Introduction

We recently took a look at several performance CPUs last week - and we were incredibly impressed by the amount of interest it spawned. Our little Linux section has been making waves left and right and we are quickly establishing ourselves as the premier Linux hardware journal. We have been working very diligently on a GPU roundup to top all GPU roundups in the Linux world. It has taken us a little over 3 weeks from start to finish, but we think that the final product is well worth it.

We get dozens of emails a day from readers asking which video card is right for them, particularly if they are going to give Linux a shot. It may be due to the circles that we run in, but the sheer interest for Linux among our peers seems to have peaked 100-fold what it was last year. Simple, clean distros like SuSE, Fedora Core and Mandrake have done wonders to the Windows migration crowd - and then there is the whole Gentoo sensation as well. Linux is definitely growing, but does it really have a competitive edge in any gaming or graphics intensive application?

The focus of this analysis is not to fire up glxgears, and see which program runs it faster. Instead, we want to look at some common graphics intensive applications for Linux and determine how well they run, particularly in relation to their Windows counterparts. We are interested in more than just the benchmark results - getting there is half the fun, and coincidentally, half the weighting for a purchase decision for many of us. Invariably, we will draw some conclusions from one GPU family to another out of the eleven cards that we have chosen to compare today.

When it comes to our quantitative data, we aren't just looking at average frames per second and declaring a winner. We have spent weeks working on a graphics benchmark utility specifically designed for AnandTech, which we are open sourcing and releasing to the world today as well.

Our New Benchmark: FrameGetter
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  • mczak - Monday, October 4, 2004 - link

    "On our MSI nForce3 board, this should have been the nvidia_agp module. However, try as we could, we could not get nvidia_agp and fglrx to play well with each other."
    This is a mistake, you do not need (and it will not work) the nvidia-agp module. For all A64 based boards, no matter if the chipset is from sis, via, nvidia or someone else, you need the amd64-agp module instead. It might have just worked with that - suse 9.1 loads it automatically for K8T800 chipset, but I think for some reason it doesn't get automatically loaded for nforce3 chipsets. It might have just worked loading it manually, saving you some time :-).

    "We are not entirely sure why, but even after completely removing the NVIDIA kernel module, we still had persistent errors installing the ATI drivers correctly."
    Removing the kernel module will do nothing. Nvidia drivers replace some of XFree/Xorg libraries, which are incompatible (I think libglx.a is affected by that, but there might be more), and ATI does not have its own version of these files. Uninstalling the nvidia driver with its own installer (which has an uninstall option) should get the original version back in place afaik.
    Reply
  • directedition - Monday, October 4, 2004 - link

    Oh, and a note on some SDL games on SUSE. On games like UT (original) and many other games using the same old installer, you need to create /mnt/cdrom and mount your cdrom there, as the installers don't tend to look for SuSE's /media/dvd nonsense, and it will often keep asking you to insert the CDROM. Reply
  • directedition - Monday, October 4, 2004 - link

    I can't belive noone's mentioned it yet, but Warcraft is an odd example of a game that tends to run better emulated under Cedega (SuSE 9.1) than natively on Windows. Blizzard has a decent relationship with Transgaming. While they won't do a native port of Warcraft III, they are willing to help Transgaming make their game compatible.

    I would definately like to see AnandTech take a look into this and why various Cedega games run better than others.
    Reply
  • Ardan - Monday, October 4, 2004 - link

    Gaming in linux doesn't take hours to achieve. If it took you hours to properly install something like, say, Enemy Territory, then you are doing it all wrong.

    I have set up gaming in linux on both an ATI and an nvidia card lately and neither are hassles. ATI's Linux development team has been making great strides, so don't sell them short. I fully expect them to start rolling along with new features and better support. Comparing them to when I used nvidia's older linux drivers to what they have now, it took a VERY long time to achieve. However, ATI is making strides in a shorter amount of time. Don't worry about that:)

    I loved the article a lot as well, but I would like to point out that the latest ATI drivers are 3.14.1. I do not think that everything has to be open-source to be good in linux. ATI and nvidia are clearly capable of engineering great cards and great drivers, so I am okay with closed-source. Surely it must be an even bigger benefit to them to be able to see the source of the OS they're programming for.

    Anandtech, keep up the good work on the Linux articles! They keep getting better and better.
    Reply
  • ballero - Monday, October 4, 2004 - link

    Great article.
    you can use "nvidia-settings" (the control panel) to set up both AA and AF
    Reply
  • Pannenkoek - Monday, October 4, 2004 - link

    UT is not a SDL game, but an OpenGL game in Linux. SDL is a library for making graphical applications easier (made by Epic, open source) and is comparable to DirectX excluding Direct3D.

    Graphics is a weak spot in Linux, mostly due to the fact that NVIDIA and ATi are paranoid to open their hardware spec so no open source cutting edge video drivers can be made. Stable video drivers, now that would be refreshing.

    A stable Linux system will never lock completely, but insert proprietary closed source drivers and redirect all input to X and you get pretty close to the Windows experience.

    Fortunately there is finally fast development in the X compartment now that Xfree is dying and with Xorg.
    Reply
  • Illissius - Monday, October 4, 2004 - link

    Nice article. Mostly mirrors my experience - I haven't been able to get ATi drivers to install at all (this was a few months ago) on either Mandrake, Knoppix (disk install), or Xandros, which was the point at which I gave up and got an nVidia card, and moved to Gentoo at the same time. Installing the drivers was pretty damn easy as far as Gentoo goes* - 'emerge nvidia-glx', add nvidia to the modules autoload list, change the driver in xorg.conf from 'nv' to 'nvidia', and I think that's about it. Of the games I tried (UT2003 demo, UT2004 demo, Wolfenstein: ET) all worked flawlessly, and as far as I can tell the same speed as under Windows. AA/AF worked also - nVidia has a nice graphical control panel for them too (called 'nvidia-settings' in portage); it's not as full featured as their Windows drivers, but it does the job.

    * What I like about Gentoo is that although you have to setup most things manually, you generally don't have to touch them again after you do. The distro gives you a lot more control over your entire system than 'user friendly' ones like SuSE/Mandrake/Fedora, as well. ie, if you're fascinated with customization, have tried far too many Windows tweak utilities, and can find your way around the registry well enough, there's a good chance it's the distro for you.
    Reply
  • Lonyo - Monday, October 4, 2004 - link

    #3, ATi is generally poorer with OpenGL games than nVidia, and Linux doesn't support DirectX (a Windows thing), so it's fairly obvious that the nVidia cards (which are better at OpenGL), will be better than the equivelant ATi cards (which are generally better at Direct 3D stuff - looking at NV3x vs R3xx) Reply
  • Lonyo - Monday, October 4, 2004 - link

    Have you been working with the 3Dc people? (I notice one of their forum members featuring in a screenshot, an immature one IMO at that ;))
    Congratulations for putting up a Linux gaming article, it would be nice if you could do older cards though (I was thinking of setting up a machine with a GF4 Ti4400 to run Linux).
    Reply

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