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A Comparison Of AMD & NVIDIA's Linux Control Panels

Michael Larabel

Published on 2 March 2008
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 5 - 17 Comments

It was a year ago that AMD had replaced its aging FireGL Control Panel inside its Linux driver with the AMDCCCLE, or AMD Catalyst Control Center Linux Edition. Since that time, this Catalyst Control Center for Linux continues to mature with a few new features being added here and there, and version 2.0 could in fact be introduced in an upcoming release. At the same time, the control panel utility that ships with NVIDIA's binary driver, nvidia-settings, has stayed more or less the same for the past few years with only a few minor revisions. How do these two Linux control panels compare though when it comes to the features? For this article we have put AMDCCCLE and nvidia-settings side-by-side to compare and contrast both utilities.

Prior to the introduction of the AMD Catalyst Control Center Linux Edition (AMDCCCLE) was the FireGL Control Panel (fireglcontrolpanel) application. This Qt application was open-source, but it was a complete mess. This control panel had very limited functionality and even the reported information (memory size, chip type, etc) would break often between releases and just report "unknown" for the various fields. The tabs in this control panel had also changed from time to time, but they were information, dual screen, adjustment, and TV-Out. The dual-screen and TV-Out tabs hadn't worked dynamically in real-time and were of very little use. The adjustment tab just supported adjusting the display's colors.

Fortunately in March of last year, a new AMD control panel in the fglrx 8.35.5 driver greeted us. We had known since January of 2007 that a new Linux control panel was being developed, but we were surprised that it had come out just two months later. AMD Catalyst Control Center Linux Edition was made public when it was at version 0.8, and today it stands at v1.8. Like the fireglcontrolpanel, the Catalyst Control Center interface is written using Qt. Unlike the old control panel, however, this new one is not open-source.

The nvidia-settings utility on the other hand, has been around for a few years and has not seen a major rewrite but incremental updates over time. Many of the features that can be found in nvidia-settings today were present going back a couple of years. GTK is the tool-kit used by nvidia-settings. Unlike the AMDCCCLE, nvidia-settings is open-source and is licensed under the GNU GPL in its entirety. The source-code can be downloaded off NVIDIA's FTP server. Bundled with the nvidia-settings source-code is also example code and documentation for interfacing with NVIDIA's NV-CONTROL extension. NV-CONTROL is NVIDIA's own X extension for reading and setting configuration options with NVIDIA's binary driver.

With the basics of AMDCCCLE and nvidia-settings now covered, it's time to take a much closer look at each of the options.

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