Vista Experience

I like Microsoft Windows Vista. I’ve been using it for quite a while and it works quite well. I like the look of things, and with a few usability concerns aside, I find it to be an improvement over XP. One of the features that is simultaneously a good idea and kind of silly is the “Windows Experience Rating”. Before I address the silly part, keep in mind that Microsoft is actually addressing a valid concern. People don’t understand the many facets of computer performance. The typical user wants to go and buy a new game without having to understand OpenGL, AGP vs PCI, or other esoteric tech jargon. Vista evaluates your hardware and gives you performance scores in broad hardware categories. Then your total “experience” is rated as the lowest of these. So if software requires a top-notch video card, the box will say “Requires a Windows Experience level of 4.5 or better”. Then you compare your system score and decide very easily whether the software will work.

Sounds great, but it is not quite smooth enough yet. Yesterday I installed a new video driver for my integrated Intel video chipset. This video driver was an “optional” install so I didn’t expect anything revolutionary to happen to the video performance on my business grade PC. After the driver install, Vista claimed that I did not have an experience rating! It would have to reassess the performance of all my hardware again! So I had to manually engage the assessment tool. I waited a while and the results came back…unchanged. Big surprise! So my criticism is that Microsoft has introduced a tool to enhance the usability of Vista (making it easier to figure out software compatibility with your hardware), but at the same time using a tool that itself is a pain to use.

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