After reading a rather lengthy article on Tom’s Hardware, which give a real insight to the problems experienced with graphics and Windows (all recent versions), it becomes easy to see that some very serious problems are still not completely addressed. It also gives a good explanation as to why the problems are not easily understood, and for some situations repairs are completely counterintuitive.
The article gives the specifics of the problems with each version of Windows, starting with Windows XP. The story also gives anyone who thinks that the graphics interface of XP was a completely good thing is wrong. It was excellent for its time, and was designed for the abilities of the video hardware that was available at the time. Certain things, however, which can be shown on the fastest hardware today when running Windows XP, still cause video problems – things that should not happen, and more speed is still not the solution. More speed could be the solution, but it would take several orders of magnitude difference to make the problems disappear.
The next part of the article gives a really good set of reasons to never use Vista unless you have to. This is an attempt to show the screw ups without prejudice or malice, and describe what Microsoft did as an (apparent) learning experience. It also brings up a reason for many of the problems with Vista, which is the absolute hogging of physical RAM on the machine, when multiple windows are being displayed. In fact, the article puts forth the proposition that the prefetch mechanism, considered so blameworthy for the slow performance of Vista, was completely secondary to the graphics systems problems.
In the last part of the multipart article, a complete explanation of the changes to Windows 7, and its continuing (though smaller) set of problems. Also, we are shown that the newest series of video cards from ATi are fraught with problems when rendering the windows of Windows 7, and are much, much slower than they ever should be. There are also explanations of why certain people are getting errors when going from playing a game back to the desktop.
ATi was contacted, and admitted to the problems, stating that their testing had not revealed the problems (too much worry about gaming and not enough worry about basic operations I’d say!), but that the problems were verified to not be in hardware, which undoubtedly made them very happy.
nVidia doesn’t get a pass on things, as it has fewer problems, but still has difficulties with slowing during normal usage versus gaming performance. At first thought, I would say they simply don’t care in either case, with both ATi and nVidia thinking that the performance of the interface would be of less concern than the highly touted gaming performance.
So, in answer to the original question about which cards would be better for the display of Windows 7 graphics, the qualified response would be an nVidia choice, though waiting to see what the next revision of the (IMO) highly variable and generally buggy ATi driver package might be a good thing.
From my perspective, I find it amazing that card manufacturers would not focus on basic operation, and think that gaming performance should be the be all and end all of these cards. Also, the problems of drivers, while not trivial, should be something that gets done right before anything else.
From the standpoint of the graphics card makers, I have never understood why these companies continue to kowtow to the game companies, tweaking some things which most always break others, according to what appears popular at the time. Rather than do things in that manner, the graphics drivers should be logically written, and optimized according to sound principles, and left that way. Let the game manufacturers, stop making assumptions that changes will be made in their favor.
The article is very informative, and if you have hopes of understanding what is happening under the skin of Windows 7, or any other version, for that matter, a read of the material will provide the meat for understanding.