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Upgraders to Win2k face graphics drivers gotchas

Switch from Win98 to Win2k and you might get a severe performance hit

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Windows 98 users keen to upgrade to Windows 2000 next month might do well to hold off while graphics drivers get more battle-ready. According to Microsoft's compatibility lists, scads of video adapters meet the Windows 2000 logo programme requirements, but it would be a mistake to think that this means they'll all run properly and to their full capabilities -- yet. The WDM (Windows Driver Model) video drivers shipped by Microsoft have only limited functionality and do not provide hardware 3D, OpenGL or AGP support. To get a flavour of what users can expect when Win2K ships in a few weeks' time, we looked at a couple of adapters. We identified a problem with two separate Riva TNT AGP graphics cards which worked fine under Windows 98, but underperformed tragically with Win2k. Several readers have contacted The Register confirming that the problem was widespread with a number of graphics cards being affected. "Unfortunately, most of the 3rd party vendors involved with the Windows 2000 Beta program designed their [video] drivers to work with basic functionality," says Stuart Hudman of Microsoft Windows 2000 Support. "Over the next few months, these vendors will supply the "supercharged" versions of their drivers and hence eliminate problems such as you described." While beta drivers are available, many users -- especially gamers -- risk severe disappointment when moving from Win98 to the new operating system -- Wintune98 benchmarks show the difference 3D and AGP support makes on a Pentium III 700MHz box using Riva TNT graphics:

Microsoft WDM drivers Nvidia Beta (369) drivers
2D 40.38572 Mpixels/sec 59.93456 Mpixels/sec
Direct 3D 27.95237 Mpixels/sec 76.87106 Mpixels/sec
OpenGL 9.426093 Mpixels/sec 74.72343 Mpixels/sec

"In a majority of cases Microsoft does not own the intellectual property for these drivers and hence cannot modify them in any way," added Hudman. True enough, up to a point, but there's a difference between releasing a product with drivers that run after a fashion, and releasing one with drivers are are actually

finished,

no? ®

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