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ATI's New Drivers: Did The Paradise Come?

Hakan Bayindir

Published on 13 November 2007
Written by Hakan Bayindir
Page 1 of 3 - 32 Comments

It's been nearly seven months since I wrote my first article about ATI drivers and how they literally crippled my computer and my daily life (An Outcry For Improved ATI Linux Drivers). Last month, ATI had finally released their latest drivers which contains the new OpenGL component and AIGLX support (AMD 8.42 Linux Display Driver). Was this release worth the amount of hype and did it solve everyone's problems? For me, simply, no. After seven months of waiting, updating, and struggling, things are not good for me, in every possible feature of the ATI Linux driver I use.

ATI released six drivers since the first article I wrote at Phoronix and I have installed and used all of them. While some of the drivers showed some improvements over my problems, nothing has fully recovered. I am still having some problems, which can be grouped as follows:

· Hardware issues
· 2D acceleration & video playback issues
· 3D acceleration & AIGLX issues

Before talking about the issues, I want to give specifications of my computer to give you an idea about the hardware:

Processor: AMD Athlon64 3700+ (2.2GHz, Stock)
RAM: 2GB DDR400 at 200MHz (400 DDR)
Motherboard: ABIT AN-8 Ultra nForce 4 Ultra (non-SLI)
Graphics Card: Sapphire ATI Radeon X1650XT 256MB
Storage: 2x SATA II + 1x PATA 133 Samsung HDD
Optical: Optiarc AD7173A 18x DVD +/- Writer
Power Supply: Tagan 700W power supply
Other: SB Audigy2 PCI sound card
Operating System(s): Debian Lenny & Windows XP Professional SP2.

It's worth mentioning that I am using Linux primarily both in personal and professional life (I'm lucky :)) and using Windows just for playing Half-Life 2. On the other hand, it's interesting that ATI's Windows drivers don't show any of these problems. Another interesting note is that Sapphire's X1650XT is a bit overclocked by factory to 600 MHz (Core) / 700 MHz (Memory).

Hardware Issues

While these issues don't affect the performance of the card in any means, they cause more trouble than that. First, my card is just overheating in idle. Second, this overheating causes my card fan to spin at full throttle. This means excessive heat, noise, and power consumption. While the noise is just irritating, heat and power consumption is causing some unpleasant issues. Since all fans in the case are thermally regulated by the motherboard, increased heat causes all fans to spin faster resulting in a greater noise level. For months, I've been trying to workaround this issue by keeping my case open and using the VESA driver when possible.

The resulting increase in power consumption means more load on the power supply and motherboard since the Radeon X1650XT is not using external power. Actually, last week I have lost a 420-watt Thermaltake power supply. After using my computer for a day, I've turned it off and went to dinner. When I returned, I smelled the strong odor of burning capacitors and electronics (please note, the PC is off). Then the PC started to turn on shortly (the ATX switching circuit was failing) and at the same moment, I turned off the whole power-socket group. Initial investigation revealed a burnt resistor, which has also nicely blackened the PCB. Further investigation may result in more damaged parts. My guess, since the X1650XT uses no external power and relies on the motherboard power connections, it stressed and shortened the life of some low-current electronics inside the PSU, which wasn't new, but it wasn't antiquated yet.

These three continuous problems and one incident may easily cause one to lost patience but not mine if these were the only problems... Unfortunately, this is not the situation.

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