[Ubuntu-gaming] AMD/ATI vs NVIDIA vs Intel

Davyd McColl davydm at gmail.com
Mon Jun 22 13:28:22 UTC 2009

To answer the OP's question, I think that only Intel has completely open
drivers (out of the three mentioned). Last time I looked, the FGLRX driver
still had a binary blob.

To just add another POV to the mix:

I've used NVIDIA and ATI (having had cards from both in the past). I've had
fewer issues with NVIDIA, but it hasn't been perfect. In particular, there
have been issues with 7xxx series cards in the past (and I was "lucky"
enough to have one of them). There was a series of drivers which worked and
then the drivers stopped working properly. Then again, the card also ended
up on its way out, so it is what it is. The NVIDIA installers from
nvidia.com usually just work -- but you can also take the safe route and use
the Ubuntu restricted drivers package.

ATI, on the other hand, provided me with a false sense of security on the
first install from ATI, with everything working fine. When I tried to update
to the next revision of the driver, my system lost all GL capabilities and,
try as I might, I couldn't get them back until I re-installed and chose to
use the drivers supplied by Ubuntu. Those continued to work beautifully
through multiple upgrades until a dodgy power supply thrashed that video
card. The moral of the story is that it's generally better to let the
hard-working Ubuntu packagers do the work for you: stick to the drivers in
the repo.

Now a good friend of mine has a reasonably new Intel chipset in his Lenovo
laptop and the terrible driver support has driven him from using Ubuntu
primarily on his laptop to using windows. X used to hang up or crash out on
a very regular basis -- and this is the kind of guy who would try just about
any remedy, so, before someone asks "Did you X on the Y?" wrt this
experience: yes. He did. I promise.

My opinion is that NVIDIA has provided me the least hassles out of the three
vendors, with the best performance. But I suppose it stands to say YMMV. The
latest scoops about AMD dropping NVIDIA inter-op are disturbing (since I
have an AMD system with an NVIDIA card). No less disturbing are the
insinuations that NVIDIA will drop Linux support.
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