Back in September, Microsoft's group program manager for the Windows Client Platform, Pablo Fernicola, told Tom's Hardware Guide for the first time that his company would be establishing two tiers of minimum performance requirements, based around whether systems were built to support the DirectX 9 graphics drivers currently available, or the DirectX 10 drivers to be released with Vista. This was the first indication that Microsoft would be distinguishing PC performance specifically by graphics capability. Last month, an Nvidia product manager expanded on this news for TG Daily, saying that Microsoft's two tiers would effectively create two very distinct classes of computers in the marketplace.
But this news from ATI's Mather this week indicates that there may be as many as five performance tiers in the works, and that consumers may at some point be given a fuzzy, but solid, education with regards to which PCs would constitute a "1," and which ones a "5." But Mather believes that the performance requirements he's seen thus far for Microsoft's "Premium" tier are, in fact, quite low - even inexpensive systems, in his opinion, will qualify for the Premium logo. "So while the Premium logo will apply to quite a large number of PCs," said Mather, "this System Performance Rating will actually separate out all the different tiers of PCs, and what they can do.
"You will see not necessarily a huge division between Basic and Premium systems," elaborated Mather, "but you will see a fairly wide spectrum between a PC that's rated a '1' or a '2,' and a PC that's rated a '3,' '4,' or '5.' A PC that might be rated a '4' is actually on the pretty high end - there, you'll be talking about a PC that corresponds to a really excellent experience, in terms of the [embellishments to the] user interface, having multiple windows doing HD playback, doing HD recording, and so on." When discussing a '4,' Mather believes, savvy buyers will automatically understand the formula, especially in determining whether to opt for the '5' or settle for the '4.' That buyer will know how the CPU, memory, storage, and graphics performance will play into the final rating.