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Old 12-06-2005, 08:37 AM   #1
Registered: Oct 2003
Location: Zürich
Distribution: Debian
Posts: 537

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Matrox G400: performance/driver (Debian Sarge)


I've had Sarge running on an office machine for a year, but have only really started using it in the last month or so, in fact since I've been allowed to bring it online. My biggest annoyance is that it's not very responsive. I configured Gnome and then KDE a bit, but it's about a 1GHz machine and I thought it might run faster using something else. I briefly toyed with IceWM and then discovered XFCE4, which I like well enough so far. The problem is, it only seems marginally faster. In XFCE4 (4.0), as in the others (haven't extensively worked in Ice though), switching between desktops, windows, etc. has lag as the windows are redrawn. Scrolling in Firefox can be extremely laggy, and going to new pages has the page being drawn here and there before it comes to its final form.

Since XFCE4 is supposed to be light and fast, I considered that the video card is not properly installed or configured. I don't think the system is low on RAM or CPU, it occurs to me that the card could be slowing everything up by having to render everything with software (for example, I don't know). I'm running at 1280x1024, but the G400 is made to drive even two monitors, and I think it should be able to be quick for 2D apps. (I'm not expecting to run any 3D apps, just desktop stuff.)

As far as I can recall, last year when I installed I simply looked up the specs and chose the default XFree86 driver. The card is a Matrox G400, and I'm running Sarge stable on an x86, therefore: kernel 2.6.8-1-686-smp and XFree86

Here's the relevant entry in XF86Config-4:
Section "Device"
        Identifier      "Matrox G400"
        Driver          "mga"
System detection:
# lspci
0000:01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: Matrox Graphics, Inc. MGA G400 AGP (rev 04)
Testing the version of OpenGL used:
$ glxinfo | grep -i opengl
OpenGL vendor string: VA Linux Systems Inc.
OpenGL renderer string: Mesa DRI G400 20020221 AGP 1x x86/MMX/SSE
OpenGL version string: 1.2 Mesa 4.0.4
OpenGL extensions:
This is to be expected I guess since I used XF86Free's driver upon installation.

Testing performance:
$ glxgears
1782 frames in 5.0 seconds = 356.400 FPS
1696 frames in 5.0 seconds = 339.200 FPS
2000 frames in 5.0 seconds = 400.000 FPS
2000 frames in 5.0 seconds = 400.000 FPS
1971 frames in 5.0 seconds = 394.200 FPS
I'm not sure what frame rates to expect, but these seem low to me if higher-end cards are supposed to run in the thousands.

After a lot of time spent reading, I worked out that Matrox makes their own proprietary Linux driver for the card, and I even figured out from their site (a little confusing) where to get it:

So far, so good, I suppose. My question is: Is it likely that installing these "proprietary" drivers will increase performance on my system? According to the driver's release notes:
The included display drivers are based on the Matrox driver source included with XFree86. Modifications made by Matrox include the addition of the Matrox HAL library, which can be optionally installed to enable Matrox specific features.
Is it really going to improve performance, or is this driver just meant to add support for such things as dual-monitor support?

There's a reason I ask. Since I'm running Debian, I'll want to install the Debian way (sans rpm). I haven't found a guide for this yet, and it may take me some time to figure it all out. If there is not likely much to be gained from it, then phooey I'll just use the open-source driver and try to improve performance in some other way. (Still better than using Windows on my new machine.)

Last edited by michapma; 12-06-2005 at 08:39 AM.


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