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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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System Specs
By ForumMaster on 1/28/2007 7:55:42 AM , Rating: 2
i don't suppose you could tell us what specs that machine is? it would be nice to have some sort of indication what "modest enthusiast" hardware is.

does anybody know what values it looks at? say i have an AMD Athlon XP 2500+ that runs at 2.2Ghz. will it get a lowers score then a 3Ghz Pentium 4 that would run slower in real life?

RE: System Specs
By nibennett on 1/28/2007 8:34:17 AM , Rating: 2
My system a Core 2 Duo E6600 (stock speed), 2GB DDR2 667 CL4, 8800 GTS, 2x 320GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 Perpendicular hard drives.
Gets a rating of 5.3

CPU = 5.3
RAM = 5.5
HDD = 5.8
Graphics = 5.9

RE: System Specs
By MrDiSante on 1/28/2007 4:52:54 PM , Rating: 2
Funny thing... the minimum requirements listed on the site are waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too high. My system's an e6600 (stock speed as well) - 5.4, 2GB DDR2-667 (4-4-4-10) - 5.8, 1X320GB Seagate Brracuda 7200.10 hard drive - 5.7 (eery how similar our systems are...) and here's the kicker: x300 - 2.1 (placeholder until the R600's come out). Anyhow, runs aero just fine, haven't had ANY problems with anything graphics-related.
In fact haven't had any problems aside from software compatibility. Point being, I don't know about the other components, but you really don't need a graphics card that has a rating of higher than (I'm guessing) 1.5 to run Vista with Aero on and and have no problems.

RE: System Specs
By killerroach on 1/28/2007 9:16:54 AM , Rating: 3
For a slightly more modest config (and not one that's seemingly showing off), I run an Athlon 64 3000+ (socket 939), 1GB PC2700 DDR (dual-channeled), a Seagate 320GB SATA2 hard drive, and a GeForce 6600 256MB (slightly overclocked), and this scores a 4.0.

CPU: 4.0
RAM: 4.2
Graphics: 4.1
HDD: 5.7

An AXP running at those clocks, provided it has a gig or so of RAM, should have no problems running Vista, even with Aero.

RE: System Specs
By cochy on 1/28/2007 10:51:00 AM , Rating: 2
An Athlon XP 2500+ is faster than a P4 3ghz? I just upgraded from my XP 2000+ a 5 year old system.

RE: System Specs
By InsaneScientist on 1/28/2007 9:11:06 PM , Rating: 1
An Athlon XP 2500+ ? No way.

An Athlon XP 2500+ overclocked to 2.2GHz (stock speed of the 3200+), however, would run about on par with a 3.0GHz P4. Slightly faster in most things... save encoding (obviously)

RE: System Specs
By Anonymous Freak on 1/29/2007 9:17:07 PM , Rating: 2
For comparison, in artificial benchmarking, and some real-life benchmarking, my overclocked 4.0 GHz Pentium Extreme Edition (NetBurst/P4-core, dual-core, 1066 MHz front side bus, 2x2 MB L2 cache,) is slower than my 2.0 GHz Core Duo (Pentium M-core, dual-core, 667 MHz front side bus, 2 MB shared L2 cache.)

The old Pentium 4 cores are crappy. My Celeron-D (Pentium M core,) 1.4 GHz notebook runs rings around my Pentium 4 3.2 GHz desktop. They have the same amount and speed of memory, the notebook has a crappy 4200 RPM hard drive compared to the desktop's 5400 RPM (both 40 GB,) the desktop has Intel 945G graphics compared to the laptop's worse 915G graphics. Yet the laptop 'feels' faster in just about every way; and outscores the desktop in most artificial and real-world benchmarks. (Other than 3d gaming, since the 945 is better than the 915. And the desktop will support Aero while the laptop won't.)

RE: System Specs
By PJMODOS on 1/28/2007 11:20:10 AM , Rating: 3
Open command prompt and run "winsat formal", it will show you actual data on which is your expirience index based.

RE: System Specs
By Tuanies on 1/28/2007 11:41:44 AM , Rating: 3
The system used has the following hardware:

Core 2 Duo E6300
4GB of DDR2-667
AMD ATI Radeon X1950XTX
Seagate 7200.8 300GB primary drive

RE: System Specs
By fk49 on 1/28/2007 12:34:42 PM , Rating: 1
While we're on it, I have an AM2 Athlon 3200 (OC to 2.65ghz), x1600xt, Seagate 80gb, and 1gb DDR2 667 ram.

CPU 4.0
HDD 4.1
RAM 5.2
Graphics 5.9
Gaming graphics 5.1

RE: System Specs
By AaronAxvig on 1/28/2007 4:46:34 PM , Rating: 2
For an AMD X2 3800, 1GB PC3200 Dual Channel, X600 256MB AIW, 250GB 7200rpm drive:

Overall: 3.7
Processor: 4.8
Memory: 4.5
Graphics: 4.3
Gaming graphics: 3.7
HDD: 5.5

RE: System Specs
By Flunk on 1/28/2007 4:50:27 PM , Rating: 2
I have an Athlon XP 2500+ (clocked at 2.1ghz), 1GB of DDR RAM (clocked at 400mhz) and a Radeon x850 XT. My scores are:

Processor: 3.5
Memory: 4.4
Graphics: 5.9
Gaming graphics: 4.9
Primary hard disk: 5.9

your processor score will probably be somewhere around a 3 and as long as you have Direct X graphics card you should have no issue with Vista.

RE: System Specs
By mikecel79 on 1/28/2007 9:43:02 PM , Rating: 2
I've got a bit of an older system. P4C 2.6Ghz, 1.5GB PC3200, ATI AIW 9600Pro, WD 120GB HD (pretty old).Waiting until later this year to upgrade it.

Processor = 4.0
Memory = 4.5
Graphics = 4.5
Gaming Graphics = 3.8
Primary hard disk = 5.1
Overall score = 3.8

RE: System Specs
By RjBass on 1/28/2007 9:58:12 PM , Rating: 2
Heres more system specs for you all.

WEI = 4.2

CPU - Amd Athlon 64 3300+ 2.4ghz Socket 754 = 4.2

Memory - Corsiar Value Select, 1gig PC3200 = 4.3

Graphics Card - ATI X800XL 256meg =
Desktop - 5.9
Gaming - 4.9

HDD - WD2500 SATA = 5.3

RE: System Specs
By danz32 on 1/29/2007 12:38:41 AM , Rating: 2
Processor Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 CPU 3.00GHz 4.2
Memory (RAM) 1.00 GB 4.5
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 6800 5.9
Gaming graphics 383 MB Total available graphics memory 4.7
Primary hard disk 78GB Free (186GB Total) 5.4

I really wish you could use these numbers to say automatically set graphics settings in games to optimize your performance, right now it doesnt take much to get a high score though

RE: System Specs
By Aikouka on 1/29/2007 8:49:19 AM , Rating: 2
Some of these numbers are from memory, but I have a pretty good idea overall of what they were.

Overall: 5.3
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (Stock) - 5.3
Memory: OCZ DDR2 800 Platinum - 5.5
HDD: Western Digital 150GB Raptor - 5.9
Normal Video: GeForce 8800GTX - 5.9
Gaming Video: GeForce 8800GTX - 5.9

Even without drivers for my 8800GTX, my computer ran Aero just fine. Of course it sure ran them better with it :).

RE: System Specs
By sleeprae on 1/29/2007 7:23:53 PM , Rating: 2
Processor: Athlon 64 X2 4400+ at 2.45GHz - 5.0
Memory: 4.0GB PC3200 at 223MHz 2T - 5.8 (it was 5.9 at 2.0GB 223MHz 1T)
Graphics: PCIe GF6600GT 128M: 5.1
Gaming Graphics: 4.6
Primary Disk: WD Raptor 1500ADFD - 5.9

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton
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