Can A Graphics Card Be Vista-Certified Without A Working Driver?
Surprisingly, yes. One would have thought that Vista certification is at least as stringent as Windows XP, if not more stringent. But ATI has apparently managed to certify their graphics card without a working driver. That is probably an industry first.
Let me start from the beginning...
Recently, we were given the opportunity to try out the new ATI Radeon X1950 GT. Can you say w00t? Unfortunately, our grin was wiped off when we discovered that this card was virtually useless in Windows Vista.
As always, we downloaded the latest driver from ATI. Currently, the "freshest" version available is Catalyst 7.2, released on February 21, 2007. When we tried to install it, it quit with an error message, stating that there were no installable components. No matter how we tried to force it to install the driver, Vista simply refused to do so. Odd...
No Driver Support Yet
We soon found the reason when we checked the driver's release note. In it, we discovered this curt statement :
The ATI Radeon™ X1950 GT is currently not supported under the Windows Vista operating system. Software driver support will be available starting with Catalyst 7.3.
WTH... I guess it was way too new for ATI to come up with a working Vista driver for the Radeon X1950 GT. But wait... I thought I saw something about Vista certification somewhere. Oh, here we are... right on the box itself.
But It's Vista-Certified...
I really have no idea if my eyes are fooling me, but it does look like a Certified for Windows Vista label right in the front.
When we checked the system requirements on the side of the box, it also states that Windows Vista is supported.
Now, did we do something wrong? If the box says it's certified for Windows Vista, it should have a working Vista driver, right? Maybe it's in the box. The package came with a driver CD which no one ever bothers using since it's probably outdated by the time it reaches us.
But again, you never know until you give it a try. After all, if they managed to have it certified for Windows Vista, they must have a working driver and logic states that at least one working driver would be included with the card since it is certified for Windows Vista. It says so right on the box... TWICE.
Unfortunately, the driver CD contained only Windows 2000 and Windows XP drivers. No Vista driver. Great. So, now we have a large paperweight that can only work like a SVGA controller of yesteryears. There was no way we can test it in Windows Vista until ATI releases the Catalyst 7.3 driver.
So What Does Vista Certification Mean?
Frankly, it means absolute nothing at all if you don't have a working driver. I honestly do not know how they managed to pass Vista certification without a working driver. Either Microsoft's certification process does not require the card to work in Vista.. or the graphics card company is simply predicting the future.
Needless to say, most Vista drivers are essentially beta drivers - still in need of a lot of work. But this card (and its box) was made some time ago. Most likely before the current Catalyst 7.2 was even released. If they can actually pass the certification process with an older driver, that must mean they have a working driver for some time now. So, where is it???
Without a working driver, it is certainly not right for them to claim that the X1950 GT is certified for Windows Vista. Right now, it's totally unusable in Windows Vista. It functions like a basic SVGA framebuffer card with absolutely no 2D or 3D acceleration features.
The Moral Of The Story
If there is a point to this editorial, it is this - never trust what manufacturers print on their boxes. If you are going to be paying hard-earned money for anything, take a little time to do a little research. This is especially important if you intend to run a new operating system like Windows Vista.
Driver support for many cards in Windows Vista is going to be dodgy for at least a year or so. We don't expect companies like NVIDIA or ATI to really produce reasonably good drivers for some time to come. That's really quite understandable. I just wish they would at least be honest about it.
We are not fools. We know they will need time to create proper drivers for a new operating system. We have gone through it with Windows 95 and Windows XP, and we will go through the same process with Windows Vista. But if you sell me a product that's certified for Windows Vista without even a basic working driver, I think that's what lawyers call misrepresentation.
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