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Tom's Hardware Reviews ATI and Nvidia on Linux 201

Beuno writes "I stumbled upon a GeForce vs Radeon review on Tom's Hardware, which seems normal enough. The big surprise is that it was actually a comparison of those two video cards on Linux (Fedora Core 5). The review isn't as thorough as I would like, but it does review all aspects ranging from tools available, complexity of getting them to work and benchmarks on performance. To me, this is a clear signs of Linux finally making a long expected breakthrough into common desktops."
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Tom's Hardware Reviews ATI and Nvidia on Linux

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  • Compatibility... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChowRiit ( 939581 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:04PM (#15724766)
    Maybe this trend will have all game manufacturers making their games Linux compatible too? (As opposed to having to run them through emulators like Wine and Cedega)...

    I know I'd move properly from XP if this were the case, and I suspect a lot of gamers feel the same way - there are a large portion that only use XP because getting the games to run under Linux is such a hassle.

    We can but hope...
    • Re:Compatibility... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Billy the Impaler ( 886238 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:08PM (#15724779)
      WINE and Cedega are not emulators, rather, they implement a compatibility layer. Cedega is a proprietary fork of WINE that has more advanced DirectX implementation.
      • This is an important distinction, by the way. While it does probably mean slower performance than running the same program natively under Linux, there have been instances where games run faster under Wine or Cedega than under Windows.

        Cedega does cause a price problem, though. I would encourage everyone to use Cedega and wipe out their XP partitions so that games start being ported, but I can't really recommend it for the price alone. New Windows every 7 years: $200. Cedega: $5/mo = $120/year. Thus, Ced
        • by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @01:02PM (#15724947)
          Hm, 5x12=120? You went to an American school didn't you, or do you live on some other planet that has 24 months in a year?
      • FWIW, this usually comes up, and it's worth pointing out a few things.

        1. Most people know that WINE is a reimplementation of an API, not a CPU emulator. I know a handful of people get confused here, but the majority, in my experience, do not.

        2. Historically, the word emulator has, actually, included programs that simulate operating systems, not just programs that simulate CPUs. For example, the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga had several systems marketed as "Macintosh emulators". The non-hardware versions

    • Re:Compatibility... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by WCD_Thor ( 966193 )
      I am one of these people-I hate the crap that Windows XP sends my way, but I am a gamer first and foremost, so I put up with anoying bugs, shitty features, and idiotic crashes. If games because Linux compatable, I would move to a linux opperating system in seconds. I am already planning on installing Suse 10.1 (the free dvd iso version) on my computer as a second opperating system, I just need more hard drive space so I can wipe my windows system disk (it really needs a fresh install). So far I have been us
    • Here's something I posted the other day on digg regarding the same subject:

      It would be a lot easier for them to port if all games were opengl. I remember way back when John Carmack had his open letter to microsoft on the merits of opengl. Unfortunately, it seems d3d (even though crap back then) has won out in the end. Not that it's better than opengl, it could be now, but that's beside the point. Microsoft saw how big gaming was getting and wanted to tie developers and as a result it's users to one platform
  • by pdbaby ( 609052 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:05PM (#15724768)
    No thanks... I'll wait for the 300 page Toms Hardware revi-oh. I see.
    • Re:No thanks... (Score:2, Informative)

      by ErixTr ( 601648 ) _radeon_take_on_linux/print.html []

      Adding "print.html" works for all articles on THG.
      • Well this is not exactly true actually. in fact if you follow that link you will go to the standard site (/index.html). But when you are there, replace the /index.html by /print.html and voilà, you are done. Thanks :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:08PM (#15724781)
    This is all very well but Linux's big breakthrough on the desktop won't come until we can play Duke Nukem Forever on Linux.
    • by cbiltcliffe ( 186293 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:10PM (#15724785) Homepage Journal
      What are you talking about? It plays exactly the same on Linux as it does on Windows. Just as easy to install, and even the exact same framerate.
      • by Baloo Ursidae ( 29355 ) <> on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:32PM (#15724849) Journal
        Just as easy to install, and even the exact same framerate.

        I've found, on the same hardware, that GTA: Vice City runs *smoother* with higher graphics settings in Cedega on Linux than natively in Windows. That really surprised me.

