Review: Vista Ultimate Extras update

If you’re one of those high-end PC users who sprung for Windows Vista Ultimate hoping that the promised Ultimate Extras would someday amount to something, you might have to keep waiting after today. Microsoft released a precious few updates for the Ultimate Extras package via Windows Update today, including new sound schemes, updated language packs, and three new DreamScene animated desktops. These make Vista Ultimate users’ wallpaper turn into distracting nature video loops, playing like screensavers on your desktop behind your icons and windows. Click Continue below for an in-depth look at what you get.



The two sound schemes consist of Ultimate Extras Pearl and Ultimate Extras Glass, both sets of noises we could do without while trying to get some work done, but pleasant and well-done nonetheless. “Glass” turns Windows system sounds into effects that resemble that singing sound you make when you run a wetted finger around the rim of a crystal glass. The various plinks, plunks, and glassy whines are actually ethereal and beautiful, if you’re looking for that kind of stuff to waft from your PC. The “Pearl” sounds have an elegant feel to them, more muted with less reverberation and edge, with strings lulling you to sleep when you exit Windows.

DreamScene Content Pack #3 takes the total number of video loops distributed by Microsoft to 12. Of these three new 1280x720 (hey, that’s 720p HD!) animations, the best is a dripping leaf, a really sharp-looking video file with its background nicely racked out of focus. Then there’s a dripping icicle that's equally clear but by the time we saw that one, we felt like heading for the nearest bathroom. The third is a few months late, diffuse autumn leaves shimmering in the sun. It’s a soothing shot, but makes it hard to see any icons you have on your desktop.

DreamScenes use up a token amount of resources on our test system here, with CPU usage idling at 1-2% without an animation running, and 3-5% with it on. There are third-party animations available, too, called Stardock DeskScapes, and many of those are even more exquisite than these from Microsoft. You can even shoot your own videos, preferably in HD, to use as looping animations, too. These DreamScenes are excellent. Too bad you must own Windows Vista Ultimate to run them.

There were also unspecified updates to the Language Packs, letting you switch languages with different user accounts. This brings the total number of languages supported to 35. Overall, maybe there are more Vista Ultimate Extra coolnesses on the way, but so far, these noises and animations, along with the previously-released Texas Hold ‘Em and BitLocker encryption accessories, aren’t exactly a bargain given Vista Ultimate's premium price. But then, if you already own Ultimate, free is good.



Ultimate PC (Microsoft)