Gordon Dexter on 22 Feb 2009 13:06:08 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] ATI Open Source Driver Status

Christopher Shanahan wrote:
On Saturday 21 February 2009 14:17:59 Casey Bralla wrote:
> I'm planning a video card purcahse soon. I'd like to go with ATI due
> to their better open source support (or at least, better open source
> noises).
> The last I heard, ATI closed source drivers were superior to the open
> source ones.
> Anybody have any opinions on them?

I'm using an ASUS EAH4850 512Mb PCIe v2 card with dual 21" monitors
running the radeonhd driver on openSUSE 11.1 without problems. The card
with the radeonhd driver works very well, though I don't do any gaming.
I spent a lot of time researching video cards for my latest machine
paying close attention to heat and size. A number of the higher-end
cards require two open slots and a lot of room in your case - they are
long and their heat sinks make them wide.

For example:

As for ATI's driver, I've used it in the (recent) past but I find that
the radeonhd driver does what I need very well so I have no need to
compile ATI's driver myself or look for a binary package. I'm running a
64-bit OS so compiling ATI's driver isn't as straight forward as it is
for a 32-bit environment. To do so I would have had to install a large
number of 32-bit libraries on my 64-bit machine, and then deal with a
number of additional package dependencies. Completely do-able, just not
worth the trouble for me. Note that there is (now) a binary package
available for openSUSE 11.1 64-bit, but it wasn't available when the
OS was first released.

I'm also running KDE v4.2 so when I purchased my ATI card I had to
consider all the problems nvidia was having with their driver and KDE
4.x. And the open source nv driver isn't as far along as the open source
radeonhd driver.

I have stuck with nVidia up to now due to their reputation for having slightly better closed drivers.  I've been considering doing a build somewhat soon, so I asked a friend who follows kernel happenings just a few weeks ago and he said go with ATI.  I was actually somewhat surprised, since I got the general impression that the open source drivers were making slow progress.  I guess the expectation is that ATI drivers will improve dramatically due to the release of the specs for them, and the nVidia drivers will be somewhat stagnant.

So I guess nVidia is the practical, safe choice and ATI is the principled, long-term optimistic choice.

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