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ATI vs NVIDIA proprietary drivers for Linux.

Posted 01-01-2011 at 01:45 AM by replica9000

My experience with fglrx has not been very good. I've tried using it with three different ATI cards, the HD3200, HD3300, and HD4650. Three nice graphics chip sets. But what good is a nice video card when you have poor drivers? I always seem to have some sort of issue when using fglrx. Either it doesn't like my current kernel, my current xorg, and doesn't play nice with KDE 4. Even when I do get it up and running, I get poor contrast and/or corrupted graphics.

My last working combination I ran for a while. A dual monitor setup, using the integrated HD3200/HD3300 chip sets. Used to annoy the hell out of me that I had Mplayer on one screen, and anything I did on the other screen would cause Mplayer to skip, stutter and sometimes even crash. Full-screen video was sometimes impossible!

When I built my HTPC, it was using the integrated HD3200. This card seemed to perform OK with 720p video, but couldn't quite keep up with 1080p with the radeon driver. So after surprisingly getting fglrx working, performance was no better, and again contrast was bad, skipping if I moved the mouse, etc... This is when I decided to try a standalone card, the HD4650. Now this card has the power to do full screen 1080p video no problem. Still having issues with fglrx, I reverted back to the radeon driver. The radeon driver performs better than fglrx, and video output was good.

After some looking around, vdpau caught my attention. Since vdpau doesn't work with my ATI cards, I ended up buying a GeForce 9800 GT. Installed it, compiled the driver the same way I did for fglrx, changed my xorg.conf accordingly and up and running! Everything just works! And of course vdpau output makes my videos look great!

I recently decided to buy a GeForce GTS 450 for my HTPC, for it's HDMI port (I should have read the box more closely when I bought the 9800 GT). A quick re-compile, and again, all works great.

I had been using the HD4650 in my desktop after I replaced it with the 9800 GT in my HTPC. While performance on somethings increased, like my game emulators, I still had issues with Mplayer (and vlc), some graphics corruption etc... After I bought the GTS 450, I now decided to use the 9800 GT in my desktop. After installing the drivers I saw a huge improvement in performance. I can play 1080p video full-screen while doing whatever on the other screen, and not even see a single frame drop. The nvidia-settings GUI actually works, allowing me to tweak my desktop however I want, and then allow me to export a working xorg.conf.

So I can say my experience with nvidia drivers have been very good so far compared to the fglrx drivers. Also nvidia provides legacy drivers for older cards when they are dropped from the current drivers. As far as I know, fglrx does not provide legacy drivers when older cards are dropped. Looks like I'll be sticking with Nvidia for a while...
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