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Windows Vista Gaming Performance - NVIDIA and ATI Compared

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Introduction

Introduction

Chances are you might have heard of some software package that was released today; a new version of Windows or something like that.  It's only the biggest software release in the last five or so years, and it has all the hardware and software vendors on their toes trying to prep their drivers and hardware to run on it.

Windows Vista is the biggest shift in the consumer software world since Windows 95.  I won't bore you with all the details of what makes the new OS changes so dramatic, but some things like indexed searching, security out the wazoo, a new user interface dubbed Aero Glass, integrated Media Center software and DirectX 10 might start the feature list. 

For our look at Vista and gaming performance, the new DirectX 10 with a completely new graphics driver subsystem is the most noteable change.  DirectX 10 adds support for geometry shading (or rather working on geometry in the same way pixels have been for years) and requires hardware developers to move to a unified shader architecture.  You can get a LOT more detail on DX10 and the changes that NVIDIA has made to their GPU architecture because of it with the GeForce 8800 series of cards by taking a look over my GeForce 8800 GPU review.

What We are Watching For

Because of these dramatic changes to the graphics system, both NVIDIA and AMD have had to spend significant time redeveloping their graphics drivers to work with the new Windows Vista operating system.  Both NVIDIA and AMD (and ATI) have been working on Vista development for YEARS and we have been hearing claims of having the best "Vista Support" from both camps nearly as long.  But now that the day of redemption is actually here, who will come out on top?

I decided to take the retail version of Windows Vista Ultimate, got the latest drivers from both AMD and NVIDIA as of Friday and began to spend my weekend testing.  What is important to note here is that my intention is NOT to compare the ATI Radeon cards against NVIDIA GeForce cards -- rather it was to compare the gaming experiences provided by ATI and NVIDIA on both Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Should gamers worry about upgrading to Vista right away or should they wait for drivier stability and performance to catch up with the Microsoft vision?  Read on to find out.

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