HD 4870 vs GTX 260: My Experience
For a summary of this long post, skip to the last paragraph.
Let me preface this by saying I am typing this post with a chip on my shoulder and a certain amount of bias, my reasons for which will hopefully become clear.
This is perhaps more of an ATI vs Nvidia driver rant, but as it pertains to compatibility, I hope it is in the right forum.
First, some backstory. Up until about 2 years ago, I was using a computer with an Nvidia FX5700 AGP graphics card. My OS of choice is Gentoo, which I have been using nearly exclusively since its inception. I use KDE as my desktop, 3.5 back then and 4.2 now. The only game I played was World of Warcraft, which ran just fine in Wine with performance comparable to running in Windows XP. By fine I mean it worked, but as this card was becoming dated, it worked very slowly with the graphics engine updates.
I decided to upgrade to a newer generation AGP card, buying the HD 3650 by recommendation. I had a bit of issue getting the drivers working in Gentoo, but eventually I had things running stable. The major problem here was that WoW no longer worked at all. Seconds into starting the game, the screen would turn into a jumble of yellow triangles and there was no text. Games like Counter-Strike continued to work. I tried both Wine and Cedega. I was forced to dual booting Windows XP for WoW.
Even in Windows XP, this card did not work very well. My widescreen monitor took much proding to enable, and when I did finally get it working, dragging windows around was very choppy. So bad in fact that I conceded to using a single monitor. I was told that this was because AMD does not officially support old hardware.
Now on to the present.
I recently got a more modern rig: Asus M4A79T, AMD Phenom II X4 810, Asus EAH4870 DK. I was reluctant to buy another ATI card after my last experience, but the same friend assured me that since this was a more modern computer, it would be officially supported by AMD in Linux.
The first issue I ran into was that running "X -configure" segfaulted, same issue I had with the HD3650. The ati-config utility can be used to generate a xorg.conf, but it only fills in the sections pertaining to the device and screen. This isn't much of a problem. The real problem was that my computer crashed extremely hard whenever trying to start X. I must have power cycled my computer 40 times in two days trying to get a working X. I spent the better part of a week before I finally was able to get X running on a single monitor, although exiting caused a crash as well.
I was told that my problem was because I was using Gentoo, which was not officially supported, and I needed to use Ubuntu. I installed Ubuntu and promptly experienced the same problems. Through some more tweaking, I was eventually able to get X working to where I could start and exit without crashing. It seems Xinerama was the cause of the majority of instability, and so I could not use the amdcccle utility to enable multi monitor support (enabling the Xinerama checkbox caused X crashes). I was however able to get both monitors going by putting an xrandr line in my kdm Xsetup. This seemed like a half assed method, but worked mostly ok.
I was still not able to play WoW. In fact, I had the exact same problem with this new card - yellow triangles and no text. In addition to this, the other games like Counter-Strike no longer worked. Resizing windows was painfully slow. I was again forced to use Windows XP. I figured I could have some kind of tenuous pact - Windows for gaming, Linux for music, anime, movies, Matlab, etc. The last straw for me was when X would crash when trying to watch full screen videos. The video would also frequently pause unless I moved my mouse (no, it was not the screen saver).
Earlier today I recieved my Asus ENGTX260 Matrix in the mail. I installed the card, booted into Gentoo, emerged the nvidia drivers, ran X -configure, held my breath and started up KDE. Well, everything works fine. The settings utility let me configure both monitors, window resizing is smooth, WoW runs great, videos are fine full screen. I have not had a crash yet. In short, it's an actual working desktop.
Performance in WoW in Windows XP between the HD4870 and GTX260 is very similar.
I could potentially accept my problems as having some bizzare hardware combination, or using unsupported OSes, or that my card was defective, if it were not for the fact that I had two completely different systems with different video cards sharing very similar problems. To put it bluntly, AMD's Linux drivers are poorly lacking. If you are looking for graphics card to use under Linux, I recommend Nvidia.
Last edited by TheBouleOfFools; 06-19-2009 at 10:39 AM.
Never had an issue with fglrx once I was mindful of the bugs (like the recent problems with composition).
Some are more lucky than others. Some do not notice tearing, others do...
Some are more lucky than others with any vendor. Nvidia's drivers are far from bug-free, but since those bugs don't break WoW for everyone they inspire fewer complaints.
lol, WoW is hardly the "make or break" app to which drivers are judged.
Originally Posted by Ex-Cyber
Think he meant that in a sarcastic tone.
For some people it's apparently the make-or-break app against which everything is judged.
Originally Posted by deanjo
Originally Posted by Ex-Cyber
More like WINE being the make-or-break magical app. If your driver doesn't work with it, it sucks.
It wasn't so much WoW for me, it was more X crashing on full screen videos, Xinerama crashing X, switching terminals crashing X, exiting X crashing X, and very slow window resizing.
It was more DRI than Mesa we were trying to stay with, but using the standard stack was definitely a factor. We felt that it was better to try to work with the standard stack rather than bypass big chunks and make it harder for community developers to justify spending effort improving the framework.
Now that we're fully supporting open source driver development, allowing the X/DRI stack and open source drivers to evolve together, we are starting to cheerfully over-write pieces of the stack ourselves. You probably noticed the first change in that direction a year or so ago, when we started providing the ability to combine multiple FireGL cards into a single desktop and split 3D operations across the GPUs and screens :
We replaced a bit more of the stack a few months ago in order to provide flicker-free OpenGL compositing across multiple GPUs.
Last edited by bridgman; 07-05-2009 at 12:31 PM.