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Thread: Any update: HD Radeon 4xxx v.s. Nviida 260?

  1. #1
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    Default Any update: HD Radeon 4xxx v.s. Nviida 260?

    Could someone give some info on these cards in Linux?

    I hope to upgrade sometime and I think it's between these series of cards:

    Nvidia 260 GTX and the ATI Radeon HD 48xx series, 4870? Whatever is available at the time I'm ready to buy that is under $200.

    I want to support ATI so I'd like to choose it but I get the impression there are so many restrictions or limitations currently (still? :-( ).

    You need to use open source drivers for 3D or gaming? Whereas, 2D is fine with the proprietary fgrlx drivers? As long as the Catalyst utility/drivers are updated or something?

    Maybe game in Windows on Windows partition and then it doesn't matter which you go with either AMD or Nvidia? I watch movies or video a lot with my computer (Online videos, movies both DVD and .avi or mpeg/mpeg4 etc. etc.) so I was wondering how either ATI or Nvidia cards plus the respective drivers effect this. I know the older Nvidia cards are fine and probably newer Nvida cards are supported via proprietary/binary drivers. There's a limitation there but at least there is not as many video issues? Or is there some tearing in certain cases? Or does that apply to ATI (only?)?

    Could someone comment, explain and compare (perhaps?)?

    Also, if ATI's drivers have both pros and cons depending whether you're using the open source or proprietary and what you're using them for, 2D or 3D, can you switch back and forth easily or does it involve installing and uninstalling? If so, how complicated is that process?

    I've only dealt with Nvidia so far.

    Thanks in advance for any replies. Sorry, if this post became rather lengthy and if I could have summarized it with less wordiness, I did try to address all the various comparisons and topics as briefly as I could. ;-)

  2. #2
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    Just to clarify a couple of things - the Catalyst drivers *are* the proprietary drivers, ie Catalyst for Linux = proprietary fglrx.

    You need to uninstall the proprietary drivers in order to use open source drivers.

    Right now the proprietary drivers are the only option for 3D and gaming, but open source 3D drivers are making good progress.

  3. #3
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    Well fglrx compared to nvidia binary is really bad. If you want to play games go for Nvidia - provides even vdpau if needed.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panix View Post
    You need to use open source drivers for 3D or gaming? Whereas, 2D is fine with the proprietary fgrlx drivers?
    Actually it's pretty much the opposite: 2D tends to be good with the open-source drivers, and open-source 3D support is currently nonexistent in mainstream distros for the 4000 series. Likewise, Nvidia omits 3D support from its open-source driver.

    Also, if ATI's drivers have both pros and cons depending whether you're using the open source or proprietary and what you're using them for, 2D or 3D, can you switch back and forth easily or does it involve installing and uninstalling? If so, how complicated is that process?
    It depends on the distro. It's not usually that bad, but it's not something you want to be doing every couple of hours.

    If you want to do 3D gaming on Linux, especially if you want to use Wine, Nvidia is currently the clear winner. The main advantage of ATI's products is that they will support the next-generation open-source graphics stack (DRI2/TTM/KMS/Gallium3D), but that's still a work in progress and will take a while before mainstream distros ship it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ex-Cyber View Post
    The main advantage of ATI's products is that they will support the next-generation open-source graphics stack (DRI2/TTM/KMS/Gallium3D), but that's still a work in progress and will take a while before mainstream distros ship it.
    I don't know any advantages there, from what I see, nouveau is in much better shape regarding DRI2/TTM/KMS/Gallium3D.

  6. #6
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    I don't think that cards which need fglrx for full performance (unlike the really extra cheap lowend cards) are a good buy. I think the drivers will be dropped too soon like you see for r500. X1950 cards are definitely not slow, but since fglrx 9-4 they are not supported but that driver is needed for Xserver 1.6+. And the oss driver is definitely no full replacement - too many features are missing and speed is really low. I don't know when r600/r700 will be dropped but DX11 cards should be out this year for Win7/Vista. And then DX10.x is legacy.

  7. #7
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    After spending several agonizing minutes trying to find any kind of info on open source ATI drivers (for any type of graphics card or integrated graphics), I decided to give up. I'll definitely be going with an Nvidia card. The AMD/ATI website is absolutely abysmal.

  8. #8
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    The open source driver work is managed as part of the xorg development effort so information is primarily maintained on the x.org site :

    http://www.x.org/docs/AMD/

    http://www.x.org/wiki/radeon

    http://www.x.org/wiki/radeonhd

    http://www.x.org/wiki/RadeonFeature

    We mirror the documents on amd.com but in general we work with the xorg community and maintain the information there.

    The drivers are already in most distributions out-of-the-box, and our goal is to have any distro that picks up relatively recent drivers from freedesktop.org "just work". Different distros have different priorities so the level of support you get varies between distros; for example Ubuntu 9.04 has solid support for all GPUs except the ones which shipped after Jaunty was released, including backported drm support for 6xx and 7xx EXA/XV acceleration, while Fedora 11 is the showcase for next generation drivers including Kernel Modesetting and GEM/TTM. Other distros, typically the "stable" releases, ship much older versions of the driver and require updates in order to support current hardware.

    Is there something specific you are looking for ? We can put more info on amd.com about the open source drivers but my preference is to work with the community and keep all the important information on www.x.org instead.

    In general we find that people looking for open source drivers go to the xorg pages not to the vendor pages. It probably wouldn't hurt to cross-link www.amd.com and www.x.org a bit more but I'm trying hard not to misrepresent what is essentially a community effort with significant AMD support.

    EDIT - just out of curiosity I took a quick look at the NVidia site; the only mention of open source drivers I could find there was for chipset drivers; ethernet, disk etc...
    Last edited by bridgman; 07-06-2009 at 03:21 AM.

  9. #9
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    Just like ATI, the nv oss driver is there:

    http://cgit.freedesktop.org/xorg/driver/xf86-video-nv/

    Of course this or nouveau is preinstalled on a current distro. But compared to ATI they updated 3 legacy drivers already with 2.6.31 support, the latest stable 185.18.04 can be patched for 2.6.31 (patch can be found on nvnews.net). They DO provide updates for legacy chips, just no Xserver 1.5+ support for oldest legacy driver (mostly DX7 cards up to GeForce 2 GTS). And you can be sure that those drivers are full featured and do not miss lots of things which are only predicted for oss drivers, but not yet working.

  10. #10
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    Just get the card that is more easily available/cheaper. Both have the potential to give you their fair share of headaches.
    As for fglrx, it works fine as long as you don't have any composition running. The driver currently has problems with Compiz/kwin, which is where most of the complaints come from these days. The problems are known and are being worked on, so it's not like ATI users are out of luck. I got a 4850 and for what I do (games, movies, Compiz) it works fine.
    The open source drivers are more of a "curiosity" right now for r600/r700 type hardware. They got working 2D accel. and functional Xv for proper movie playback, but no 3D yet.
    Last edited by Melcar; 07-06-2009 at 12:58 PM.

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