Hardware Acceleration is a setting that controls whether or not software uses hardware or software to help display graphics on your monitor. Hardware acceleration can speed up the display of graphics while working in a application. For CAD applications this is a very important setting because everything we do typically has to do with graphics in some way.
Just about every Autodesk application has a hardware acceleration setting somewhere …
Each one of these applications benefit from hardware acceleration from a performance and speed perspective, however, all of these applications can also have stability issues when you use Hardware acceleration.
Revit uses OpenGL 1.3 for its graphics generation. This is an open standard that any graphics card can use, so theoretically, if your graphics card is compatible with OpenGL 1.3 you can turn on Hardware acceleration and have a benefit.
However, because OpenGL is an open standard, not every graphics card uses the standard exactly the same way. This means that different graphics drivers might have different functionality even if they all are using the same standard. This can make interaction between the software and the graphics card difficult. Think about it this way, the software and the graphics card may speak the same language, but have completely different accents.
I spent a week in London a number of years ago for a Architectural course I was taking and while I was there I went into a book store to buy the 5th Harry Potter book (I was in London, the book had just come out, and I am a big geek who loves the Harry Potter books). When I went to the counter to pay, I could not understand a word out of the tellers mouth. She was speaking English, but not saying anything that I could understand. Her accent was just so think that I couldn’t make out the words she was saying. I love London, but it made me realize that not everyone who speaks English can understand each other.
OpenGL is a lot like this. If the graphics card and software don’t use the same accent the software can crash or freeze or have another problem.
So the question is which cards work right? This is not really even possible to answer for sure. There are some good forum posts out there that talk about this, but it is based on experience and what has worked for others. This is because graphics cards don’t typically advertise how they implemented the standard so it is up in the air whether it will work or not.
Really, the easiest answer is to this question is to turn off Hardware acceleration in the software. For Revit, you are not going to be losing much. Revit doesn’t use your graphics hardware like other CAD applications; more of its performance is based on the physical memory on your machine and less on your graphics hardware. Turning it off is not a huge loss and you might make your life a little bit easier.