View Full Version : [ubuntu] It's 2013. How's AMD support?

January 5th, 2013, 04:36 PM
Of course it's super early in 2013, but I have some thoughts and questions on the table. I was just pricing out some gear for a small home server build. It's likely going to be running Ubuntu Server 12.04.1, so graphical support isn't overly important for this instance. I wanted it to be as future proof as possible even though I wouldn't need a ton of processing horsepower. I found it impossible to find an Intel Atom board with SATA III 6.0 on it, which is something I wanted because of larger SSDs becoming more common on the radar. Searching for Atom/SATA III was a dead end, as NewEgg and other various sites just flat out said 0 products found. The AMD route proved differently, though. Some Googling suggested that the AMD E350 APU was better to go with due to USB 3.0 and SATA III, so I went that route. That being said, I started to think about an upcoming build (not this server, another desktop), so I did a little digging on the common Nvidia and AMD discussion in regard to Linux. Some people were swearing that their AMD HD-xxxx works absolutely great, others say wow they're so terrible, etc. Others swear that AMD is horrible to go with because they drop support frequently for their chips, pushing them to a legacy branch.

I admittedly don't know too much about these details, especially on the AMD side since I've typically stuck to Nvidia based only on the point of "it seems to work fine for me". That said, the handful of people saying "I have AMD and it works flawlessly with 1080 content" has made me consider otherwise.

I see there's a new beta AMD driver that came out last month and I also understand that AMD opened up a lot of code for their driver development, something that Nvidia has consistently had a -1 with. Without getting into a massive this vs that debate, what are your findings?

January 5th, 2013, 08:35 PM
You will find a lot of mixed opinions from folks using fglrx/Catalyst because that driver is inconsistent. For example, it's possible to get really good video playback with the fglrx/Catalyst driver using the xbmc trick here: http://wiki.cchtml.com/index.php/Ubuntu_Quantal_Installation_Guide#Using_XBMC_playe r_.28XvBA.29 , but if you upgrade to the next Catalyst release, it may be borked.

If you like to upgrade Ubuntu releases, then you may find yourself SOL at some point (if you're dependent on fglrx/Catalyst) because AMD doesn't update their legacy branches for new kernels/Xservers like Nvidia does.

In short, I personally would avoid their GPU's. If all I cared about was video playback, I would just use an Intel IGP (Ivy Bridge) or get a cheap, passively-cooled Nvidia card (like GT520). If I was a gamer, I would invest in a GTX660.

January 5th, 2013, 09:33 PM
So it sounds like AMD support is still very shoddy, which I can't say that entirely surprises me that much. I never really gave Intel's IGP a thought. I wonder if there are any IGP's available that are super low power Atom style that would compete with an E350 APU... my guess is no, since it would negate the point of the Atom lineup, but it's a fun thought.

January 5th, 2013, 10:37 PM
Unfortunately, Intel's current Atoms come with PowerVR-based graphics (GMA500/600 or GMA3600) and PowerVR isn't Linux or open-source friendly. I highly recommend to avoid that pitfall. Maybe this year's Atom releases (scheduled for end of year) will have better GPU's.

AMD is unpredictable. One moment, they're hiring more open-source devs, and then the next, they stifle their work with legal roadblocks. I'm sure there are plenty of folks who are happy with their AMD purchase (I run the open-source driver on my RadeonHD 4550 and I'm reasonably happy with it), but Intel's a safe bet if your kernel/drm/mesa is current, and Nvidia's pretty safe too if you don't mind the blob driver.

January 5th, 2013, 11:45 PM
Well that puts me into a slightly unsure position for this other build. Low power is extremely important. What on the Intel/Nvidia front would be good to go with in mini itx form factor? Sata 3 also required. Any thoughts?

January 6th, 2013, 12:11 AM
The Core i3-3220T and its cheaper pentium g2100t varant (35W) look promising.

January 6th, 2013, 12:23 AM
That looks nice but the price is crazy compared to the amd mini itx I was looking at. I could get that apu e350 for a hundred bucks flat. Maybe I'd be better off just adding a dedicated gpu in it if need be. The only thing is the pci express slot runs at 4x and not 16x, but I could probably get a slightly better board that is a full 16x and still have a decent setup with minimum cost. Is this crazy talk or do you guys think that might fly?

January 6th, 2013, 04:06 AM
I've got older AMD desktops (Athlon II class) with Nvidia video, no problems. It sounds like you're not concerned about proprietary driver video performance. My guess is that AMD would be fine for your purposes but I'm not running the newest processors/MoBos/chipsets.

January 6th, 2013, 04:31 AM
The Pentium G2100T was supposed to launch for $75, but I'm having a hard time finding a vendor selling it at any price :(

January 6th, 2013, 05:50 PM
I'm finding it impossible to locate an Atom board that has SATA 6gb ports. I am however continually having the AMD E350 APU popping up on the radar. That being said, the only two :( parts of that is the fact it's 1) AMD, and 2) the PCIE slot is 4x, not 16x, so an add-on GPU could be limited. Does PCIE @ 4x severely limit GPU speeds to the point that they would have trouble with solid 1080 video playback? Or is 4x something that's "overkill for 1080 yet underpowered for Battlefield 3"?? Couple that with the fact that AMD E350 APU board I found was 100 bucks flat (with four SATA 6 ports) and it's super, super hard to turn away...

What about AMD open source drivers? If AMD had released some parameters about the drivers to better help the open source development I'd hope that AMD's open source drivers are more successful than Nvidia's open source drivers. Plus I would assume AMD's open source drivers would be less brutal with submitting more and more recent GPUs to the legacy branch.

January 6th, 2013, 09:24 PM
AMD will possibly no longer exist in a few years (see how laptops only have NVIDIA GPUs today) -- they also drop hardware support often. AMD CPUs and GPUs also use more electricity, so you're losing money.

Hate on NVIDIA, but they are the best. Their proprietary driver is very fast and the open source driver works (unlike radeon).

January 7th, 2013, 12:57 AM
I'm happy with Radeon KMS + HD3200 graphics, barring power management (I have the Neo-based Thinkpad X100e, which is several generations out of date -> about the hottest AMD low-power chip, not to mention notoriously undercooled).

The radeon OSS drivers do not have a legacy branch; Xorg 2-D acceleration works at least back to the Rage 128 (same age as the Voodoo and Matrox cards, from the 1990s), and all "Radeon" cards have Mesa drivers--r300g/r600g/radeonsi(?) are the names.

From the comments I read at Phoronix (http://phoronix.com/forums/showthread.php?37690-AMD-Fusion-E-350-Linux-Performance), an E-350 should work much better than an Atom, even with Ion graphics.
I can't say how well 4x PCIE works.

January 7th, 2013, 04:35 AM
AMD will possibly no longer exist in a few years (see how laptops only have NVIDIA GPUs today) -- they also drop hardware support often. AMD CPUs and GPUs also use more electricity, so you're losing money.

Hate on NVIDIA, but they are the best. Their proprietary driver is very fast and the open source driver works (unlike radeon).

Were you implying that laptops are largely not coming with AMD chips today? I've been scouting for a suitable laptop for a large scale purchase coming up at work. AMD APUs are very common in laptops currently.

That said, I'm very partial to Nvidia and Intel as well, certainly moreso than AMD. The hunt continues...