Review: Monitor your CPU and more with Big Meter Pro

View your system's processes with this old-school, analog-style CPU meter.

Big Meter Pro shows what your CPU is doing. Or your RAM. Or Disk. Or Processes. This useful gadget can display them all in a customizable analog-style pointer gauge that's big enough to see from across the room yet not so large that it dominates your desktop. It's compact in data size, too, and uses very few system resources, so it doesn't influence the very processes it's monitoring. Big Meter Pro is freeware for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows XP to 8.

Big Meter Pro launched as soon as its installer closed, and the program immediately began displaying our system's CPU usage in both the highly graphic pointer and, for good measure, a percentage inside a blue circle with a semicircular pointer gauge that resembles an older car's gas gauge or battery meter. We could drag Big Meter Pro around the desktop, but right-clicking it opened the program's main menu, giving us access to many more settings and options than just where we wanted to deposit the meter, starting with a link to the developer, Microsys (though some users will want to start with the IE-based Help Page). Clicking Settings opened a small dialog with options like sound alert and run at startup. The options most users will need most of the time are available right on the menu, including Dial Form, Dial Opacity, Hand Shape, and Stay on Top, as well as check boxes for CPU Usage (the default setting) Memory Usage, Disk Usage, and Process Usage. We could also click a submenu labeled "Information" to open separate dialogs with more detailed data for CPU, Memory, and Disk. The Dial Form control toggles between 2D and 3D displays, and we could change the meter's opacity in 10 percent increments and choose Classic or Modern pointers. We could open as many meters as we needed simultaneously and manage each from separate tray icons.

Big Meter Pro's biggest advantage is visibility. For a cool, retro-style desktop process monitor, Big Meter Pro fits the bill nicely. It looks good, but with the wealth of information it shows you, you'll find that it's more than a pretty face.

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