On graphics cards (was: Re: ATi graphics cards)

Daniel Stone daniel at fooishbar.org
Wed Jun 1 14:17:28 UTC 2005

On Wed, Jun 01, 2005 at 03:18:32PM +0200, Vincent Trouilliez wrote:
> True ! But, may this is a simple statistic problem, that is, maybe 90%
> of people do use nvidia cards, not ati, so obviously, you get 10 times
> more posts about nvidia cards than ati...

I'm not massively inclined to enter this argument, but this statistic
is totally, totally, totally wrong.  Not even close to 90%.

> > and as far as i understand it, is ati not that bad in supporting the
> > os-community by delivering specs to build proper open source drivers.
> WOW ! Can't believe it. If this is true, how comes we still have not
> proper open source drivers, that compete with the closed source Nvidia
> ones, minus the problems ? How come every linux user doesn't buy Ati
> instead of Nvidia ? :-/

Radeons up to and including the Radeon 9250 (the entire r1xx and r2xx
series) are supported by the open source 3D driver.  This has been the
case for years.  It works out of the box.

> Well maybe we are precisely waiting for the community to write said
> drivers... I hope it won't take too long then.
> Also, XGI recently decided to fully the specs of their chips. So that
> makes 2 brands that are Linux friendly.... once we have written drivers
> for them. Also, there is this "Open Graphics" project, which should
> start seeing the day of light early next year....can't wait.

At this stage, XGI's 3D component is non-free.  Which gives you an open
source 2D for all cards, and a closed-source 3D for all cards.

Let's make up a small table.

OS = Open Source
P = Proprietary

              | 2D OS | 2D P | 3D OS | 3D P |
ATI           |  All  | All  | Some  | Most |
nVidia        |  All* | All  | None  | Most |
Intel         |  Ish  | All  |  All  | All  |
XGI           |  All  | None | None  | All  |
OpenGraphics  | None  | None | None  | None |
*: nv isn't really open source, honestly.

Breaking down that table:
  * ATI have open-source 3D support for everything up to and including
    the 9250.  The proprietary driver covers everything except a very
    small class of embedded devices, but this will be rectified soon.
  * nVidia don't really have any open source drivers, and their
    proprietary driver also covers everything but a very small class of
    embedded devices.
  * Intel have full open-source 3D support for all of their chipsets,
    but they refuse to release details on how to actually program modes,
    so mode-setting in 2D really, really, really sucks.  We're crippled
    by their love of overengineered video BIOSes.
  * XGI have an open-source 2D driver, with a closed-source 3D component
    that attaches to that.
  * OpenGraphics don't actually make cards yet.

Make your own mind up.

> My current on-board Geforce2 MX 32MB gives about 450FPS with "glxgears",
> pathetic in X-Plane. I tried a friends Geforce4 64MB... about twice as
> fast (850FPS), yet the graphics in X-Plane are not that much better.

That would be because glxgears is not (repeat: NOT) a benchmark.

> I don't know how much modern fanless (I value silence...) cards can
> score (I welcome figures :-), but I would hate to spend 100 Euros on a
> "Linux friendly" card and get say 2500 FPS instead of say 5000FPS,
> because of crappy drivers...

As you saw, you're benchmarking the wrong thing.  If XPlane runs faster,
great.  glxgears 'scores' are only important if you really can tell the
difference between 2500 and 5000 FPS, and you actually care.

Which you don't, because no-one does.
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