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Thread: Recommend me a dual-head graphics card please

  1. #1
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    Default Recommend me a dual-head graphics card please

    Hi all,

    I'm in the market for a new video card. A few weeks ago my 19" monitor died on me and I bought a new one. Then I found out that the old monitor was still under warranty, so the manufacturer sent me a new one. Now I have two 19" monitors and I'd like to create a dual-head setup.

    I am an occasional gamer and Blender user, so I am going to need hardware 3D acceleration. I read that Nvidia's binary drivers do not support XRandR 1.2 so I will probably need an ATI card, right? Or have the open source 3D drivers already progressed enough that they are usable on a day-to-day basis?

    So, can you recommend me a good video card? Requirements:
    - Decent hardware 3D support in Linux (Debian)
    - Dual monitor support (VGA since the monitors don't have HDMI)
    - PCIe interface
    - Not too expensive. I'm not planning on playing Quake 4 or anything like that. My main use for 3D is Compiz, Blender and an occasional game like Cube (not too heavy in the graphics department).

    The difference between the chipset numbers I see here on Phoronix and the stuff that manufacturers put on the boxes really confuse me, so can use a bit of help. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    In case it helps (these are from memory so take with grain of salt) :

    R2xx : Radeon 8000 to 9250
    R3xx : Radeon 9500 to 9850, X300-X600
    R4xx : Radeon X700 to X850
    R5xx : Radeon X1300 to X1950
    R6xx : Radeon HD2400 to HD3870 (there were two "waves" of R6xx, one corresponding to HD2xxx and the other to HD3xxx)
    R7xx : Radeon HD4xxx

    The binary drivers cover from R3xx and up, although more of the focus is on the newer chips. The open source drivers support all of the families but we don't have acceleration for R6xx/R7xx yet (it is WIP though). IGPs are always harder to map because they typically include very newest display/video logic plus smaller 3D engine from previous generation.
    Last edited by bridgman; 10-23-2008 at 04:57 AM.

  3. #3
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    Default

    wait, do you mean this cube?

    I don't know about nvidia stuff. Last time my nvidia card was in service, I didn't have a second monitor to play with.

    From the ATI side, I say go with an R500. I set up my Thinkpad T60 as a desktop replacement. Got the display running through the built-in LCD and a 17" monitor hooked to the VGA out. The KDEmod4.1 session spans both screens. The only problem I had was figuring out which arguments to pass to Xrander (and realizing where, exactly, in xorg.conf I had to put the "virtual" section).

    I say the R500 because it's supported EVERYWHERE. As long as your particular Debian (testing, I'd hope) is fairly recent, you'll be able to pick and choose the driver that works best. I've had nothing but bad luck with fglrx since I started using Linux, and it hasn't changed yet. But the new Xserver, mesa, and kernel DRM (get 2.6.26 or better), and the open source stuff should work fine.

    Then again, I don't use my computers for gaming. I'm pretty sure this rig with run Chromium just fine. Honestly, though, I turned that game on for all of five seconds before I remembered I had R-Type III in the other room. But the dual-display, Kwin composite effects, and video playback all work fine.

    For the record, I'm using:
    Lenovo Thinkpad T60 type 2007
    Mobility Radeon X1300 (64MB)
    Archlinux i686
    xf86-video-ati

  4. #4
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    Jul 2008
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    Hi,

    I'm very happy with 2 x Radeon HD 4850 in crossfire running with 2 x 22'' LCD monitors with the official Catalyst drivers. My OS is Slackware Linux 12.1.

  5. #5
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    Nov 2008
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    just for the record, while nVidia doesn't support XRandR 1.2, it uses TwinView which offers similar functionality. I'm happy with a 7600GT in dualscreen mode. Quake 4 runs fine, even FarCry2 is playable at low details.
    If you can get a cheap used one, you shouldn't have any trouble with it.

    Do NOT get anything from nVidia beyond 8xxx, they still have driver trouble and poor 2D acceleration.


    If you need something new, the ATI HD4650 or 4670 feature good performance (about twice as fast as 7600GT) at equally low power consumption (60W) - but suffer from a very loud standard cooler. If you go for them, try to find a model with custom cooling. But you'll need to use the closed source drivers.

    HD48xx are powerful, but power-hungry, and probably way oversized for your needs.

    In any case, check with your vendor about VGA outputs. Usually any card with two DVI outputs + two DVI->VGA converters should do. One converter is often included, a second one can be bought separately.

  6. #6
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    I have ATI 2400 Pro. Does dual-head with no issues, though I do recommend the Catalyst Control Centre. No 3D across both monitors though, will allow 3D on each. I run a screen saver called helios which is 3D, but they run separately on each screen, probably needs a tweak.

