Date: Fri, 26 Apr 2002 08:59:19 +0100
From: Paul Kelly
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:0.9.9+) Gecko/20020425
Subject: Re: [ILUG] Best Graphics card for linux

nils wrote:

> Can anyone tell me what is the best graphics card to buy for linux

For 2D work, you've lots of choices and probably won't notice the difference between any of the major brands (nVidia/ATI/Matrox). Pick the board with the prettiest PCB colour.

For 3D the two best (fastest & most expensive) options are nVidia GeForce4 and ATI Radeon 8500. The nVidia cards at any given price point will be a lot faster in 3D under Linux than ATI and usually better rendering quality too. But only if you use the closed-source driver from nVidia which includes a hefty kernel module (nearly a megabyte!).

XFree86 comes with an open source 'nv' driver but it supports only the 2D features of the nVidia cards. Work is progressing on open source 3D support. The ATI Radeon cards are supported by a completely open driver in XFree86 that supports decent 3D acceleration through the standard DRI/DRM mechanism with minimal requirements for kernel support from GPL modules. All three drivers, nvidia/nv/radeon, have good support for video acceleration (XVideo support) for MPEG/DVD/Divx playback.

If you intend to use the card occasionally under a games OS like Windows, bear in mind that ATI Windows drivers since the dawn of time have sucked. nVidia is a clear winner there IMHO.


RM adds: Paul's opinion notwithstanding, one can have absolutely stellar video including very good (but not absolutely maximum-speed/quality) 3D performance using certain ATI Radeon cards and open-source software only, provided that one is very careful about which ATI Radeon chipset one buys. As the DRI Project's ATI Technologies page points out, "Radeons up to 9200 are supported". In particular, one wants to avoid ending up with ATI's cutting-edge "r300" or "Rv300" chipset series (generally speaking, Radeon models 9500 and above), as those require ATI's binary-only proprietary driver, if you want 3D support.