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639 posts

Ultimate Geek

# 98911 8-Mar-2012 15:11
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I'm looking to build a system that will run Linux at least 90% of the time (perhaps dual boot or run some other OS in a virtual machine) and looking at video card options. I'm not looking for a gaming machine, but decent video performance for 3D desktops and for streaming video is a requirement.

I want the ability to change linux distributions and change kernel versions, without having to worry about compatibility with AMD or Nvidia binary blobs. I want good performance with the open source drivers and then if I can get some improvement with the vendor provided driver, perhaps that might be a bonus. Perhaps a fan free card might be good if that's an option.

So far I've found a lot of people saying get ATI/AMD, e.g. HD 4xxx and 5xxx series, but not the recent cards.

Here, the specific advice appears to be to use the ATI Radeon HD 4670.

However, these are an older cards now and not so easy to purchase new in NZ (eBay perhaps).

Does anyone have any other recommendations?
Did you do any back to back comparisons before selecting a card?
How did you choose?

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639 posts

Ultimate Geek

  # 592383 8-Mar-2012 15:16
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Just found this....

Good news, but perhaps it might be a while before we see the benefits and perhaps no improvements for existing cards (but we could see better open source drivers for newer cards).

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8035 posts

Uber Geek


  # 592479 8-Mar-2012 17:21
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Have a look at article and review section, they cover different drivers on AMD and Nvidia hardware under Linux.


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  # 592852 9-Mar-2012 17:28
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Not so long ago, only ATI did open source drivers, so if you used Open Source because of philosophical reasons then ATI was the way to go and you put with the compositing problems and so on and if you had the skills you hacked on Xorg.conf.  NVidia linux support was not the best and their proprietary drivers were difficult to problem solve. the NV drivers saved that to a degree but compositing was still an issue.  Along came Intel opensourced their drivers, put some devs on the task and suddenly we had embedded graphics chips that out performed the high end cards in a Linux environment (my T42 Thinkpad ran compositing brilliantly).  Not long after that NVidia decided perhaps open sourcing their drivers was the way to go.

So much for the history lesson which will possibly explain the following.  I had the ATI card because of the philosophical reasons, I hacked on Xorg.conf, unfortunately this had to occur everytime I upgraded. PITA

Daughter upgraded her card and I got the hand-me-down, an NVidia Ge Force something or other I used the OS drivers and it sort of worked and I left it at that.  A couple months back I built a new machine as a media production machine with AVLinux on it (a Debian based appliance with all the Audio and Video editing grunt you would ever want) and I bought a high end NVidia card (GTX or something, who can keep track of it all).  Because I need reliable graphics I downloaded and installed the proprietary NVidia drivers and did a command line install.  At the same time on the older box I installed through YAST from the NVidia OpenSUSE repository.  What a difference.  There is still a bit of hacking about involved, installing kernel source and so forth but in this case definitely worth the effort.  The ATI card in another machine is still a little problematic.  

So right now, for high end card go NVidia, for Laptop or onboard go Intel.  Of course as is usual in this high turnover business, tomorrow may be completely different.      

639 posts

Ultimate Geek

  # 593062 10-Mar-2012 00:47
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Intel opensourced their drivers, put some devs on the task and suddenly we had embedded graphics chips that out performed the high end cards in a Linux environment (my T42 Thinkpad ran compositing brilliantly).

Yes, I have a T41 and it works great... or perhaps I should say "worked great" as the CCFL backlight (or the inverter) died on that one. But the Intel onboard graphics seems to be the way to go on laptops.

The ATI card in another machine is still a little problematic.

Which ATI card was the problematic one?

There seems to be a big difference in the performance and stability, depending on which one you get.

For example, if I want a fanless card, the Radeon HD 6450 might be an option, and appears like it might offer some small performance improvement over the slightly older Radeon HD 5450:

The problem with that, is that the HD 5450 appears to be a significant step backwards from the previous generation HD 4650.

In another comparison, it seems that the older HD 4000 series were giving giving quite decent results compared to the newer cards, so something like a HD 4670 with either the Catalyst (proprietary) or the Gallium3D (open source) driver, should easily outperform the ones I just mentioned...

For the Radeon HD 7000 series, things are not looking good.

So right now, for high end card go NVidia

Certainly if I was looking for a 3D gaming machine, a high end NVidia card with the NVidia proprietary driver would seem like the only logical way to go.

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