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Shopping for a new card, seeking to avoid pain

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  • Shopping for a new card, seeking to avoid pain

    I've used nVidia cards under Linux in the past because of driver support, but the past year or so I've endured a lot of suffering because of driver issues, and I am willing to try out the other side. I know ATI Linux support is supposed to be terrible, but can it really be much worse?

    I've got two monitors, a 30" 2560x1600 and a 20" 1600x1200. The 20" is rotated which seems to cause most of my grief. I've never gotten any of the OSS drivers working, and the binary driver is limping, at best. I've spent countless days fighting to get things working.

    In order to get it working *with rotation*, I have to use Xinerama. That means no compositing and truly appalling performance. I mean, just scrolling in Firefox can be a joke. And it was fussy to set-up. And it's a somewhat unstable. This is with a fairly dated GeForce 7800 GT.

    If I get a more current nVidia card, will I be able to get this setup actually working? I mean actually working - not this Xinerama crapfest. Is ATI a viable option these days? I've been so frustrated with nVidia that I would really love to give my business to their competitor this time around.

    The card I'm looking at is a Radeon 5750. It's a good price-point for me, performance is decent, and it's low enough power that there are passively cooled versions available (yay).

    My needs are:
    #1 - Actual, functional dual monitor support at the above resolutions *WITH ROTATION*.
    #2 - Minimal pain and suffering getting it working if possible.
    #3 - Snappy desktop performance. I don't want to wait for a week and a half for Firefox to scroll.
    #4 - Decent video.
    #5 - Decent (not high-end) gaming performance. I will boot into Windows for games.

  • #2
    I've switched last christmas (7600GT -> HD5770), some bugs went away, other bugs appeared. Overall I'm glad I switched.

    The biggest gripe with fglrx seems to be that it's problematic in two popular use cases: wine gaming and video playback.

    I've resorted to a real windows for gaming (most of the newer titles I'd wanted the new GPU for wouldn't work on wine anyway) and I don't care about the issues with video playback: to my eyes every video I've watched looked good.

    I just issued
    xrandr --output DFP4 --rotate right
    and - behold! - my second monitor rotated as expected. I didn't do much long-term testing, but composition (kwin3) continued to work and glxgears ran at the same speed no matter which monitor it was on - even if it spans across both monitors.

    let's recap:
    #1: seems to work
    #2: I'm on gentoo, I did 'emerge -C nvidia-drivers; emerge ati-drivers', and after slight adjustments to xorg.conf and the multiscreen-configuration (bye bye TwinView!) everything worked fine. There are reports of people having more trouble with driver installation, I have no clue why.
    #3: scrolls snappy here, unless there's flash in there. You may want to use the backclear-patches for xorg, they'll speed up some operations like window resizing.
    #4: define "decent"? There's no hardware decoding yet, but the 7800 GT didn't have that either. If you could watch the video before, you can still watch it now. The two main issues on fglrx are: slightly washed out colors with xv, tearing with xv. You can use opengl instead, but that'll eat more CPU.
    #5: for wine, see above (although simple games like snes9x or VisualBoxAdvance work well here. GuildWars runs fast, but crashes after an hour or two.)
    3D performance is actually very close to windows, if you're running native games/apps.


    • #3
      Originally posted by rohcQaH View Post
      #4: define "decent"? There's no hardware decoding yet, but the 7800 GT didn't have that either.
      The 7 series had XvMC acceleration at least.


      • #4
        Thank you, that's the information I needed.

        The ati-drivers ebuild is the binary ATI driver, right? (I don't have a preference for one or the other, I just want it to work).

        I've never been satisfied with Wine even with my nVidia card, so I don't have a problem booting into Windows on occasions when I'm gaming. Though now that I think about it, I might see if I can get Photoshop going under Wine (I do web development). It's not very important that it works (I still have to run VMWare to test things in IE), but it might be nice...

        xrandr --output DFP4 --rotate right
        Oh glorious day! Xrandr support was "real soon now" like 2 years ago for the nVidia drivers. I'm sure it'll be in the next release.

        I'm perfectly happy with increased CPU usage for video. As long as it is *possible* to play HD video smoothly without skipping and tearing, CPU usage isn't a big deal. I'm going to be building a box with a current-generation processor, so I can spare a core or three (it's not like I'm going to be doing lots of other things while I'm watching a movie or something).

        I'm using (k)ubuntu nowadays; that ships with the backclear patch now, no? If not, it still sounds easier than the hell I've gone through trying to get rotation to work properly on my nVidia card.

        Oh, can you look at a couple sites and tell me how fast they scroll in Firefox for you with your ATI card? (fixed position menu) (fixed position backgrounds and javascript cross-fades)
        Also, facebook... (fixed position elements)

        Those scroll INCREDIBLY slowly for me on my aforementioned dual-monitor setup (facebook is like half a second for each step), sorta-slowly on my nVidia-powered single-monitor home desktop (chunky but usable), but reasonably fast on my laptop with stupid Intel integrated video (!?) and also fast on any reasonably modern Windows or Mac setup.

        I do understand the issues with flash. It is the devil. We shall speak of it NO MORE! *spits*


        • #5
          Weird, my reply got held for moderation. How smoothly does facebook scroll for you on your ATI card? Its fixed position elements means it takes like half a second for each step scrolling on the aforementioned dual-monitor setup.


          • #6
            I don't do facebook. Got a testcase that doesn't require a login?


            • #7
              I had typed up a longer post but it got stuck in moderation. It's there now and it has a couple links in it.


              • #8
                that was a very stealthy way to ninja a post in

                both websites have visible stuttering when I scroll, but it's still several updates a second (10-15 fps? not sure). I'd call it "usable".

                yes, of course I'm using fglrx. I plan to switch to the OS drivers eventually, but currently they don't accelerate anything on evergreen GPUs.

                Photoshop might even work with wine/fglrx, the only crashes I've experienced were with complex openGL apps. Certainly worth trying.

                I don't know if kubuntu applys the backclear-patch by default, from what I read on this forum the default ubuntu doesn't.

                For HD video, you may need a video player that's actually multithreaded. ffmpeg-mt is still experimental, though.


                • #9
                  Cool, thanks for all your help.


                  • #10
                    ATi FOSS drivers sound like a very good match for your use case, but unfortunately, they do not work with HD5xxx hardware yet (at least there is no acceleration of any kind ATM).

                    With HD4xxx class cards, you can do all of the described with the free drivers. The 2D performance tends to be better than with fglrx, but the 3d acceleration is slower and not as featured. Enough for OSS and indie games, not for heavy gaming. With HD5xxx, you need to use fglrx.

                    If getting a HD4xxx class card is an option for you, this would be another possibility, you can get passively cooled parts very cheaply nowadays.