It’s no denying that Windows 11 looks gorgeous. From the infamous rounded corners to the frosted-acrylic backgrounds, the whole OS reverberates with modernity. However, one must ponder that such beauty has to come at an extra cost of performance. After all, you’re adding richer animations and visuals into the blend, so it has to be more demanding, right? Microsoft says no.
What is Mica and why it matters
To understand Microsoft’s exact statement, we first need to look at Mica. Along with Fluent Design, Mica is what makes Windows 11 look so elegant and sleek. While Fluent is mainly the foreground and represents everything that first jumps out to the user—the flat icons, rounded corners, soft edges and revamped UI,—Mica is the background. When you see a Windows 11 app have that frosted acrylic look that makes parts of the window translucent, that’s Mica. And Mica is actually the heavy lifter of Windows 11’s overall look.
Mica is a dynamic material design in Windows 11 that gives the windows you see “visual hierarchy’. It blurs parts of the windows and allows the background, whatever that may be, to shine through in a very muted manner. The result is an upgrade over the acrylic backgrounds found in Windows 10 to, now, a more frosted looking window with a subtler transparency effect. Mica helps give a sense of hierarchy to whatever you’re seeing on screen, so that it becomes clear to understand what’s on top and what’s on bottom. Mica will be the most prominent design language present in Windows 11 and it works in both Light and Dark theme. You can see Mica in action below.
Microsoft’s Head Of Development Platform, Kevin Gallo stated in a recent Q&A that Mica in Windows 11 doesn’t blur the background each time the window calls for it. Instead, the blurred frame is saved only once and is then re-used every time the desktop background is needed to be passed through a blurry focus.
Performance is indeed our top priority. We want to make sure that all these interesting new features [Mica] are super fast and will not affect the operating system. For example, compared with acrylic special effects, mica is a specially designed for higher performance. For rounded corners, we optimized our rendering performance, so you should not notice any difference compared to square corners.
Microsoft is confident that Windows 11, while much more aesthetically advanced than Windows 10, will still be on-par with their previous OS in terms of performance and overall fluidity. From what we’ve seen, it does look like Microsoft is trying its best to strike the perfect balance between cosmetics and smoothness. After all, the minimum hardware requirements for Windows 11 are outrageously high, so it won’t really matter if the OS uses up extra power to fuel those visuals. Thankfully, though, it doesn’t.
It will be interesting to see if Microsoft stays true to its words as the ISO file for Windows 11 is likely to make its way on to the internet one way or another. If Windows 11 can offer visuals at no performance cost on even unofficial hardware, then we can truly say it’s a victory for Microsoft and its team of engineers.
The Insider Preview Builds for Windows 11 are already underway and you can see a lot of Mica’s influence on the OS along with how Fluent UI interacts with Mica to create a truly stunning visual experience. Microsoft is slowly replacing old Win32 and Microsoft’s Metro design elements one by one in its upcoming OS and by the time of release, we expect each and every corner of Windows 11 to be pained with Fluent and Mica. And the best part is, you won’t need to worry about any performance loss.