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The WEI analysis tool shipped with Vista

Don't expect to run Flip 3D without a WEI of 3.0 on your graphics subsystem
Microsoft's new Windows Experience Index hopes to simplify your software purchases

Microsoft is two days away from launching its long-awaited Windows Vista operating system. Windows Vista introduces a plethora of new features and enhancements that allows for greater security, a sleek new user interface and ease of use.

As with all new operating systems, however, new hardware may be required to take advantage of all the new features. Microsoft has devised a new rating system that will hopefully simplify future hardware and software purchases as well as give users a basic idea of the capabilities of a PC – say hello to the Windows Experience Index.

The new Windows Experience Index evaluates a systems performance right before the user sees the Windows desktop after a clean installation. It evaluates five subsystems and rates the system on a higher-is-better scale starting with 1.0. Processor, memory, graphics, gaming graphics and hard disk performance are the subsystems rated by the Windows Experience Index. 

After evaluating the different subsystems, the system determines a base score of the system that is simply the score of the lowest performance subsystem and not an averaged overall score. The base score of the system determines the computing capabilities of a system. Microsoft offers a general description of system capabilities according to the base score in the Windows Vista What is the Windows Experience Index help file.

According to the Microsoft help file, a system with a base score of 1.0-2.0 is sufficient for basic productivity such as browsing the web and running office applications but lacks the horsepower to run Windows Aero or advanced multimedia functionalities such as Windows Media Center. Moving up to a score of 3.0 is a system that has enough power to run Windows Aero at a resolution of 1280x1024 and a few multimedia features such as standard definition video playback.

A score of 4.0-5.0 has the power necessary to take advantage of all Windows Vista functionality including Windows Media Center and audio/video streaming capabilities. The 4.0-5.0 rated system should also be capable of high definition video recording and playback, though recording will need a TV tuner. This also means the system will be able to play games sufficiently too. The help file also claims 5.0 is the highest base score of “the highest performing computers available when Windows Vista was released.” DailyTech's test system was able to produce subscores of 5.9 with relatively modest enthusiast hardware.

In addition to the base scores, Microsoft allows users to view the individual subsystem scores too. Microsoft claims “If your base score is not sufficient for a program or Windows Vista experience, you can use the subscores to help you figure out which components you need to upgrade.” This should theoretically help end users decide which component to upgrade when their system lacks the power to run new applications.

Microsoft’s Windows Experience Index help file also outlines the recommended subsystem scores for office productivity, gaming and graphic-intensive applications and the Media Center experience. For office productivity tasks, Microsoft recommends higher-the-better scores in CPU and memory categories while scores of at least 2.0 in the other categories should be sufficient.

Gamers will want to pay closer attention to scores in the memory, desktop graphics and 3D-gaming graphics categories while subsystem scores of at least 3.0 in the other categories will offer a decent gaming experience.

Multi-media buffs that want to take advantage of Windows Media Center integrated in Windows Vista Ultimate and Home Premium editions will want high subsystem scores in CPU, hard disk and desktop graphics categories. Subsystem scores in the memory and 3D graphics categories are not too important, though Microsoft recommends a score of 3.0 or higher in those categories.

Software companies should easily be able to specify recommended base or subsystem scores for optimal performance in addition to the typical recommended system requirements. This should allow the general consumer to purchase software that fits the potential of their PC instead of having to spend countless hours with tech support questioning why the software does not work.

The Windows Experience Index will be particularly helpful with Microsoft’s Game for Windows initiative, though DailyTech’s Game for Windows branded copy of Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy makes no mention of the Windows Experience Index.


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Windows Experience Index = Good (hopefully anyway)
By jtesoro on 1/28/2007 7:24:14 AM , Rating: 4
I know someone who bought a copy of Oblivion but couldn't play it because his PC wasn't fast enough. It's a sad state as I'm sure there's lots more people in a similar situation as he is, and it doesn't help grow PC gaming at all. I'm a PC gamer and see this as one area where consoles are better, but I hope this Windows Experience Index seriously makes a dent in reducing the complexity of PC gaming.




By Grated on 1/28/2007 7:41:26 AM , Rating: 2
You can't make state of the art games without increasing the system requirements...

I know a few people to who have problems running new games due to older hardware or integrated gfx. It's sad, but education about computers could help a lot!

I know someone who bought a pc simply because it's cheap and he expected to at least play the latest games, but that just isn't the case with the integrated intel gfx. If the sellers would have educated him a little bit before buying, he would have been a lot happier with his purchase (and possible the seller to since he would have bought a more expensive machine).


