ATI and Linux

I’m currently in the process of upgrading my main gaming rig, which means that my Ubuntu Linux workstation has inherited the now leftover motherboard (DFI Lanparty NF2 Ultra B), processor (AMD Athlon XP 2600+) and video card (ATI Radeon 9800).

Previous to this, the Linux workstation chugged along happily for years using a Nvidia Geforce 3 TI 200 video card, which I never really had any problems with, save for a few brief periods in which the proprietary Nvidia drivers had outpaced the currently available Ubuntu kernel packages.

With the ATI Radeon in the machine, however, I’ve come to see exactly why there are so many complaints about ATI’s Linux support. In many ways, using one of their cards under Linux has confirmed one of my long-standing suspicions. I’ve always personally believed that ATI tends to put most of their effort into their actual hardware, but tend to be behind the curve on their software drivers.

On Microsoft Windows, the differences between the driver development of the two competitors is often made up for by the hardware they release. Under Linux, however, ATI and Nvida are worlds apart. There are a number of features that were available to me with the older Nvidia card, such as the ability to make on-the-fly screen resolution and refresh rate changes, that are simply not there with he ATI drivers.

The problems are enough that I’m considering purchasing a cheap Nvidia card for the Linux workstation just to get all the basic features I’ve come to expect. For anyone considering the choice between an ATI and Nvidia card on a Linux installation, my recommendation is pretty obviously going to be Nvidia every time.

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