        • by MrHanky ( 141717 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:59PM (#15724934) Homepage Journal
          Maybe because Linux uses less RAM than Windows XP, or uses virtual memory better? Nvidia's driver code should be more or less the same, and there's no chance that cedega speeds up directx by converting it to OpenGL. I've had very good experiences with running Championship Manager under wine, and that's just a huge database.
          • Linux manages memory+vm+disk caching *much* more intelligently than Windows, so yes, this is a likely reason for the speed increases seen in certain cases. However, I've noticed wine outperforming windows in cases where it seemed unlikely that any of that should affect it - i.e. in situations where memory usage and disk access were minimal. I can only assume they're cases where Windows is hitting some insane code bloat, particularly considering that video performance in X *should* always be a bit below Wind
          • by ATMD ( 986401 )
            Nvidia's driver code should be more or less the same

            Nvidia's driver code is exactly the same - they've said that the binary part is just copied wholesale from the Windows driver, except with a different layer to interface with the operating system.
        • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @01:09PM (#15724970)
          Check your RAM usage - for a lot of modern games under Windows, goig from 512meg to 1gig makes a considerable difference. Going from (say) 250 meg free to 350meg free is likely to have a noticeable effect too. I'd imagine that your Linux install uses less RAM than your Windows one, assuming you have third party firewall and anti-virus software under Windows.
        • In my case this was likely because the windows graphics drivers are integrated with the power-saving, buttons, etc. You can't use the updated ones from the graphics-card manufacturer, and the laptop manufacturer stopped updating the specific ones for that laptop (and latter models went with ATI instead of NVidia).

          So in the end, I had windows with less up-to-date graphics drivers, and crappy gameplay in BattleField 2. On the other hand, Linux+NVidia Driver+Cedega game better gameplay for many of the games
        • I had a similar revelation, though not centered on graphics (This was a year ago and I was still on a Geforce2 Ti).

          On Windows, WoW would randomly bluescreen with something about the network stack. Through Wine and Cedega (depending on how blizzard broke them with whatever the current patch was at the time), once the new patches were coded around, we were set for hours of grinding mindless fun!
  • 2007 it is! (Score:5, Funny)

    by QCompson ( 675963 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:09PM (#15724782)
    To me, this is a clear signs of Linux finally making a long expected breakthrough into common desktops.

    Yes, how can anyone doubt that 2007 will be the year of linux on the desktop?
  • Performance issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by also-rr ( 980579 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:11PM (#15724788) Homepage
    Generally performance running games on Linux has been a mixed bag (on the same hardware).

    NWN, WoW and UT have all been slightly faster than the Windows version, and crashes have been less of a problem (ctrl-alt-f1, kill task, no need to reboot - which _is_ required for some reason under Windows as games seem to offer best performance off a fresh reboot... resource recovery problems in the DirectX subsystem maybe?)

    On the other hand EVE runs slower, with more graphical artifacts. Yes I'm aware that this is because it doesn't play that nicely with WINE and the fact that it runs in a playable fashion is a small miracle. It is still the case that if you want the best performance then you have to play it on Windows, for now.
    • Run EVE on Cedega. It runs beautifully, and as fast as Windows. Make sure you're using a high-responsiveness kernel.

      As far as graphical artifacts, I've only ever seen minor texture corruption on some transparencies, and only very, very occasionally. To me, it looks more like a heat related problem (I'm big on quite computing, so my fans aren't 50000 RPM monsters) than a code problem.

      As for Wine (free) versus Cedega (nonfree), I sleep soundly at night, because although Cedega is nonfree, I'd rather pay money
  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:15PM (#15724803)
    ...on their face. Most laptops with ATI Mobility Express chipsets can't use the onboard video memory. ATI broke this a year ago and has not fixed it.

    So don't trust ATI for Linux capabilities on notebooks.

    Maybe Toms Hardware can do a notebook comparison since they've already done the desktop. I'm pretty sure that would expose this failure to far more than the few who already are aware of this. And just maybe, it'll get ATI to fix this.

  • You can play Quake 3 using only free software and a 9600XT, you can't with a 7800GT.
  • by Jacek Poplawski ( 223457 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:25PM (#15724834)
    They even mentioned DRI.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The print version [] and because that didn't work for me, the same via coral cache []
  • by miyako ( 632510 ) <(miyako) (at) (> on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:42PM (#15724881) Homepage Journal
    I've always used nVidia cards, which have always worked well for me under Linux. I've never tried getting an ATI card to work because I've never heard anything other than it was sheer agony to use an ATI card under Linux.
    In general, this is fine. If a hardware vendor doesn't support my OS, then I will buy from a vendor who does. In this case, nVidia hovers between "almost as good as" and "slightly better than" ATI, depending on who has most recently released a new video card, so it's not a big compromise.
    I do find ATIs lack of Linux support to be disappointing now however, because those of us interested on running Linux on an intel mac are stuck with a choice between ATI and an embedded crappy video card.
    Incidentally, has anyone had any luck getting Linux to dual boot with OS X on one of the newer iMacs? I'm interested in getting one, but until Autodesk offers an Intel Mac version of Maya I'm stuck on Linux (and actually, even if there were an Intel Mac version, I'm not sure I want to pay the fee to transfer my license from Linux to Mac) so I can't justify getting a new machine unless it can run Linux well with good 3D support.
    • because those of us interested on running Linux on an intel mac are stuck with a choice between ATI and an embedded crappy video card.

