Hasta la Vista, Nvidia

Hasta la Vista, Nvidia

Summary: Nine months after Microsoft released Windows Vista to manufacturing and six months after Vista hit retail shelves, Nvidia still can't get its driver act together. With an Nvidia display adapter, you might be unable to resume from sleep, and HDTV displays are a mess. Here's why I'm no longer using or recommending Nvidia cards.

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If you own an Nvidia display adapter and you run Windows Vista, I have good news and bad news.

The good news? Nvidia has released another update of its drivers for 32–bit and 64–bit Vista. ForceWare Release 162 was posted to Nvidia’s website on July 26.

The bad news? The list of “Open Issues in Version 162.22” (PDF) runs for 10 full pages.

For me, the show-stopper issue is this one:

The display is corrupt or there is no display upon resume from sleep mode. [296199, 295481]

This issue has bit me repeatedly on my main desktop system, which has been running with an Nvidia 7600 GS card for the past few months. After going into sleep mode the system fails to resume; the only solution is a reset. It doesn’t happen every time, but it’s often enough that I have been forced to disable sleep mode on this Nvidia-equipped system. (And it’s not a new bug, either. I’ve found reports of this issue on Nvidia’s own customer support forums back in February, just days after Vista was officially released.)

I had equally exasperating display issues on a Vista machine connected to a high-definition TV. The Media Center interface displayed fine, but switching to the regular desktop resulted in a black screen, and the only solution, ironically, was to hit the power switch to go into sleep mode, then hit it again to resume. And even when the display was working, all four edges of the normal Windows desktop were clipped off, including the taskbar and Start button. That makes it pretty difficult to manage Windows, and it’s a deal breaker for a Media Center machine, which has to just work.

Over the weekend I yanked Nvidia cards out of both systems. On one, I went back to the onboard Intel GMA950 graphics. On the Vista Media Center PC, I installed an ATI Radeon X1300 Pro card with the most recent ATI drivers (Catalyst Version 7.7, released July 19, 2007).

The difference is night and day. Sleep works perfectly again. I can switch effortlessly between Media Center and the Windows desktop on the HDTV, and the full desktop is visible. (ATI’s drivers aren’t bug-free, but the list of known issues with Windows Vista is dramatically shorter – one page, not ten.)

Intel and ATI have managed to produce drivers that reliably work with the power management features in Windows Vista. So why can’t Nvidia? And why was a driver with this bug ever released to the public?

I’m not buying another Nvidia card until the company gets its driver act together, and I’m not recommending Nvidia products for anyone else who plans to use Windows Vista, either.

Topics: Windows, Hardware, Microsoft

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130 comments
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  • not just video...

    Nvidia's Vista driver problems aren't limited to their graphic products. My notebook uses an nForce chipset with integrated wired Ethernet controller (nForce Networking Controller). This was a rock solid device driver under XP. Under Vista it is my least stable device.

    Using DHCP to obtain an IP address, if I change a system setting in Vista that requires a reboot, the device driver for the above will not load, and therefore I have no network connection. Further there is no way to get it to load other than uninstalling/re-installing the driver (and rebooting); or by plugging the notebook into a different Ethernet jack (where the DHCP server will assign a different IP address)and re-booting. Disabling/enabling the device doesn't work, nor will re-booting with the network cable disconnected. It must be a different DHCP supplied IP address.

    nVidia's user forum has multiple messages of others with the same problem. Some desktop users have simply disabled the integrated NIC and supplied their own. Tough to do with a notebook.

    Jim Johnson
    Jim Johnson
    • not just video... Part 2

      There is also a know nforce SATA Driver issue that chops up all of my Quicktime Videos. iTunes / Quicktime player crashes every time I try to play downloaded content. Nvidia has been my only crutch in my near perfect Windows Vista experience.
      JoseTorr
  • Good thing I didn't update my driver...

    I just put together a new system with Vista Ultimate retail (installed 64-bit). This included a nVidia geForce 6600 GT OC card by BFG. I haven't bothered to update the driver from the one installed by Microsoft Update, and I guess that now I won't. (With the MS driver, it gets a 5.6 experience score on desktop graphics and 4.6 on gaming graphics, not bad for $30...)
    MWPollard
    • Those numbers don't sound right

      Have you tried rerunning the Windows Experience Index tests to refresh those numbers? They sound very, very high. I've seen scores for that card typically in the 2.5 range.
      Ed Bott
      • Confirmed test score several times

        I've run the score test several times, and I have a 4.5 total.

        My Core 2 Duo 2GHz is my weak spot :) . My RAID5 array with 6x Seagate 3Gb SATA2 500GB comes in at a score of 5.6 out of 5.9...

