Have you tried "nv" driver instead "nvidia"? I've read on some forums that people have strange problems when they use nvidia driver on older cards.
That was indeed my first thought... But since the display is actually fine once kdm is bypassed, I started suspecting other causes.
Also, it seems to me that because the problems only seem to affect kde applications, there is something wrong with kdelibs or kdebase (which for some strange reason only happen in my laptop, but not on the desktop computers).
The Headacher: I couldn't find newer versions in the repo.... maybe I need to install kdebase. I don't think it is installed at the moment.
Thanks for the help, and I'll try both suggestions.