By jtesoro on 1/28/2007 10:07:58 AM , Rating: 2
It's not that I don't want new games to push the envelope and require increased system requirements. I'm fine with that. It's just that all the complexity leads to a lot of disappointed potential PC gamers because they didn't know that this game needed this kind of hardware and the spanking new hardware they bought last week couldn't play the games they want. While educating buyers will certainly help, the situation is still way too complicated. The buyer could get confused and just as easily have said "forget it" instead of buying more powerful hardware. If the Windows Experience Index minimizes the amount of disappointed gamers, then MS deserves a good pat on the back.


By Ringold on 1/28/2007 1:53:51 PM , Rating: 3
I see nothing but good in it, too.

At home, run their little benchmark.

Go to the store to get a game, take a look at the index score it has on the box. Let's say it's a year from now, cutting edge game, and it says 7. At home, one's GPU scored a 7.5. One can therefore buy with confidence.

On the other hand, if one scored 6 or 6.5, etc, then one would know to pass the game up or, at the very least, one would know not to be disappointed by marginal frame rates at common resolutions.


By otispunkmeyer on 1/29/2007 5:05:11 AM , Rating: 2
yeah it is good

although i think it needs fine tuning

i see someone above posted a score of 5.1 with a radeon X1600XT. now thats a nice little mid range card but its far from being able to play todays latest and greatest games with good settings and good performance.

the X1600 is abit of a wet lettuce and even the replacement X1650 isnt all that either. the 7600 is a much better choice but even that will struggle in oblivion unless you turn stuff down

citing a 5.1 score for graphics there is abit over exuberant... especially when a 8800GTS scores 5.9 and there is no competition when comparing a x1600 with an 8800GTS in the real world. here tho it makes it look like the 1600XT is only a little bit worse than the 8800 when in reality it will be a night and day difference


By livelouddiefast on 1/28/2007 1:56:45 PM , Rating: 2
I sell computers at office depot. People drop an extra $400 because they see a 3800 compared to a 4600, like the .6 ghz clock will make a difference to them, or they come sprinting in when they see the acclaimed p4 is on sale (Not to stab intel, i think we can agree that benchmark wise, amd64>p4 just like c2d>x2).

Long story short, consumers are stupid and cheap. Good sales people try to make them a bit smarter, but you can only tell a person they'll need to go buy a graphics card in order to play the latest games at high resolution. You can still play the games with IGPs, but with everything on low at 800x600.

you could also make state of the art games without increasing requirements, that's a process called efficiency, but it seems to have up and left the graphics and gaming industry.

as far as the seller goes, if it's at a major retailer i don't believe it's on commission anymore save extended warranties. I have no motivation to sell high price items, i'd much rather sell you monitor/printer/surge protector/ink/printer cable/paper as those will add up towards getting me a bonus.


By InsaneScientist on 1/28/2007 9:16:33 PM , Rating: 3
Unfortunately, I don't think that it's going to help much...

Maybe a little bit initially, but not much in the long run.

Why? I'm pretty sure that Microsoft (for some reason) has capped the scores at 5.9.
My GeForce 7800GS gets 5.9 on the GFX benchmarks and so does someone above who has a GeForce 8800 GTS.
7800GS vs. 8800GTS... uhhhhh you'd think that there should be a little bit of a difference there. :S


By RjBass on 1/28/2007 9:46:19 PM , Rating: 2
I think a little common sense is in order here.

When purchasing a new PC, you should also get the basic specs for it, IE graphics card, cpu, memory etc...

In turn when you purchase a new game, it usually says right on the box the minimum and preferred system requirements to run the game.

Now being a system builder, and a PC gamer, I know that many people are not educated enough to know that just because they purchased a bran new machine doesn't mean it will work with all the latest software.

When I build new machines for customers, I like to know exactly what they plan on using the system for. I then try to give them a basic education on system specs and then we work together to build them a machine that will best suite their needs.


By otispunkmeyer on 1/29/2007 5:19:07 AM , Rating: 2
this is exactly how i operate.

i dont build PC's per se, unless its for myself, but i am more than willing to suggest configurations to friends and family and even strangers on forums.

all i need to know is price... the amount they are willing to spend and how much they can budge over that if IMO i think it will be worth it in the long run

and

what they are going to do with the machine, what they expect from it.

they are two very simple questions and usually they dont even take long to get answered, but some sales people wont even bother. though i know its a bit harder when you have to suggest pre-built machines rahter than having a big pool of components.


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