Microsoft Virtual Earth 3D Beta Needs a Lot of Horsepower

by Todd Ogasawara

If you head over to Microsoft's Live Search Maps site, you'll find an option to download and install their new Virtual Earth 3D Beta. I happened to see it demoed on the evening news and decided to try it out.

The 2D satellite images are spectacular: Clear and comprehensive. Microsoft Live's maps showed clear photos in areas where Google Maps a we don't have any imagery at this zoom level for this region.

It looks like the 3D mapping feature may be a disappointment for those of us with less than high-end gaming machines (in my case, much less). I used a PC with an AMD Athlon 3200+ CPU, 1GB RAM, and an nVidia GeForce 5200 graphics card with 256MB of dedicated graphics RAM. Admitedly, this is pretty low-end in a world of dual and quad processor PCs and Macs. But, still, I had hoped the nVidia card would help with the processing requirements. If you take a look at the embedded video, you'll see that I had a less than thrilling 3D experience.

I'm saving my nickels and dimes to buy a Core 2 Duo notebook (I'm waiting for notebooks with the Vista Sidenote LCD screen) in 2007. Hopefully, I can get one with a dedicated graphics card and enough horsepower to take a second look at Virtual Earth 3D again at that time.


2006-11-15 13:47:31 least it works i mean hello its a BETA so youll probably get problems...but i cant download the file Virtual Earth 3D (Beta)....can you give me the link plz

thor erik
2006-11-21 15:53:09
Hey, it doesn't use that much.
i run Vista (RTM build 600(the one you get in stores 30th january or something)) and i load it just fine, on a laptop, with full quality.
Free Image Hosting at

the laptop is a HP Pavilion DV 8000 with these specs:
CPU: Amd Turion 64
Ram: 1 gig
GFX: ATI Radeon Xpress 200M
OS: Windows Vista build 6000(final product)
so using alot of resources isn't really the right to say :p

to get it go to
on the sidebar.

Todd Ogasawara
2006-11-22 00:00:21
Anonymous: 1. The link is already in the article. 2. Beta <> Beta anymore. In the old days (couple of years ago), a beta meant a near-stable pre-release that required testing by knowledgeable testers. Today, that is not the case.
Todd Ogasawara
2006-11-22 00:03:52
Thor Erik: Build 6000 will actually be available on Nov. 30 to volume customers (enterprises). And your PC sounds like it has quite a bit more horsepower than mine (more modern :-) in terms of CPU and graphics (isn't your ATI tuned for the AMD Turion?). But, granted, on a return visit, Virtual Earth finally did render. But, it is much slower than Google Earth. On the other hand, its 2D aerial maps seem a lot more complete than Google Maps/Earth.
thor erik
2006-11-22 14:24:24
i do not think it's tuned for the cpu :/ i baught my laptop like 1 year ago :p
thor erik
2006-11-22 15:18:53
what can you really expect? it runs through your browser.
i would expect crappy graphics and a slow load, but it loads relativity fast.
also it's beta.

and about my system, that's wierd, i borrowed a DVD(from my dad's work) where it was printed on Vista Ultimate, i installed it and on my desktop is say build 6000...

Todd Ogasawara
2006-11-23 01:10:05
thor erik: Although it runs inside the browser, you may have noted that it required an ActiveX download before you could use the 3D features. There is a client piece (Microsoft.MapPoint.MapControl3D.MapControl) is what provides at least some of the UI.

What do I expect from a beta? From a true beta, I temper my expectations. However, if you choose to expose a product without access constraints, I don't consider that a true beta.

That said, trying again on a later date gave a slight better user experience (I could see more rendering) and updating my nVidia driver helped a bit more. But, it still seems awfully slow.

Re: Vista Build 6000 (production). MSDN subscribers were given access to this build a week or so ago as was technical beta testers (like myself) who provided bug reports during testing.

pain in the bootman
2007-02-23 07:50:46
How do i remove virtual Earth 3D? IE options "Manage Add-On" does not allow me to delete.
Todd Ogasawara
2007-02-23 08:05:33
It's an ActiveX control. From IE7: Tools->Manage Add-on->Enable or disable Add-ons->Add-ons that run withtout requiring permissions->Microsoft.MapPoint.MapControl3D.MapControl->Disable. Interestingly, the delete button is always grayed out. It doesn't allow a deletion. For info on other IE versions, refer to: Microsoft Support: How to Remove an ActiveX Control in Windows. Search engines are good for these kinds of questions, btw.
2008-06-19 07:59:19
Instead of saving your nickels for a laptop, why not spend the same amount on a decent desktop instead? components are cheap if you choose wisely and steer clear of most off-the-shelf setups (no matter how tempting they may seem). I managed to build a decent 2.5GHz dual-core system with 4Gb Ram, a 500Gb Samsung drive (which are among the fastest out there), and nVidia 8800GT (best price/performance video card you can buy) and a high-end NZXT Zero case as well. You could probably save by re-using your existing keyboard/mouse/DVD drive, too :) That way your future upgrade options are better, and you'll have a remarkably powerful machine.
I built all the above for £600 which wont get you a great deal in laptop terms. If you've still got the old desktop, try just getting and extra 2Gb of Ram, you can get a kit for £60 and it makes all the difference (I did that on a system I had that is identical to yours!).