      Realistically, this will only make a difference if you are playing games or doing GPGPU work. The recent Intel chips compare well with one or two generation old hardware from nVidia; they even have pixel shader hardware, which is used for a number of effects in a modern graphical environment.

      By the way, anyone looking for a GPU to use with free drivers on FreeBSD should

    • by matrixhax0r ( 988785 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @02:18PM (#15725179)
      There's a new opensource driver for ATI cards. As you may already know, ATI released code and documentation for their old r200 and r100 based cards. Then the opensource community used that information to write opensource drivers which are now found in X11-DRM and Mesa.

      However, for r300 and up, ATI wanted to force users to use their proprietary drivers which have really sucked so far. Never fear! There's the r300 project currently in development that aims to add support for these more modern cards. What started as an invididual project (, is now fully integrate into the the offical DRM and Mesa development trees.

      Although the r300 driver is not in the offical DRM nor Mesa releases yet, the are in the CVS tree.
      DRM - checkout drm
      Mesa - checkout Mesa
      There are quite a few guides on compiling and using these sources. I recomend checking the Gentoo Forums. They support EXA and Xorg 7.1 (unlike current ATI / nVidia drivers IIRC). In fact I'm using them as I'm typing this.

      Performance is not nearly the speed of the binary drivers. However, I can still play UT2K4/Doom 3, so it's good enough. It looks very promising and is likely to get must faster in the future. It seems very stable and I haven't had a video driver crash since I started using them (around Xorg 7.01 release).
  • Ah yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:45PM (#15724893) Homepage Journal
    Because hundreds of Desktop apps require 3D accelerated drivers.

    Like erm ... err ... erm ... you know.
    Oh, 3D rendering. I mean, everyone in my office spends all day doing 3D rendering.

    Clue : if the speed at which windows are blitted to the screen is the rate determining step in you workflow, you're probably not getting paid enough.
    • Maybe not 3D, but the Linux distributions I have tried, does not perform well on standard onboard graphics chips. If you have a 20" monitor and run 1600x1200, it becomes very annoying when you come a Windows desktop. But just a 50$ can solve that problem.
      I have been switching between Windows and Linux until I got that card. Booting Windows when I got tired of the poor graphics performance, and booting Linux again when I got tired of missing all the advantages of having a Linux desktop when all the server I
    • Exposé on OS X makes me a lot more productive; I multitask a lot, and I can switch between tasks with this a lot faster than I can with other mechanisms. Maybe it only save a minute or two a day, but it also means I can stay in flow while switching between components of the same problem. This is only possible with hardware OpenGL.

      Pixel shaders on a modern GPU can be used to do good sub-pixel AA. The clearer the text on my screen is, the longer I can read it without getting eye-strain. The longer I

    • Like, Google Earth for Linux, it uses OpenGL
    • Because hundreds of Desktop apps require 3D accelerated drivers.

      Like erm ... err ... erm ... you know.
      Oh, 3D rendering. I mean, everyone in my office spends all day doing 3D rendering.

      Clearly you need to get a new job in an office where people really do spend all day (or at least substantial portions of it) doing 3D rendering. I'd suggest an architect or structural engineer's office as a good start.
  • hm (Score:4, Informative)

    by joe 155 ( 937621 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @01:03PM (#15724950) Journal
    From TFA: "Acquiring Nvidia drivers seldom entails more than consulting a package repository for your Linux distribution of choice, and instructing local package management facilities to fetch, build, and install all required files and dependencies."

    Well, support for Nvidia isn't supported on FC5 because it is non-free, so you won't find it in the standard repositories using yum... if you add livna you can do "yum install kmod-nvidia -y" which will handle it all... but it is important not to use the Nvidia ones because they overwrite sections of your X and can cause problems, especially if you change you card later. More info can be found here; on_notes.html#nVidia []... just wanted to get the message out there to protect the penguins
    • That's FUD.

      I've been using NVidia's drivers for two years now with FC3, FC4 and FC5 downloaded from NVidia and installed per their instructions. The only problems I've ever had are when doing X upgrades my xorg.conf needs reconfiguring for dual-head output.
  • by loftwyr ( 36717 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @01:18PM (#15724991)
    You can always get good info on hardware under linux on Phoronix []. They've got lots of experience with linux builds and games and wine to give good information.
  • by Hobart ( 32767 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @01:29PM (#15725028) Homepage Journal

    This seems like a good on-topic thread in which to mention the ( folks) effort to write a 100% open source 3D driver for the NVidia cards -- nouveau []

    If you're an owner of an nVidia card, please do all you can to help contribute! They appear to be suprisingly far along.

