Video Card Choices

johnw's picture

From the mailing list, Jan 2008:

> Changing tone very briefly, is there a better video card manufacturer to 
> use when considering linux? 

A summary of open source graphics drivers:

  • ATI

Support for old R200 cards (up to Radeon 9200) is fairly good (2D and 3D). Support for R300/R400 (R9550-X850) cards is ok, though performance is unimpressive. Some of the integrated chipsets (the ones that use system RAM instead of having dedicated video ram) are still a bit flaky. ATI have stated that they will release specs R500/R600 (X1000 and HD) cards to allow an open source driver to be written. They've already released specs for basic 2D setup, and 3D docs are expected real soon now. The 2D driver is just starting to work its way into distros now, and my guess is we'll probably see full 3D capable drivers in about 6 months.

  • Intel

Currently by far the best supported chipset. Has fairly good 2D and 3D drivers. Actively developed and maintained. The main downside is that Intel chipsets are available as integrated chipsets, so no good if you want an AMD CPU or a card for an existing system.

  • Via (Chrome series)

Somewhat variable support. There are several forks of this driver. It's possible to get 3D support, and hardware MPEG decoding, however probably not both at the same time, and you'll probably have to build your own driver. Again only integrated chipsets, commonly found on EPIA boards.

  • nVidia

Lousy. Basic 2D support with video overlay. Driver is stable (written by nVidia), but has almost no features. Does not support dual head, TV out or 3D. There is a project to reverse engineer a full featured 3D driver. However it's currently nowhere near usable, and I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it. -- If you'd asked this question 8 months ago my answer would have been a bit different. At that point ATI R5/600 support was absolutely abysmal. Since then they got bought by AMD, and are now looking like the most promising cards. In summary the only chipsets that work well right now are the Intel ones. Antique ATI chipsets also work, but are no good for new machines (AGP only). Newer ATI chipsets currently "work" well enough for a basic desktop, with the promise of better support to come. Paul