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The 7.9 WEI PC

Pete Brown - 23 June 2010

Ok, so hitting a 7.9 WEI (Windows Experience Index) is a bit of an arbitrary rating. It's like the summer between my junior and senior year in high school when I (Mom, you're not reading this are you?) took my Mom's new '89 Hyundai Excel down Dresser Hill in MA and maxed out the speedometer just to see if we could do it. Trust me, it was a scary ride, and I couldn't make the turn at the bottom of the hill, but we were invincible (read: stupid) teenagers :)

I hit the max on it just to see if I could. It's the same here. While I'll be happy with a 7.anything, I want to hit that 7.9 just to see if normal humans with reasonable budgets can do so.

Anyway, the point is to get the maximum possible performance from a developer-class machine. I game a bit, but that's not the primary focus here. It's about development and content creation, specifically working with Visual Studio 2010, Expression and more. Here's what I use my PC for:

  • Communications. Email, twitter, Skype and Office Communicator are always open and running in the background. The only time they get shut down is if I need every ounce of concentration, or if I'm recording a screencast. My webcam is a Microsoft Cinema HD, so encoding is pretty processor intensive. Most of my work phone calls are done through communicator, even when there's a real phone at the other end.
  • Coding. Yes, I still code. I code for fun and I code for articles and sample applications. I find I usually have more than one copy of Visual Studio running at any point in time: one for the project I'm working on, one for any reference project (if I grabbed some sample from CodePlex or something) and then a third to quickly answer questions that I get sent in email, twitter, or communicator. When new builds of Visual Studio come out, I usually have one of the dogfood/ctp/beta versions open at the same time. Oh, and Blend is just about always open if I'm doing any UI work.
  • Writing. Writing blog posts, writing book chapters, more. When I do this, I usually have a couple browser pages open, at least one instance of Visual Studio, and the editor (Word or Windows Live Writer). I'll often have Adobe Photoshop and/or Illustrator open as well, to edit any diagrams.
  • Video Editing and Encoding. This is either Camtasia Studio or Adobe Premiere Pro + Adobe Soundbooth. This products love your CPU and they love processors. With the new versions, they even love memory above 32 bit limits. Right now, I do editing and encoding on a different PC with 8gb RAM and a quad core proc. It's ok, but could be better.
  • Media Consumption. I love my Zune pass. I listen to music often, in the background. I also watch weekly shows like Dr. Who at HD resolution via Zune. I spent a fair bit of time on Youtube, Vimeo, Channel9 and others checking out content created by other folks. Sometimes I'll dock this in a separate display while working on my main.
  • Multitasking in general. I have three displays, one of which is a 30" monster (which almost seems small now that I'm used to it). I need to quickly pop between applications without any spin-up time.
  • Some Gaming. Not much, but when I do game, I'm cranking it up on a 30" display :)

Current PC

My current PC was outdated when I built it. I went with a dual core E8400, but overclocked to 3.6ghz, and backed down to 3.3 for the summer. It rates 6.8. I have only 4gb of RAM and currently run 32bit Windows 7. because I have two video cards, only 2.75GB of that RAM is now usual (used to be 3.5 or so). That all has to go. I need 64bit and massive amounts of RAM. I also want maximum core speed, but four, or preferably six, cores. I have two ok video cards, but they rate only a 6.9 on WEI. Oh, and disk. Disk is usually the slowest component on your machine. I want SSD for the main drive.

In the past, I've always gone a notch or three below top. I end up paying for that in that I outgrow my PC in a year, but then stick with it for a couple more just to avoid constant churn. I love building PCs, I hate moving all the data/apps over.


I bought an 850W power supply in anticipation of this project, but that was the wrong thing to buy first. Better to add up all the components and see what you really need. I thought "no way would I need more than 850w", but after running through a calculator, I found I was totally wrong. Calculated minimum came to around 870 with everything in place. Looks like I'll use the 850 on one of my other PC projects; maybe the server I need to build to replace the aging IBM 345s in the rack.

Ewok-powered by Stefan http://www.flickr.com/photos/st3f4n/4179698218/

(Ewok power by Stefan www.flickr.com/photos/st3f4n/4179698218/ )

A bit ago, I blogged about the PC I plan to build this summer. I've realized I need to kick it up a notch more. Air cooling probably isn't going to cut it, so I'll likely take my first whack at a liquid-cooled PC. I'll probably go with a 1000w power supply, or something more radical ;)

Joint Project

Scott Hanselman and I are going to do simultaneous builds. I'll update the article with the choices I make for my own PC during that process. I suspect we'll make some different choices based on our own preferences.

If you were building a top-notch developer PC today, what components would you want in it, and why? What are some non-typical things you consider essential - or just plain awesome? Go comment on Scott's post and let us know what you think.

Related Links

posted by Pete Brown on Wednesday, June 23, 2010
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2 comments for “The 7.9 WEI PC”

  1. Βασίλης Τουλουμτζόγλουsays:
    Hi Pete,

    I've recently built myself a development rig and there are number of things I would like to share regarding 7.90 WEI.

    My dev box is currently rated as a 7.3 machine (http://tweetphoto.com/29056296 this one is actually mine) and as you'll see from the picture the weakest link here is a previous generation HD 4850 X2.
    Since I'm a very casual gamer I don't mind but I don't think any previous generation (non-directX 11/ non WDDM 1.1) hardware/driver combination will cut it for a 7.9 score.

    I am not surprised that my i7 980X only gets 7.8 at stock speeds so I'd better get overclocking (shouldn't be too difficult with an EVGA classified board) and I'll definetely try pushing those 12GB of Dominator GT.
    Anyhow enough braging, here's what I wanted to add.

    If you're thinking that the i/ 980X is too expensive check out anand's review (http://www.anandtech.com/show/2960) where he compares it to the previous generation $1000 CPU and you'll feel much better. This is exactly what made me go for this one instead as I don't upgrade my machine that often...

    On the power front I think going for an efficient (80+ labeled) PSU is a must if you want to be on the ecological side and make those CFL bulb changes Scott was talking about worhwhile ;-)

    Finally I would like to share my experience with the part I'm mostly proud about my rig and that's storage. It's a dual 160GB Intel SSD (G2) on a RAID 0 configuration but not on the motherboard's onboard conrtolers but on a dedicated Adaptec 5805 controller. This configuration gives a 7.9 rating and it may be worth considering if cost is not an issue and I'm sure it'll spare some CPU cycles in a year or so when that machine will start feeling slow... The only drawback is the relative complexity of such a setup (you'll need to fiddle with both the MB' bios and the controller's bios to make it bootable...) and it will also add about 60" to your POST cycle (your machine will feel much more like a server after installation).

    So this was my 2pennies

    Have fun,
  2. Andrésays:
    For the 2.75GB RAM issue, read this:


    and look for a PAE patch for your 32Bit Windows or simply install the 64Bit Version.

    Your C2D is fine.

    The WEI score is useless and only a virtual "cock measuring contest".

    Building a PC only to get 7.9 in WEI score is stupid.

    just my 2ct.


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