Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The hype over Windows Experience Index

If you don't know what Windows Experience Index (WEI) is, go here. Here is just the first paragraph outlining the idea behind WEI.
The Windows® Experience Index is a new feature built into Windows Vista™. It is designed to help consumers understand how well Windows Vista and the software running on it will perform on a specific PC. The index achieves this by assessing the performance of the PC and assigning a score to it. The higher the score, the better the PC will perform.
In theory this one number should be telling you how well your PC will perform under Vista. To me this sounds just too good to be true. How can a two digit decimal number reflect the overall system performance? Basically, WEI benchmarks your PC in five main areas: processor, memory, graphics, gaming graphics and primary hard drive. The lowest value will become your base score. Here's an example:
Processor:         3.5
Memory (RAM): 2.9
Graphics: 2.3
Gaming graphics: 2.1
Primary hard disk: 3.5
The report is telling me my graphics card is the weakest component. Is it really? Well yes. Does it mean I can't run Vista properly? No. It just means I won't be able to play any recent games. But I already knew that so how does that help me?

Windows Experience Index is supposed to help Joe Average choose the right hardware. However, who's going to explain to Joe that a graphics card with a sub-score of 2.3 would suffice for his web-surfing needs? This clearly demonstrates that the base score on its own can be misleading. If we go back to the graphics card example and presume there's no other "weak" hardware, the base score will also result in 2.3. Explain that to the customer! I can already see the kids whining "Dad, this PC sucks because it only scores [insert number here]!".

Seriously, this reminds me of the days when it matterd how many 3Dmarks you scored. While they may be cool to play with, synthetic benchmarks don't give you a real-world assessment of your system! In my opinion WEI will result only in two things: more bragging teenagers and more hardware being sold unneccessarily. Will it give a better "user experience"? I sincerely doubt it.