Minimum Hardware Requirements <> Good User Experience

Here’s a quick tip for tonight.

For as long as I can remember, software has come with two sets of hardware specifications on the box (or in a blurb of text somewhere for downloaded software) one being the recommended hardware specifications and the other being the minimum hardware specifications. These two sets of specifications are distinct and it is important to understand the various impacts to the user experience if you don’t meet one or both of these thresholds.

Firstly, the recommended hardware specification is, as you would expect, the recommended level to obtain the intended user experience. Software designers might set out with an idea of the sort of hardware configuration they aim to develop against or conversely they develop the software and find out what hardware configuration works best. Either way, if your computer meets or exceeds the recommended specification then you should expect to use the software as it was intended and with few to no glitches such as stuttering, unresponsiveness and slow window refreshing.

The minimum hardware specification is a different kettle of fish and can vary in its intended meaning. For some software it can mean that the prescribed hardware configuration provides the lowest level of acceptable user experience. Whilst not ideal, the software will work but you can expect the software to be slow in its general usage and some functions may heavily utilise the resources available in the system. Another popular meaning (particularly with operating systems) is that the minimum hardware specifications sets the minimum threshold to actually use the software. If you hardware does not meet that threshold then you cannot use the software, full stop.

You can see that your mileage can significantly vary

So when you are checking out new software make sure you check the hardware specifications and don’t bank on a system that scrapes in to meet the minimum specifications to make light work of it (or even at all).

1 comment

  1. I generally get the feeling that minimum system requirements are a thing of the past. I don’t have the fastest laptop around, but can’t recall a time recently where I had problems with meeting the minimum system requirements.

    I guess for people who don’t update their computers every few years may have an issue, especially with games.

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