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Thread: ATI Video Cards... a few questions

  1. #1
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    Question ATI Video Cards... a few questions

    I am looking to get a new video card for my media server and have a few questions about ATI cards. I have exclusively been using Nvidia video cards for the last decade, mainly because they played nicer with Linux, but lately I have been hearing that ATI cards work just fine on Linux. So I would like to have a few things answered before deciding between ATI and NVidia...

    1) Are the ATI open source drivers on par with the proprietary drivers? Keep in mind this is for media server (video playback), not gaming. Not having to install the proprietary driver would be a bonus.

    2) Are the open source ATI drivers included with Ubuntu out of the box (so I wouldn't have to do anything to get the card working after install)?

    3) Would ATI cards be preferable over Nvidia cards for video decoding/playback on Linux? Do ATI cards offer any features over Nvidia for handling video decoding, etc.?

    4) Assuming an ATI card would be a good route to go for a media server, what would be a good mid-range card to get (there are just so many models I don't even know where to start)?

    Thanks for any info you guys could give me on the subject.
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  2. #2
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    Re: ATI Video Cards... a few questions

    1. No, but it is close. Unless you are doing gaming, the FOSS driver should be good enough.

    2. Yes.

    3. Currently Nvidia + Nvidia prop drivers are better than ATI + any ATI driver. ATI FOSS drivers are improving very fast so this can change in the future.

    4. I have good experience with 4xxx models, 4250 (integrated) in particular. All 4xxx should be good and it is more a matter of cash than anything else. 5xxx should also be good. The latest 6xxx may be not worth the money for just video purposes.

  3. #3
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    Re: ATI Video Cards... a few questions

    Every nvidia card I've used in linux has worked well.

  4. #4
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    Re: ATI Video Cards... a few questions

    I have a Radeon HD4350 in one of my desktop machines. I can get good compiz with the open source driver which may not be relevant to a media server. More important is that it will play HD video with the open source driver on my 24" 1920x1200 resolution monitor (obviously in 1920x1080 with black bands) without lagging. When I say it will play HD video, I've only been ale to try trailers as I don't have any longer HD videos, but I don't see why not.

    Two advantages of this card is that it is now at the inexpensive end of the price range and mine is passively cooled = silent. Which must be good for a media server.
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    Re: ATI Video Cards... a few questions

    I've never had problems watching videos on my HD4200 with the open source drivers. With the proprietary ones, it's a hit and miss situation. Ubuntu 11.04 is even shipping with the Galium driver enabled by default, which improves performance, otherwise one can add the x-swat or x-edgers ppa.

    The proprietary drivers are much better at controlling fans, so take that into account when deciding, plus add to that the fact that noone is sure which ATI card works with which kind of driver setup.

  6. #6
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    Re: ATI Video Cards... a few questions

    I only got problem with my ati card, while all my nvidia worked out of the box
    bool doYouWantToFixMyComputer(Computer &my_computer)
    {
    return false;
    }

  7. #7
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    Re: ATI Video Cards... a few questions

    Quote Originally Posted by BrokenKingpin View Post
    I am looking to get a new video card for my media server and have a few questions about ATI cards. I have exclusively been using Nvidia video cards for the last decade, mainly because they played nicer with Linux, but lately I have been hearing that ATI cards work just fine on Linux. So I would like to have a few things answered before deciding between ATI and NVidia...

    1) Are the ATI open source drivers on par with the proprietary drivers? Keep in mind this is for media server (video playback), not gaming. Not having to install the proprietary driver would be a bonus.
    They are not as good for 3D, but are at least as good or better in every other way. Which is really nice. Most especially nice as they are so easy to maintain when compared to any other driver.

    Quote Originally Posted by BrokenKingpin View Post
    2) Are the open source ATI drivers included with Ubuntu out of the box (so I wouldn't have to do anything to get the card working after install)?
    Yes, Ubuntu in 11.04 is using the Gallium stack which is great, as it is the leader of the open-source driver stack pack.

    Quote Originally Posted by BrokenKingpin View Post
    3) Would ATI cards be preferable over Nvidia cards for video decoding/playback on Linux? Do ATI cards offer any features over Nvidia for handling video decoding, etc.?
    I think that there may be certain high resolutions that people use to play on TVs that may not be supported yet, though work is ongoing, so what isn't yet, will soon be, in that regard.

    I play my videos on 1920x1200 from a NAS box over the LAN with no problems whatsoever. Which is also very nice.

    Quote Originally Posted by BrokenKingpin View Post
    4) Assuming an ATI card would be a good route to go for a media server, what would be a good mid-range card to get (there are just so many models I don't even know where to start)?
    I'm using an HD 2600 Pro /256MB RAM, GPU & everything works great re. videos. If you moved into the 4*** range you really should be able to get a very powerful card as far as your purposes are concerned, for a great price, & it will be really well supported by the open-source driver stack.

    Quote Originally Posted by BrokenKingpin View Post
    Thanks for any info you guys could give me on the subject.
    I've been using the -git kernel & driver stack for most of the last 21 months. You do get better performance there & over that period there have only been a couple of hiccoughs. If you do decide to go with the AMD/ATi GPU I have a simple how-to for upgrading the kernel & the driver stack in the first post of this thread under the title of Ubuntu Stuff:

    http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1238129

    If you are using a notebook, you will get better power management from the Catalyst driver. That stuff is still being developed for the open-source stack at this stage. It works for some GPUs better than others at this stage - open-source wise.
    Last edited by handy; June 16th, 2011 at 05:32 AM.

  8. #8
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    Re: ATI Video Cards... a few questions

    I'd either go with AMD (ATi) or Intel (integrated) for a media server. Honestly, with open drivers, it's pretty much the same on the lower end, but AMD owns the high end open stuff. Not sure about full HD, but my old celeron laptop with an integrated intel video thingy could handle 720p.
    Last edited by Dustin2128; June 16th, 2011 at 07:06 AM.
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  9. #9
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    Re: ATI Video Cards... a few questions

    my radeon HD 3650 plays 1080 fine on 1920x1200 display. with compiz. that is with out any tweaking, or installing extra drivers.

    phoronic has lots of benchmarks, but mostly for 3D
    the opensource drivers are still not as fast as the closed ones
    http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?pag..._mai2011&num=1
    but they are still improving, and can be tweaked for a bit of a boost
    http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?pag...g_june10&num=1

  10. #10
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    Re: ATI Video Cards... a few questions

    One problem I had with the FOSS driver is that it didn't properly handle dual monitors. I had to use the Catalyst driver for that.

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