The woe of Linux graphic acceleration


To put it simply, I’m currently in the market for a new notebook. As this notebook will be the replacement for my current notebook and desktop machine, one thing that it absolutely has to support is 3D Graphic Acceleration on Linux.

Turns out, it’s not a simple as I previously thought. Currently there are three major vendor in notebook graphic solution. Intel on the low range, and Nvidia and ATI on higher end. While Intel support on Linux is amazing, the performance is not something to write home about. Since the notebook will be my main computing machine, I’d like it to have more graphic power behind it’s lid, thus leaving me to choose between Nvidia and ATI.

ATI current lineup, the ATI HD4xxx series performs quite well. Sadly, it’s not the case with ATI linux driver. Yes, there were major leap in term of support from ATI, with them providing same day support on Linux driver and opening up their specs. But what’s keeping me from upgrading to Catalyst 8.4 and above (thus keeping me on Gutsy) was the mediocre support on xvideo/texture video. Playback of xvideo flickers, (even showing black screen on some case) whether Compiz is running or not. Even worst, on 8.4, 3D output is garbage, rendering Google Earth unusable. To get xvideo works, I have to resort to using XGL, and making an XGL disabled account for 3D applications, which was now dumped in favor of AIGLX on the ATI’s 8.4 (and above) version of Catalyst.

On the other hand, Nvidia has been praised for the quality of their binary driver. My ideal notebook will be the Benq Joybook S41, which is equipped with Nvidia 8600M GS chip. But the recent development on the faulty Nvidia chip story has me thinking twice.

Let’s hope that Intel next-in-the-line Larrabee graphic chip, is able to compete with ATI and Nvidia, so we won’t have to put up with the lack of choice that we are currently facing, as well as forcing ATI and Nvidia to get their act together, and stop releasing an half ass product for their customer.

As for now, I guess if I really need a new notebook, my best bet will be purchasing an ATI equipped platform, and pray to God that ATI will churn out better driver (or FOSS community comes up with better FOSS driver) sooner or later. Or I’ll just wait for Nvidia 6-month-cycle to phase out their current buggy chip line, and wait for their newer chip to be adopted by notebook manufacturers, plus a couple of more months to wait for the price to come down to be affordable by my pocket

Any suggestion?

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Mouseclone says:

    I have been dealing with the Radeon problems. I built a computer about 3 or 4 months ago, and wanted a solid system. I went with building an AMD based system. I like AMD much more than Intel, so the Spider platform was the choice for me.

    I have had my share of problems. Some having nothing to do with the hardware. On the graphics side, I have learned to cut Compiz off, and just run metacity. This allows me to play full 3D games with out the graphics hosing up on me and having to restart GDM.

    I do know that with Cat.8.8 Crossfire for the hd4xxxx is supported as well as multi GPU. I don’t expect AMD will back date their drivers, but will work on going forward. They may get around to Crossover for the hd38xx but I wouldn’t count on it.

  2. Ikhsan says:

    Yeah well, coping with sucky driver is a lot better than facing an imminent fate that your hardware will cease to function in not so distant future.

    If I decide to buy a notebook, my choice for the present will be one with ATI.

    Or I just spend the money on Pentax SMC DA 55-300, and wait till Nvidia’s chip cycle to refresh, or ATI release more stable and feature-rich driver

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