Here is what I am looking for. Current up-to-date info from (mainly) ATI people as well as the Nvidia ones on drivers. ATI vs NVIDIA. Who's drivers will give me the least amount of trouble vs good performance; are they both about even now? * if there is a 3rd party driver of note, throw it out there, Love to see suggestions *

So far with digging forums, etc. I've seen that Nvidia is the way to go, but ATI has been slowly but steadily catching up in that regard. Is that still true, and if so is there still a huge gap? The majority of this information is a few years old.

I will make a big disclaimer by saying I'm looking for hard fact, not fanboy rhetoric, if I wanted that I would have already bought the ATI card...

I have a couple of used servers I use for basic home RAID/http/ssh/rsync/samba/media server/etc. services. The basics and whatever I happen to make my hobby that week. Right now both servers are running ATI MACH64 8mb integrated graphics. Fine for web surfing, etc. But I would like to get a graphics card so I can delegate the old output to a backup terminal monitor(easier for power outages, ups, etc.) and send a nice DVI output to a real monitor or two. (Right now that means my dual 19" LCD setup, eventually adding a 3rd really big monitor, most likely 22-24" unless santa is very nice to me.) The card WILL be PCI, as the servers only have PCI-X slots.

Here are the hardware specs, followed by what I actually want to do with the monitor in order of preference. Not much, but gaining some desktop efx and have the ability to play the occasional old 3d game would be nice, turn it into a workstation when need be. Right now the extra process cycles get eaten up by my boinc client.

Hardware:

-- Cards I am looking at buying (note I just grabbed a few, haven't looked deep enough to decide WHICH yet, want to get the ATI/Nvidia part settled first. If you have input on the ATI HD vs X1xxx shout out.)
- Note the price range. I'm not looking to drop tons of cash. Keeping it sub-$100 is optimal as it's just going in a server that is not my primary gaming machine.
--- Diamond Radeon HD 2400 Video Card - 256MB GDDR2, PCI, (Dual Link) DVI, VGA, HDTV


HIS Radeon X1550 iFan Video Card - 256MB DDR2, PCI, (Dual Link) DVI, VGA, TV Out


HIS Radeon X1550 Video Card - 256MB GDDR2, PCI, Dual DVI, HDTV, Video Card


Sparkle GeForce 8500 GT Video Card - 256MB DDR2, PCI, (Dual Link) DVI, VGA, HDTV


EVGA GeForce 6200 Video Card - 256MB DDR2, PCI, DVI, VGA, TV Out, Video Card

-- My equipment

HP DL585 Quad Opteron
(2.2ghz)
(single core, but will still spank a faster Xeon on boinc...)
4 gb ram
SCSI host HD
3ware 4-way SATA RAID card running the mass storage (~1tb mirrored, will expand like it always does/has)

IBM x345 with dual HT Xeons
(2.66ghz)
(single core, HT)
6gb ram
SCSI Host HD
3ware 2-way SATA RAID card running the mass storage

Both run Mandriva Linux, 2.6.22 kernel, 2009 distro.
Planning on KDE 4.x on both, (the IBM is still on 3.5, haven't fully upgraded from 2008 to 2009 yet)

Both use PCI-X slots, have both 100 & 133 slots open. The HP server can handle full-sized cards, IBM does require half-height. I realize I will not see PCI-X performance with a PCI card, but they didn't build the thing with an AGP or PCI-e slot so this is what I got. I still have a separate machine for gaming so I won't cry too loudly.

--------
At long last, here is what I am looking to have happen.

- Run 2d and basic 3d well and fast via DVI (preferrably) or VGA out to LCD monitor starting at 1280x1024 res, going up to the larger monitor later (dunno native res for a 22"+ monitor, but I would imagine I need it to at least be comfortable with 1920x1200).

- Run Compiz Fusion, etc. desktop effects to make my X windows pretty (and functional unlike vista....)

- Minimal headaches. ** to the Nvidia fanboys. I want to hear about CURRENT ATI headaches, not headaches from 2005, so ATI boys speak up! With a short release cycle I'm interested to see if it's gotten easier/worse on older equipment **
I am not concerned with overclocking it, peak performance, tweaking heavily, etc. I DO want it to have roughly the same performance vs a Windows version of driver.
I don't mind a dip into /etc, but I want to install it in about the same amount of time it would take on a win machine, maybe having to tweak an install script. I don't necessarily want to have to search forums, etc.
The command line doesn't scare me but I don't really want to have to figure out 500 characters worth of command line options,either. I'll put one in, but somebody smarter than me should have written it.
I also don't HAVE to upgrade often. Stable drivers are a plus, I don't like having to overhaul drivers often, I don't mind running outdated drivers if they do what I need them to.

- Maybe help/speed up the occasional foray into Adobe Indesign (via wine or VMware haven't gotten that far), Illustrator or Photoshop for advertising/etc.

- Speed up Mpeg-2 playback as well as encoding, possibly mass encoding via a cmd line script.

- Play the odd older 3d game, such as Counterstrike source, BF2, oblivion, dungeon runners, civ 4, sins of solar empire, etc. Not looking for latest/greatest, would simply buy new gaming system for that.

- Do not know if this matters, but if it isn't hooked into a media center, it will be supplying the movies/media TO the remote media center, not sure if gfx card can help with remote mythbuntu/etc.

- If possible let the GPU churn out some boinc units, I know it's possible for SETI client (dunno if just win or not) but if not for all boinc it's only a matter of time. If one is more giving in that regard I'm for it.




Thank you ahead of time, I'm anxious to hear from some of you more knowledgable people as it will save myself (and anybody else reading the post) some time.