    Slashcode bug # 497457 - unfixed since December 2001 - Go look it up []!
  • I got a Nvidia card with passive cooling for my Linux desktop instead on the onboard graphics. All the desktop computers I have had at work, have always been slow compared to Windows with any Linux distribution when it comes to graphics speed. It does not make it better that you need to run a higher resolution to get the same screen "real estate". (of course, tuning font sizes help a bit).

    Anyway I installed the 50$ Nvidia card which solved that problem. And with SUSE 10, I hope I don't have to worry about c
  • From the article,

    "Installing Nvidia drivers is simple, straight-forward, and usually incorporated into your distribution's package repository. For example, Fedora Core 5 offers GeForce driver revisions 8756 and 8762 through select repositories, so installation involves little more than invoking Yellow Dog Updater, Modified (YUM) or YUM Extender (YUMEX). Nvidia clearly wins on this front, because ATI doesn't offer this luxury."

    The last few updates of the ATI drivers I have recieved have been done so vi

  • by pdh11 ( 227974 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @02:54PM (#15725306) Homepage
    I'm still looking for any graphics card with amd64 Linux drivers that supports either dual-dvi with accelerated portrait mode (1200x1600 x2), or dual-link DVI (2560x1600). Matrox have some that will do it, but only with proprietary drivers and only on ia32.

  • So NVidia and ATi are crap at providing Linux drivers. But is there any video card which is really supported under linux (open source drivers provided by the manufacturer) that is any good and economically viable? It can even be an equivalent to a NVidia mx400. Is there anything like that in the market?
    • So NVidia and ATi are crap at providing Linux drivers. But is there any video card which is really supported under linux (open source drivers provided by the manufacturer) that is any good and economically viable? It can even be an equivalent to a NVidia mx400. Is there anything like that in the market?

      Yes. Its made by the company that ships the most GPUs- Intel. The GMA 950 (whats in a Intel MacMini) has fully open drivers, has more features than a MX400 (like Pixel Shader 2.0 support) and open drivers. I

  • Beuno writes:
    "The review isn't as thorough as I would like..."

    Nine pages wasn't enough. We want ten... and a 96 oz Big Gulp, a 4 lb bag of doritos and bigger cheeseburger options.
  • Ah ha now I can run Penguin Planet (formerly Tux racer) at 500 frames per second. Now never mind the refresh rate on my monitor is 70 hz, I tell ya that's living. Who needs to solve world hunger or war when you've got this?
  • We need Open Source drivers! I don't mind closed proprietary stuff at the application level, but I demand at it in the infrastructure. When I buy a piece of hardware with my hard earned money, even a video card, I expect to be the full owner of that hardware. I don't want it beholden to NVidia or ATI. If they want to tell me what software I can run on my hardware, then can damned well fork over part of the purchase price for it!

    I've had a new laptop for four weeks now. I put on Kubuntu because ATI "supports
  • [] in combination with []

    Can be usefull for other sites as well that you read often.
  • did ati fix em? There where a bunch last I tried to really use the drive, but that was over a year ago. How about install? Last time I used ATI's driver on a non-stock kernel, it was a bitch to get working. I've got a Radeon 9200 right now (much as I love nvidia software, their tv out kinda sucks), and I've been stuck in WinXP.
  • Boycott ATI (Score:3, Informative)

    by vandan ( 151516 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @07:53PM (#15726157) Homepage
    ATI's track record of Linux support is appauling, the most recent example being their pulling support for all pre-R300 cards. They also flatly refuse to assist DRI developers working on the R300, claiming that their own driver 'supports' the R300 and above line. But in all honesty, that 'support' is patchy at best, and the writing is on the wall for R300 support as well - pretty soon only the new X1xx cards will be supported.

    Locking when switching between X and a console are NOT FIXED despite what the article says - ATI simply marked the bug page in bugzilla as 'fixed'. There are lockups with XGL. The XPRESS chipset is very badly supported and very slow - my friend's Turion-based laptop with an XPRESS chipset plays UT2004 slower than my Athlon XP 1600 with an original Radeon 7200 with DRI drivers! 2D performance is pathetic. There is no XRENDER acceleration. Suspending / hibernating doesn't work. XCOMPOSITE support is non-existant. The list goes on and on.

    If people want a gaming card, buy an nVidia, or you will be sorry. If gaming isn't so important, buy a something with an Intel chipset - they have excellent open-source drivers, and are only getting better. I installed XGL on a laptop with an Intel i945G card last weekend, and I was shocked by it's impressive performance - XGL in particular was as smooth as I've ever seen it ...
  • To me, this is a clear signs of Linux finally making a long expected breakthrough into common desktops.

    To me, this is a clear sign that those two hardware sites just happened to think that reviewing them under Linux was cool.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.