aero actually occupies.  


Multimedia and fun are two things why most of the users use Windows, and since we still don’t have any DirectX 10 games we tried out Far Cry and Quake 4. We were a bit skeptical about the capabilities of Intel’s GMA X3000 integrated GPU, since previous generations of integrated graphics didn’t give much of good gaming results. But times are changing and integrated graphics is advancing. Seams like, in the near future, even the owners of laptops with integrated graphics will get to enjoy one of the games such as Quake 4. You can still forget about Oblivion though but Far Cry is significant step forward.


Values in the tables below are acquired trough FRAPS and we started with Far Cry.


Far Cry


Far Cry



Medium Settings



Low Settings







With low settings we got average of 25 frames per second. That is 8 FPS more than the same resolution with medium settings. With average 25FPS and minimum 19FPS at 1024x768 we could play the game. Maximum resolution for gaming is 1280x1024. Average result at that resolution was 21 FPS but due to the minimum of 14FPS the game was not exactly playable. We do not recommend playing the game on more then 1024x768.  


Quake 4


Quake 4


High Quality

6min / 22avg / 57max

Low Quality

13min / 28.1avg / 62 max

A default resolution in Quake 4 was 800x600 pixels. We noticed that High Quality settings were also default choice on X3000 which indicates that the game has respect toward the integrated GPU. We tried to play on that resolution with High Quality settings but without success. Frame rate was between 6 and 57 FPS, so due to the very low 6FPS game was not playable. After we turned off shadows, specular and bump map effects, and left special effects on, playability improved. Minimum FPS was 13 and usually much better. Little integrated X3000 had enough power to reach average 28.1 FPS which was enough to play the game. Any other resolution higher then 800x600 wouldn’t allow starting the game.  


After we played with it for awhile we got few new impressions about Vista. DirectX9 games will run under Vista a lot better then few months ago. Back then playing the games was nearly impossible, especially the ones programmed in OpenGL. However situation has changed, drivers are doing the job. Same like Nvidia, DAAMIT or Intel have also waited until the very last moment to issue the final graphics drivers for Vista. Version of driver we used was 15.1 dated from 2/4/2007. Don't be surprised if you cannot find drivers for certain components made by much smaller companies, as Vista driver is one complex thing.



How much memory for Aero

Let’s check what is going on behind the scenes. We peaked into graphics properties. Graphics media accelerator X3000 is integrated GPU and had 256MB of system memory do work with. Let’s call that graphics memory to make it easier. After restarting the system we noticed that Vista, for it’s 3D desktop, uses 90MB out of 256MB.


Four opened windows with pictures, five explorer windows and paint program took additional 45MB of graphics memory, making it total of 135MB of graphic memory in use.  



Total system memory usage during average work in Windows was 689MB. 



GMA X3000

Memory in use / After System Restart

Memory in use / Normal System use

Memory in use / Havy System use

System memory




Minimun Graphics memory




Maximum Graphics memory




Graphics memory in use




System memory in use




Free System memory in use






The table above shows three columns out of which every one of them shows different scenario of system use. In every case we used integrated GPU X3000 and 1GB of system memory. In this table though, pay attention only to last three rows since the first three rows show only static values, such as total system memory, maximum and minimum of graphics memory that GMA X3000 uses.  


First column shows memory usage after we started the computer, meaning no additional processes apart from Vista intern processes were on. In first few seconds we noticed peak of 800MB used but that stabilized soon on acceptable 422MB with maximum and minimum of graphics memory used. GPU "demanded" 90MB of memory for Vista Aero.


Second scenario presents how much memory is used when we act like normal user, browsing pictures, playing music and surfing the Net. We can notice that graphics memory is used more now, even up to 50% more. Every new opened windows is rendered in real time, meaning that increasing the number of windows opened GPU memory hunger grows. Usage of system memory also jumped to 689MB. Interesting  to mention is that if you minimize all windows apart from the one you are using, system memory usage goes down to 550MB which is 139MB less then above.


Third scenario should be simulation of heavily system use, so we added Far Cry to scenario two and noticed following: system used 900MB and graphics 180MB of memory.  



Intel motherboard DG965 is good piece of hardware. We continue to work on it preparing sequel to this story. 512MB system memory which is minimum that Microsoft recommends, so for the part two we have taken out one module. HDTV at 1080p is a challenge that was dealt with easily on Intel’s Micro ATX mother board even with 512MB system memory. More about this in part two.

As from what we can see in the results, unless you have 1GB system memory and graphics card that has 256MB video memory or more, your system will not be free and will not have enough resources that it needs in any given moment. System will work with 512MB but will encounter problems as we already showed here.

Part two with HD video and 512MB follows

Last modified on 05 March 2007
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