When it comes to being a hard core gamer, a top-of-the-line video card is a must. A good one is required for most new games, at least the ones worth playing. Generally, picking out a video card comes to the biggest decision of all; ATI or NVIDIA? I, being an extreme gamer, would choose NVIDIA hands down. In the past, I had always used NVIDIA cards, but until six months ago, I bought my first ATI card, a 9800 Pro. As soon as I got home I put it in my computer and installed all the drivers and software. After rebooting the computer I was immediately urged to play a game to test things out, and of course I fulfilled this need. I went to play Unreal Tournament 2003 (UT2003), as soon as it started to run, the screen went black and the Windows desktop came back up with a message I had never seen before.
The message box displayed, "Windows has encountered a catastrophic error." Right away, I could tell something was terribly wrong; this was not your average crash because you don't normally see the word "catastrophic" when an error is shown.
I started debugging the issue by going into the system properties and making sure I had removed all traces of my previous video card, just to make sure the ATI driver wasn't conflicting with the previous one installed with my NVIDIA card. With this, I uninstalled everything pertaining to the ATI card, giving it the chance of having a 'clean' install. I restarted my computer again and then re-installed the ATI drivers with hope for better luck. Finally that was done. Once again I went to run the game. Another error. At least it wasn't "catastrophic"; however, it said it could not recognize my video card.
"This problem shouldn't be so bad", I thought to myself. I went and ran the UT2003 'safe mode' to check and see if it'd show the 9800 Pro in the settings. I had it search for a valid video card, and it found my ATI. I saved the configuration settings and tried running he game in the standard mode. With no surprise, I was given the standard Windows error.
"This program has encountered an error and must now close." I cannot count the number of times I've seen that message. I even tried running other games like Battlefield 1942 and Morrowind, but I still get the same message. It eventually came down to formatting my hard drive and reinstalling Windows. I did get the games to run afterwards, but occasionally I would get random crashes during game play. This was enough for sure.
I took the card back to Circuit City and bought an NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900XT. After the card was in my machine and I had the drivers installed, I went to run the game again. My experience in gaming has never looked better or ran smoother.
As far as conflicts with NVIDIA, my only experience is from running hardware from both NVIDIA and ATI. Of course, my video card is by NVIDIA, but I have an ATI TV Wonder Pro which is used to capture or view streaming video (ex. Cable Television). This issue has only happened once. I just had to reinstall the drivers for both cards.
I would recommend NVIDIA over ATI to anyone, regardless of what they use their computer for. I feel they're better made and are less apt to having conflicts. On many games, you'll see an NVIDIA logo, and on that it says "NVIDIA - The way it's meant to be played", and I am a true believer in that slogan. NVIDIA is the way it was meant to be played.