Perhaps this post should be titled “How to make a terrible user experience” and be authored by Dell.
Today I’m on my way to London from Hull to go to an event as part of the Windows 8 | Elite Program in which we get to meet Microsoft CEO and all round legend Steve Ballmer. So that I wouldn’t spend the vast majority of my day bored on the train I wanted to bring my laptop along.
Unfortunately my laptop has been out of action for several days now. The reason why? Drivers, and a real lack of support from Dell.
A few months ago I attempted to update my laptop to the Windows 8 Release Candidate, this seemed to work fine until I attempted to boot for the first time and was presented with a totally blank screen, apparently the only driver available didn’t work in Windows 8 on the actual laptop screen — the only way to view what you we’re doing was to plug into a monitor, thus my laptop became the most unportable laptop ever.
This obviously wasn’t good enough but I was told that dell would be releasing an update to the drivers to work in windows 8 at the beginning of October — somewhere around the 8th. This never happened. So I waited, and waited and assumed that the drivers would come out on the day of Windows 8 general availability — October 26th. That they did, ish. If you pressed “Download Driver” the page simply threw up an error message. I’d waited long enough so another days wait didn’t fuss me.
The next day I downloaded the drivers, this time the link actually worked, and reinstalled Windows 8. (I’d previously uninstalled Windows 8 and downgraded to Windows 7 to actual be able to do work at university). I had assumed that to be able to install the driver I would have to connect to a display, which was fine. What I didn’t expect was that having installed the driver nothing would change — I would still be unable to use my laptop screen.
Now, this is the crux of the story. My laptop’s BIOS was 4 versions out of date. I was on version A07, and the most recent release was version A11. I only discovered this however after downloading & installed everything from the Dell website related to the N5110. Once I’d installed my BIOS update everything worked fine. The most irritating part of this experiance is that Dells Update Program didn’t pick up on my BIOS being out of date and none of the driver installs picked up on my BIOS being out of date.
So, in conclusion if you’re trying to install Windows 8 Drivers for the Dell Inspiron 15R (N5110) make sure you install the A11 BIOS update first. Oh and if you happen to be one of the largest PC manufacturers in the world try to improve your user experience so that driver updates first check that your BIOS is up to date, or at the very least the driver download page recommends you update your BIOS first.
So, I’ve been back in Hull for a few days now, only to discover my friend Nick has betrayed the good ship Windows Phone and moved to the dark side of Android. 😛 Whilst we were discussing his new phone, a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, we got talking about HTC’s latest Android offering — the One X.
What sets the One X apart from the rest of the crowd is the fact that it has a quad core processor. Quad core processors aren’t actually the norm in desktop PC’s yet, most people still have dual core chips, so to have one in a phone is an interesting development. Interesting, I would say, but not entirely useful — in fact, quite the opposite.
In my day-to-day life, my one concern about my phone is how long it will last. It’s always a pain when your phone runs out of juice just as you’re expecting a text, call or email. Smartphones at the moment typically have a battery life of around 20 hours, with light to moderate use of more advanced features like Wi-Fi and high screen brightness. This will last you a day at University or work, but god help you if you forget to charge it up at night and want to make a phone call the next day.
An issue I don’t encounter on a day-to-day basis is lack of computing power on my phone. Whilst I frequently think “I wish this had a bit more oomph sometimes” on my i3 powered Dell Inspiron 15R Laptop I can honestly say the thought has never occurred to me about my Samsung Focus Flash Windows Phone, everything seems seamless and frankly im not doing anything taxing like editing and converting video on my phone… I make phone calls, text people, read my emails, browse the web, listen to music and play the occasional game — none of this requires the power of a quad core.
Quad core processors sip more battery than a single core would. Simple fact, so for my experience at least it would actually enhance an issue I have and ‘solve’ an issue I don’t. Of course, everyone uses their devices differently, so your experience may indeed be improved by a bit more power but I think most people want to get the essentials done, with a tad of gaming but be able to do all that for a longer period of time.
Going back to the seamlessness of my phone experience, during our conversation about processing power in phones I coined the term “UX not specs”, which is now the title of this blog post. UX stands for User Experience, the way in which users experience your hardware and software, this includes the “person’s perceptions of the practical aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency of the system” according to Wikipedia. What is important here is the word perception, a quad core is usually going to be quicker than a single core clocked at the same speed, but this increase in speed might be so small that it not be noticeable by the user, in which case its almost a waste.
Specs stands for Specifications and rhymes nicely with UX. 😉 Specifications are the list of details about a piece of hardware’s innards, including its CPU Core count, amount of RAM, measurement of storage space etc.
Windows Phone is very cleverly designed so that smooth animations cover the loading time, so even if something takes a while because everything is moving you deem it to be efficient, fast, and working instantly on command. The user experience is good, I’ve never been irritated by a slowdown in Windows Phone so I personally wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice any battery life for more cores. The user experience is great, even without the specs which you think it would demand, so windows Phone has got the UX, but not the (battery draining) specs of some high-end Android phones.
Until we invent a technology capable of holding many days’ worth of battery life on a smartphone device I for one will yearn for more battery life over computational power.