What does $5 get you in this day and age? A sandwich? A beer during happy hour if you’re really lucky?
Well, I spent $3.99 / £3.49 on a Steam app a couple of years ago, and it’s hands down the best money I’ve ever spent on my PC gaming hobby.
Wallpaper Engine isn’t just a sensationally good value; it’s just plain sensational. This brilliant app offers access to a sprawling collection of user-made animated wallpapers, and its gallery of handcrafted creations is both vast and tremendously curated.
The craft that clearly goes into the average Wallpaper Engine background is seriously impressive. Sure, you get the odd phoned-in effort or overtly creepy anime creation. In general, though, this app provides countless entrancing animated wallpapers that make it a pleasure to keep revisiting your desktop.
Whether you’re working with a single display or a dual-monitor setup, Wallpaper Engine is great at letting you tinker with its internal settings to your specific needs.
Not only can you browse for wallpapers based on specific resolutions and aspect ratios, you can also tweak anti-aliasing levels to make the app less taxing on your GPU.
As someone who owns a very specific display setup, I massively appreciate the level of customization Wallpaper Engine gives me. Currently, I work and play games across an Alienware AW3423DWF QD-OLED (resolution 3,440 x 1,440) and a 48-inch LG C2 OLED TV (resolution 3,840 x 2,160). That’s a lot of pixels to deal with, yet Wallpaper Engine lets me set dynamic backgrounds for both my screens with utter precision.
Fancy an animated wallpaper of a moonlit cityscape? This Steam app has you covered. Maybe you’re a big fan of Marvel movies and want an ultrawide background of Iron Man and Captain America scrapping it out. Again, covered. Or perhaps you’ll opt for seasonal vibes and install a couple of Christmas-themed wallpapers, like I did during the festive season last year.
Another big (although pretty niche) plus with Wallpaper Engine is that it lets you reduce the chance of OLED burn-in. As someone who games across two OLED displays, this is a great feature.
When I’m playing the best Steam games, one of my monitors is inevitably idle. Enabling a dynamic wallpaper that constantly moves your screen’s pixels is a stress-reducing lifesaver.
Right now, I’m using the same animated ‘Fortune (Nebula)’ wallpaper across both my displays — good work, creator Tim Barton! And its gently shifting cosmic clouds ensure my monitors have far less static on-screen elements in-play — thus reducing my chances of being struck by OLED burn-in.
At the time of writing, my Steam tracking data says I’ve used Wallpaper Engine for 122.2 hours, which honestly seems on the low side. I’m guessing Steam only tracks usage when my desktop background is visible, and not when I’m working with fullscreen Google Chrome browsers.
Either way, 120 hours of enjoyment for $4 /£3.50 is one hell of an investment.
If you only buy one Steam app this year, make sure it’s this superbly created gallery of animated backgrounds. Wallpaper Engine hasn’t just helped protect my OLED displays; it’s cheered me up more times than I can count every time I bring up my desktop.
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Dave is a computing editor at Tom’s Guide and covers everything from cutting edge laptops to ultrawide monitors. When he’s not worrying about dead pixels, Dave enjoys regularly rebuilding his PC for absolutely no reason at all. In a previous life, he worked as a video game journalist for 15 years, with bylines across GamesRadar+, PC Gamer and TechRadar. Despite owning a graphics card that costs roughly the same as your average used car, he still enjoys gaming on the go and is regularly glued to his Switch. Away from tech, most of Dave’s time is taken up by walking his husky, buying new TVs at an embarrassing rate and obsessing over his beloved Arsenal.