        The video card is PCIe 128MB DDR3, dual 400 MHz RAMDACs, a 525 MHz core, and 1050 MHz memory clock. (http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?Sku=B52-7866)
        MWPollard
        • Ah, dual GPUs...

          That explains it.
          Ed Bott
  • I'll avoid Nvidia for a while I think

    I haven't upgraded yet but I'm planning to after a few more hardware upgrades. I'll avoid Nvidia and go ATI then.
    voska
    • Avoid Vista

      I think I'll avoid Vista for a while - like maybe a couple of years 'til it all comes together.
      Hasta la Vista, Vista!
      hgh9mrp9
      • I agree

        I have owned many nVidia cards and prior to Vista, they have always had considerably less drivers problems in Windows OSes than the ATI cards I have tried (all of which I've returned). I have also run various versions of linux and nVidia ran great there too. I stopped buying ATI because while their hardware on paper looked great, they couldn't seem to write a driver worthy of their product. As far as I am concerned, Vista isn't ready and may never be for me. I will stick with my rock solid nVidia based system running XP. When XP is no longer supported in all the ways I need, I'll consider all my options thoroughly since Mac and Linux are becoming more viable options with each passing day.
        mg156
      • Sorry to hear that...

        My Vista experience has been great except for nVidia and I'm actually over that as I don't update the drivers, when I'm stable. And I'm stable, and Vista runs great.
        fr0thy2.
        • Vista runs...

          like XP. After removing all the crapware that came bundled on my new laptop, I notice that aside from things being in different places it runs no better and no worse than my old XP laptop. The only reason to get Vista at this point in time is pretty simple...it comes prebundled on a new computer. I honestly couldn't give anyone a single reason to upgrade an existing box. They could just send me a check if they don't want the money.
          jasonp9
  • guy, sleep mode has NEVER worked properly and has always caused problems

    i still wonder why people insist upon attempting to use it... whenever i've encountered a computer with sleep mode enabled it's ALWAYS without fail caused some sort of issue.

    solution is to turn the darn thing off and make the screen turn off after 20 mins of inactivity. you may save a grand total of 5 dollars a YEAR with sleep mode, it's not worth it.
    Valis Keogh
    • sleep has never worked

      Gee on my Mac it has worked fine since about the year 2000.

      Oh wait, you are still suffering with windows, my bad. :)
      joedokes
    • Re: Sleep mode never worked

      You're forgetting that most Vista laptops now SHIP with sleep mode being the default function when you hit the power button or close the lid.

      Sleep mode, for me, isn't about saving power. It's about booting my machine in 15 seconds instead of 2 minutes.
      Thought1
      • TWO minutes..?

        [b]Sleep mode, for me, isn't about saving power. It's about booting my machine in 15 seconds instead of 2 minutes. [/b]

        Makes me wonder just what you're loading in your startup. My 2 yr old Gateway 7510GX starts up, on average, in about 49 seconds. That is, of course, after giving the machine a major high-colonic and getting rid of all of the crapware that was bundled with it.
        Wolfie2K3
    • I've been using suspend just fine since Win2k, WinXP, and Vista

      I've been using suspend just fine since Win2k, WinXP, and Vista. You just need good drivers and a clean system configuration.
      georgeou
      • Onboard sound disappears after sleep mode

        I know have owned two different computers, purchased 3 years apart from different manufacturers, with different OS's (XP and Vista), where periodically the onboard sound hardware support disappears after going into sleep, suspend, hibernate, or whatever the heck it's called. The only way to recover is to reboot.
        aep528
        • That's also a driver issue

          Creative drivers are notorious for doing that.
          Ed Bott
          • re:

            not to be really cruel on Vista, but why in the world is it sooo hard to write "good" drivers for Vista? Could it be that Vista's additional crap of tilt bits, and its graphics architecture are not so well thought out? Can you honestly believe that nVidia can't write good driver code, considering that its Win9x, 2000, XP and Linux drivers are very solid and deliver? why are the issues just Vista?

            as for Creative's drivers being "notoriously" bad, there is something creepy in that, because Creative is the the leader in add in sound cards for PC's by a HUGE margin.... if there drivers were that bad, how can one use their cards?

            what is moderately amusing here is that for quite some time folks have complained of device compatibility with Linux and those that love Windows have been blaming the kernel developers for that, and now that Vista has issues there are all blaming the hardware vendors....
            kRogue
      • I'm guessing hardware, not drivers

        From what I can tell, the ultimate source of issues tends to be hardware rather than drivers. A lot of hardware simply isn't wired properly for sleep, and I rarely have an instance where a sleep problem is solved through software.
        CobraA1