Microsoft Relevant Products/Services says it has tweaked its Windows Experience Index (WEI) for Windows 7 to take into account new PC hardware Relevant Products/Services configurations. Introduced with Windows Vista, Microsoft’s PC rating system is compiled by measuring the relative capabilities and configuration of each machine’s components.
The goal of WEI is to help consumers buy hardware, programs and software matched to their computer’s score. The WEI does not measure the interactions of components under a software load, but rather characteristics of the hardware, noted Microsoft Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky.
“As such it does not — nor cannot — measure how a system will perform under your own usage scenarios,” Sinofsky said. “Thus the WEI does not measure performance of a system, but merely the relative hardware capabilities when running Windows 7.”
For Vista and Windows 7, the five areas scored include processor, memory, general desktop graphics, gaming graphics, and primary hard disk.
“The overall Windows Experience Index is defined to be the lowest of the five top-level WEI subscores, where each subscore is computed using a set of rules and a suite of system assessment tests,” said Michael Fortin, an engineer in Microsoft’s Windows Core Operating Systems Division.
PC buyers will be able to follow some general guidelines to understand the experiences that a PC with a given score range can be expected to deliver. “These Vista-era general guidelines for systems in the 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 ranges still apply to Windows 7,” Fortin said.
Though the scoring areas for Windows 7 are the same as Vista, the actual rules for scoring devices have changed “to reflect experience and feedback comparing closely rated devices with differing quality,” Fortin explained. This makes the WEI more indicative of actual use, he said.
Moreover, scoring levels 6.0 and 7.0 have been added to Windows 7 — with 7.9 the maximum possible score. The two new levels were designed to capture the rather substantial improvements seen in key technologies as they enter the mainstream, including solid-state disks, multi-core processors, and higher-end graphics adapters, Fortin said. The amount of memory in a system is also a factor.
“Of course, adding new levels doesn’t explain why a Vista system or component that used to score 4.0 or higher is now obtaining a score of 2.9,” Fortin said. “In most cases, large score drops will be due to the addition of some new disk tests in Windows 7.”
For gaming users, Microsoft expects systems with gaming graphics scores in the 6.0 to 6.9 range to support DX10 graphics and deliver video at frame rates of 40 to 50 fps and a resolution of 1280×1024 pixels, Fortin said. “In the range of 7.0 to 7.9, we would expect higher frame rates at even higher screen resolutions,” he added.
Microsoft’s new WEI scores also are intended to help game developers decide how best to scale their experience on a given system.
“Graphics is an area where there is both the widest variety of scores readily available in hardware and also the widest breadth of expectations,” Fortin said. “The extremes at which CAD, HD video, photography and gamers push graphics compared to the average business user or a consumer — doing many of these same things as an avocation rather than vocation — is significant.”