    3D games like Neverwinter nights and Vegastrike, clones the screens.

    Not a real problem for a AU$50 video card. Great with Blender and editing with Kdenlive and Kino.

    In XP, bit crappy, the old 9250 ran better.

    I am running on upgraded Ubuntu 8.10, AMD 4800X2 with 1.5G and SATA drives.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for all the responses. Sorry for my late reply. I thought I had subscribed to this thread.

    wait, do you mean this cube?
    No. This cube.

    I say the R500 because it's supported EVERYWHERE.
    Do the FOSS drivers support 3D on R500? Because I really need 3D support. Blender is a must for me.

    Usually any card with two DVI outputs + two DVI->VGA converters should do.
    Yes, I have a few questions about DVI. I spotted an ATI 4650 for less than 100 euro. It has two dual-link DVI connections at the back. The spec of the card says that I can hook two monitors through it (with two DVI-vga converters). But, at work I have seen people have a converter cable for a dual-link DVI that has two VGA connections. So, two dual-link DVI equals four monitors?

    And what about HD? The card spec is very confusing but I think it says that I need both the DVI slots in order to hook up a HD monitor. Is that right?

    Also, I don't understand PCIe v2 compatibility. The card says it compatible with PCIe v2 but my motherboard isn't quite that new (Asus A8N-SLI) and I am pretty sure it just has standard PCIe. No v2. Will the card work?

    And finally a question about cooling. When I built my PC I removed all the fans that were in it and replaced the lot with big Zahlman coolers and heatsinks. I'm quite happy with it because it makes my PC really quiet. The only noise is the small fan on my Nvidia 6600GT card. I see that Zahlman also makes coolers for VGA cards. Are they any good? Is it hard to replace the cooler on your video card (I've only done northbridge and CPU coolers so far)?

    That also leads me to card manufacturers. Zahlman mentions it supports ege. ATI 4850, ATI X*, Nvidia 7xxx, etcetera. But you don't just buy ATI. You buy a Sapphire, or an ASUS or an MSI or whatever. Are these all the same then? Does ATI make the card itself as well as the chip (so the boards are all the same, as in the same pin locations for coolers)? What's the difference between e.g. a Sapphire ATI 4650 and an ASUS ATI 4650? Just the cooler?

    A lot of questions, I know. Thanks for all the help you can give me.

  8. #8
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    Forget my question about Dual-link DVI supporting two monitors. Looks can be deceiving! At work we have graphics cards that have DMS-59 connectors. They look surprisingly like DVI connectors.

  9. #9
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    Kernel 2.6.26 and the recently released X stack (Mesa 7.2, Xorg 7.4, Xserver 1.5) have open-source R500 3D support.

    I don't know what Blender is, but any 3D I've needed (composite desktop, Chromium, Penny Arcade Adventures) has worked just fine for me.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sander Marechal View Post
    And what about HD? The card spec is very confusing but I think it says that I need both the DVI slots in order to hook up a HD monitor. Is that right?
    No. You may need a dual-link DVI port (not sure about that), but still just one port.
    Maybe you'll need HDMI, check with your display's manual.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sander Marechal View Post
    Also, I don't understand PCIe v2 compatibility. The card says it compatible with PCIe v2 but my motherboard isn't quite that new (Asus A8N-SLI) and I am pretty sure it just has standard PCIe. No v2. Will the card work?
    yes, those are backwards compatible. It'll only run at PCIe v1.x-speeds, but you probably wouldn't notice the difference anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sander Marechal View Post
    And finally a question about cooling. When I built my PC I removed all the fans that were in it and replaced the lot with big Zahlman coolers and heatsinks.
    just wanted to restate that you shouldn't replace your card with something more power-hungry/heat-generating unless you're sure your cooling can handle it.
    GPU coolers are usually compatible, there are equally-sized and -spaced holes on your card for mounting those. Nothing will stop a vendor from producing an incompatible card though.
    To replace the GPU cooler you often need to physically rip off the old cooler, destroying it's fixture and voiding your warranty. But if you went through southbridge-coolers, you should know the drill.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sander Marechal View Post
    What's the difference between e.g. a Sapphire ATI 4650 and an ASUS ATI 4650? Just the cooler?
    all of them are usually pretty close to the reference design. Some use custom cooling, they use different RAM manufacturers, and some cards are overclocked. Most other differences are subtle.
    There are offerings of silent-cooled HD4650. Nothing yet for the barely more expensive but noticably faster HD4670, unfortunately.
    read this:
    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/H..._Turbo/25.html

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