I would love to go pure AMD for my next workstation (if only they'd know I'd buy it because of their open source strategy, and give more resources to this department..). Problem is, I will use the machine primarily for 3D and graphics creation, and I also really want to play OilRush I am also a Gentoo user so I'd like to be free in my choice of kernel and Xorg version.
As I see it, the only choice is nVidia, and it's not bad. Of course I'd like to have KMS and xrandr, but the performance and stability of the nVidia blob is really good (granted I have only used it up to GF8800 series, and i've read some people having performance problems in Blender with the drivers for GF4xx). I can't comment on the ATi/AMD blob as I've never used it, but I don't like what I read/hear and don't want to take the chance, yet. I'm interested though to see if AMD's new driver will be the "magical" one...
Maybe in 4-5 years time when I will upgrade again, the open source Radeon driver will have good performance and features to be useful in digital content creation, and highend games, and I will be able to buy a gfx-card from AMD, all running pure FLOSS goodness - except for the native commercial games
It depends on the model of laptop that carries the optimus parts Svartalf. Some you can select the nvidia GPU in the BIOS and it works. Others venders can't be bothered to give the option in the BIOS.
just to be clear here, these so called Hybrid Gfx chip set's as in two or more separate Gfx parts included so you can select between graphics performance or sustained battery life, are a real pain right now in several OSS OS's ,remember there's more than just Linux here, there are a lot of them around today
if your device/laptop does not include the ability in it's equivalent of BIOS to manually switch between them , dont buy it is my advice and inform the vendor why, so they can perhaps add that option in a newer update...
But it seems some people are suggesting out of the box with minimal fiddling Nvidia will be better for my needs.
NVidia have much broader software and hardware support, both legacy and faster for upcoming(although this changes). They also support video decoding(huge +), but bad at multimonitor cfgs. And obviously wine runs better(but this changes too).
But if they say no(optimus case), or you are not happy with kernel/glibc/xorg software version they choose - they do not care. And in case you want opensource driver, its hardly usable.
AMD has everything mirrored. Proprietary hangs a bit past nvidia in release dates, supports way less legacy cards, has no video decode(and will never have), but good at multimonitor cfgs. I didn't try lastest 11.1 so I cannot tell anything on stability, but 9.5 was slap in the face - crashing xorg straight when switching tty's.
The opensource driver where most cards have to land after few years due to support drop is subset of proprietary, but its still ways better than (not-)nvidia's noveau. Its 3D performance & features are still on par with year 2004(with a lot of features missing, some due to patent traps which AMD fights(kinda)), but the drivers will never outdate anymore.