The computer helper: Graphics nirvana for Vista
By Jay Dougherty Apr 2, 2007, 7:52 GMT
Washington - Windows Vista is tough on graphics cards. No other version of Windows before it has made such stringent demands on how powerful your computer's graphics card must be.
It's not that Vista will refuse to run if a suitable graphics card is not present, but it will unceremoniously remove features from the operating system - including many of the fancy effects of the vaunted Aero interface - if it finds your graphics card wanting.
So what should you look out for when upgrading your system or purchasing a new one? Read on for some answers.
Q: My notebook computer has integrated Intel graphics. I've been told Vista won't run on the machine. Is that correct?
A: Vista will probably run on your machine, but it may not have the muscle to handle any demanding chores that involve 3D rendering or displaying fast-moving graphics, such as those in games. If your activities are restricted to office applications, Internet browsing, and playing the occasional game of solitaire, however, you'll probably be fine.
Find out whether your integrated graphics card supports DirectX 9 - that's the deciding factor. Generally to run Vista with the full benefits of the Aero interface, your graphics card needs to support DirectX 9 and have at least 128 megabytes of memory, but there are integrated graphics notebooks on the market that will run Vista just fine with even 32 megabytes of memory, dedicated or shared, so long as they're DirectX 9 compatible. Fairly recent integrated chip sets from all the major vendors - including Intel, ATI, nVidia, SiS, and VIA - boast compatibility with Vista.
Before you try Vista, you can download Microsoft's Vista Upgrade Advisor (http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/upgradeadvisor/default.mspx), which will test your system and give you a clearer idea of just what's compatible and what isn't.
The bad news with integrated graphics cards in notebook computers - those that consist of integrated video chips on the motherboard - is that they typically cannot be upgraded. So either you'll have enough graphics muscle for Vista or you won't. If you don't, a notebook upgrade may be in order.
Q: I only run average office applications and use the computer to browse the Internet. My three-year-old Dell Pentium computer has an ATI video card with 64 megabytes of memory. Will that be enough?
A: For your needs it may be enough. Remember that the 128 megabytes of memory that Microsoft says should be on your graphics card are so that you can take full advantage of all of the visual niceties offered by Vista. These include, of course, the Aero interface, but there are plenty of features of Vista that are useful and even attractive without Aero.
So those who have an underpowered graphics card need not necessarily wait until they get a faster machine. There's something to be said for learning the operating system at this stage, since it will likely be with us for years to come, and when you're ready and can afford it, a new graphics card for your aging computer is not that expensive.
Q: I'm a serious gamer. What type of graphics card will I need for Vista?
A: Look for new cards that support DirectX 10, which debuts with Vista. DirectX 10, like it DirectX predecessors, is a programming interface that developers use to tap into the prowess of Windows Vista. DirectX 10 boasts enhanced graphics rendering capabilities and many performance-enhancing features that will make games more realistic and more responsive.
Gamers should look for beefier cards than the average computer user. 512 megabytes of RAM and a latest-generation processor from ATI or nVidia should be on the wish list.
Also pay attention to how the graphics card connects to your computer. Today the PCI Express (peripheral interconnect technology) slot type has replaced the AGP standard that was considered cutting edge just two years ago. A PCIe card will outperform an AGP card, all other things being equal.
--- Have a computer question? Send it to the Computer Helper at email@example.com.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur