The X video drivers are also supposed to be auto-selected based on a similar principle. You
don't specify what type of video hardware you had, so we can only speculate as to why it
didn't work but you don't need to configure modern X servers to make them work. Without a
configuration the server should detect your PCI/AGP/PCIe etc. graphics chipset and load the
appropriate driver, and the driver should (if your display is switched on) pick the right
output and a working video mode.
Thus, try removing the configuration file and starting the X server. If this doesn't work in
current X.org, and you have a card which is actually supported at all, you should report it as
a bug, attaching the X server logs.
Annoyingly there are a few things which won't work correctly without a configuration file, but
it should at least be usable and you should consider filing bugs about anything that doesn't
work (I have an open bug about the R400 driver defaulting to XAA then complaining that XAA is
unsupported and suffering some redraw bugs as a result)
The latest chipsets from the major vendors don't work (or work poorly) unless you are willing
to use the vendor's proprietary drivers (and in that case any problems should be taken up with
them). Don't buy stuff aimed at Windows gamers with too much money.
The mention of DVI makes me wonder if you had something more serious wrong though, DVI ought
to work with the hardware-specific drivers for Intel or ATI hardware old enough to be
supported, or even with a lot of nVidia cards - you are seeing text through this DVI connector
prior to X starting, right ?