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Windows Vista: A Unique Gaming Experience?

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Has PC gaming gone the way of the dinosaurs thanks to the latest gaming consoles? Sandro Villinger focuses on Windows Vista gaming features such as DirectX 10, the Game Explorer, WinSAT performance tests, and upcoming releases to see if Windows still has some tricks up its sleeve to keep gamers interested.
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Console games are gaining more market share each day. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the industry sold 190.5 million video game units in 2005, while only 38.0 million computer game units have been sold. Does it seem as if the computer gaming ship is going down in flames while console gaming systems like the Wii burn up the planet? Not quite yet! Microsoft realized that a majority of PC owners tend to use their expensive computer setups for gaming. And we’re not talking about Solitaire or Minesweeper here—we’re speaking of titles such as World of WarCraft or the first-person shooter F.E.A.R. Windows Vista includes new features and promises that will appeal specifically to the gaming world. In this Shortcut, we’ll focus on Vista gaming features such as DirectX 10, the Game Explorer, WinSAT performance tests, and upcoming releases.

WinSAT: Is Your Computer Ready for Gaming Under Vista?

When considering a next-generation gaming experience, you should check whether your Vista computer is capable of running such games properly. One of the easiest ways to determine such capability is with Vista’s built-in Windows System Assessment Tool (WinSAT). WinSAT analyzes the performance of your CPU, RAM modules, graphic cards, and hard disk. Based on your WinSAT score, Vista will adjust itself, and eventually future applications will be able to adjust their settings based on your rating. The idea is that gamers won’t have to fiddle forever with finding the right resolution or detail level in order to achieve the best compromise between image quality and performance for their machines.

If everything goes as planned, eventually we might see games that are capable of adjusting themselves based on WinSAT score. (Of course, you’re always free to override these settings, but you won’t get the best experience your PC may offer.)

The WinSAT score is always determined by the "weakest" component. For example, suppose you own a high-end graphics card with a 5.7 score, a "slow" dual-core CPU with a 4.2 score, and 2GB of fast RAM with a 5.2 score, and you also installed a 7,200 RPM hard drive with only a 4.7 score. Your computer will have a 4.2 score total (see Figure 1).

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Figure 1 The Vista score is determined by the weakest component in your system.

In general, computers that score lower than 4 definitely won’t be able to perform as a gaming machine for the future. Computers that score in the 1–3 range will only be capable of running older games that were developed prior to 2005. Newer DirectX 9 or upcoming DX10 releases will (at best) run with a low resolution and effects/details at an absolute minimum—and in some cases they won’t run at all. If you’re a hardcore gamer and want to take full advantage of all the new DX10-enriched games, you might need a computer with a score of at least a 5.5.

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