Medically Speaking

August 4, 2007

Receipt of OQOs for testing TabletXP head-to-head against Vista Business

Filed under: oqo — daviejr @ 3:49 pm

I have receive this month a new OQO model 02 Best (1.5 Ghz VIA EstherC7M processor, 1GB RAM) with Verizon EVDO Rev. 0 card (internal) and Vista Business Edition for the OS.

I ordered this from BuildyourUMPC at http://www.buildyourumpc.com/ as they have the best deals, promotions, and discounted accessory bundles currently available for the OQO 02 … bar none.   I tried other OQO third-party resellers and was less than impressed, especially with one vendor which tacked on high last-minute shipping and handling charges in the shopping cart.

Adam and his crew at http://www.buildyourumpc.com/ are passionate about UMPCs, especially the OQO.   During my pre-order phase, I mentioned to Adam my concerns about choosing the best operating system for Dragon NaturallySpeaking for my new OQO.   After all, this was to be my main PC for medical and general speech recognition.   

My pernicious questions: 

(1) Many bloggers have had good results with Dragon NatuallySpeaking version 9 and Windows XP on the OQO 2, but similar data on Vista and the OQO 2 was just not there.   Would Vista’s perks such as ReadyBoost and better memory management compensate for greater CPU and RAM load compared to Windows XP ?

(2) And what about comparison of audio input methods?   Bluetooth headsets, USB noise-cancelling headsets, and the OQO’s built-in omnidirectional mike were all contenders….which ones would work?  Which ones would actually work in real life situations?

Adam agreed that these questions deserved some answers.  So, when I ordered the Vista OQO, Adam sent it to me, and also tossed in the shipping box a second evaluation unit….an OQO Best with Windows XP Tablet edition.   This was for my nefarious scheme of comparative testing of Vista head-to-head vs. TabletXP for Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition performance. 

The advantage of having two machines  is the ability to do simultaneous head-to-head testing of real-time speech recognition for the built-in mike….I dictate once, and watch both machines simultaneously churn out transcription (or choke in the attempt!).  Easy comparison of speed and accuracy, knowing that variations in my dictation clarity or pace will not add yet another variable to skew the results.  And it sure speeds up testing not having to switch between OS with a dual boot configuration!

 The Results?  Read on…

Basic Benchmark results of Dragon NaturallySpeaking:

In general, Windows XP or Windows XP tablet edition shows better benchmark performance than Vista.  This advantage is maintained regardless of whether Dragon is running in a standby inactive state (not listening), or in an active state (listening).   Optimizing Vista with the “Vispa” version 0.1.1 utility had little effect on results.  Benchmarking was done using PassMark(TM) PerformanceTest 6.1 http://www.passmark.com:

Benchmark Results (GIF)

Benchmark Results (webpage)

 I imagine that the faster CPU on most desktops  decreases the impact of poor-quality audio on Dragon NaturallySpeaking recognition rate.  In the case of the relatively underpowered OQO, having excellent quality audio input is critical for a reasonable speech recognition setup.  This means taking every advantage you can, such as choosing a quiet environment, using a noise canceling headset of high quality, and choosing USB microphones over other forms of input.  Having said that, using the built-in microphone in a pinch works well… even over the din of the built-in cooling fan.  Just don’t expect the fast performance you will see with a USB-connected mike… especially if you have other memory/CPU intensive processes running simultaneously.Take home message:  

Since Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a RAM-intensive and CPU-limited product, be sure to use the fastest processor available with sufficient RAM (currently the OQO model 02 BEST, with the 1.5 or 1.6GHz Via C7M processor and 1 GB of memory).  Performance can be improved further by using the highest quality audio input ( USB mike, followed by built in mike, followed by good quality noisecanceling Bluetooth headset, in decreasing order of preference/performance), and by increasing the process priority for Dragon (see below).

Dragon NaturallySpeaking benchmark results as a function of operating system and audio source:

In general, the better the audio quality, the better the transcription performance and speed, especially with a low-power computer such as the OQO model 02.   USB microphone transcription is 2-3 times as fast as the built-in microphone, and approximately 3 to 4 times as fast as a good-quality noise canceling Bluetooth microphone headset.

(1)  Bluetooth headset microphone:  

Transcription rate under WindowsXP Tablet is at least 20% faster than Vista Business.

(2) Built-in microphone:  

Vista is 20% faster than XP, but only if no other applications that are CPU intensive are running. (This is the only situation in which Vista is faster than XP).  Otherwise, XP is at least 20% faster than Vista.

(3) USB microphone:

Both XP tablet and Vista can fully keep up with the user without significant transcription delays, provided no other applications are running… transcription rate is limited only by one’s ability to speak with steady, clear diction.  As other applications are started up and create a competition for system resources,  Dragon NaturallySpeaking begins to slow down with both operating systems.  In this case,  XP is at least 20-40% faster than Vista.

——————————————————————————————-

Optimization of Dragon Naturally Speaking Performance:

Successes:

(1) Increase process priority for Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Increasing the process priority of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking application to Above Normal or High (right-click on file “natspeak.exe” in the Windows Task Manager and select Priority)  significantly enhanced responsiveness and speed of Dragon NaturallySpeaking in any situation where system resources were limited or multiple competing processes are active.  One can include the process priority in the startup shortcut for Dragon NaturallySpeaking, so that priority will be set automatically each time the program is launched.   Alternatively, some process management utilities can do this.   The best application I have found for this is the freeware Process Lasso from bitsum.  I use it all the time…and even donated to the author.   It makes the OQO really sing when you need it to!

Failures:

(2) Vista optimization

Attempts to help out Vista performance by shutting down noncritical services on Vista to optimize system performance (in this case, using the freeware Vispa utility) had no discernible effect on Dragon NaturallySpeaking transcription rates.

(3) Vista Ready Boost

Adding  a high-speed quality 4 GB ready boost drive (Buffalo brand, rated 32 MB per second read rates, and 20 MB per second write rate) had no discernible effect on Dragon NaturallySpeaking performance.  Others are starting to find out that ReadyBoost is just Vista marketing smoke-and-mirrors.   It is too slow to help any system with more than 512MB of memory….it often slows down rather than speeds up boot-times!  My experience with the OQO states that Emperor ReadyBoost indeed is wearing no clothes….it couldn’t even perk up the poky 5200 rpm 60GB hard drive on the OQO.

Jim Davie, MD

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