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Re: [vox-tech] Re: Video card...
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Re: [vox-tech] Re: Video card...

Figure I'd mention a few things.

ATI's known for it's video quality, and they make the entire board,
so more often then not you get a good RAMDAC, and good screen quality
(I'm talking about the analog signal quality, not various 3d trickery to
get the pixels the right color).   This is changing though as ATI steals
video card makers from Nvidia.  So soon you should start seeing asus,
gigabyte, abit and similar ATI powered cards and have the same worries
about sub-standard parts as with nvidia cards.

ATI's been reasonably informative for the linux people, although
not completely so, or at least not immediately.  There has been some
magic in the 3d driver, some missing details of the video compression
(in the all in 1 models), and similar.  This may have changed I'm not
completely current.  

The linux drivers are lagging, not as good as the windows version, and
even the windows drivers seem to be causing a fair number of complaints.
In particular the linux driver today even in the 4.2 CVS AFAIK does not
support T&L (transform and lighting), so the x86 cpu and mesa have to
do alot more calculations then they would if T&L were offloaded to
the cpu card.  I think this also hits the AGP bus harder.  Then again
Voodoo cards have done very well in the past and they never had T&L.
Then again T&L support is part of why nvidia's has the lead for some
years now.

That being said, the ATI Radeon 7500 (the newest generation card) has
great video quality, very good 2d, and pretty good 3d.  Works in both
2d and 3d with linux.  It's available with a DVI port (in case you want
a LCD in the next year or two) for only $100.  A pretty good deal if
your not looking at the best 3d at any price.  The Radeon 7500 is
approximately as fast as a Geforce 2 ti, or a geforce 4 MX 440.

The ATI radeon 8500 is a new beast, and AFAIK is unsupported, wait on
this one, as likely as not there will be a faster ATI card out before
the linux driver for the 8500 works fully.

ATI's hasn't been very responsive to linux complaints, for a good
while one of the popular ATI 64 MB cards would not work with AMD
chipset motherboards.   Although from talking to various people
that seems to be improving.

Now onto Nvidia.  Video quality is in the control of the video card maker
(not Nvidia).  Quality varies quite a bit, I got 3 PNY's I think they were
and they all exhibit strange waves, distortions etc indictive of a poor
ramdac.  I've was talking to one of the big linux kernel developers and
he said basically "ati hardware is faster, nvidia's drivers are faster,
in the real world nvidia wins".  This has the unfortunate side effect of
Nvidia's not going to give up the lead in a $billion market to opensource
the driver.  At least until ATI catches a clue in the driver dept.

Nvidia provides binaries for a wide selection of distributions, and allows
relinking their binaries so you can run the kernel version of the day.
Granted the drivers could stop, then again ATI's distribution of info
could stop as well.  To be honest I prefer the ATI solution, although it
would be nice if ATI were a little bit more active in the linux community.
If ATI's drivers become better then Nvidia's the flow of info from
ATI will stop in a new york second to protect the $1 billion market. 
In fact this happened with the ATI Radeon 8500.  Then reality set in,
it wasn't a nvidia killer, and the info became available.

Nvidia's hardware has continued to lead ATI's performance on average,
often the performance is matched I.e. gf3 ti 500 vs 8500, but Nvidia
started shipping first.  So ATI's been basically in a catch up position.
The Geforce 4 is a good bit faster, and again ATI's trying to catch
up, they have been discussing the new R300 chip, but it's still uncertain
as to when it will ship.

The nvidia drivers are very easy to install, just download 2 rpm's,
rpm --rebuild them (or .tar's if your not .rpm friendly), and change
the nv.o to nvidia.o in the XFree86-4 or whatever config file.  A bit
more convient then upgrading to the CVS version of XFree86-4.2 or similar.

Nvidia has a unified driver, so 100% of the performance and features
under windows are supposed to work under linux.  At least in 
the 2d/3d/video out/DVI/LCD support.  Nvidia is definitely weaker
in the full video solution, video in, compression, tivo replacement
kinda thing.

Nvidia has 64 bit sdram video cards, gf2 mx200, I'd only get it if
your 3d needs are minimal, I'd probably get a high end matrox 
instead.  gf2 mx 400 = ddr and 128 bit's wide, fairly nice card,
big step up at 1024x768 and higher where memory bottlenecks
are an issue.  Seems to be the knee in the curve where more $$$'s
don't get you that much more performance.  

But unless your paying $500 for the state of the art card in
general it seems like ATI and Nvidia are pretty close at most
price points.  ATI seems to lead in video quality slightly, and
lag on 3d performance slightly.

Overall recommendation:
	1. if recompiling xfree86-4.2 from CVS doesn't scare ya consider the 
       radeon 7500 for $100 ish.
	2. Paying for more then a radeon 7500 or a gf2 ti doesn't get you much,
       if you need more nvidia is the only game in town today (till the 8500
       is supported).
    3. If your cpu is your weakest link, I'd lean toward Nvidia's T&L 
       support.  At least for today (should change in the next weeks/months)
	4. ATI's really gunning for Nvidia, things could easily change quickly,
       although historically ATI always has an Nvidia killer in the pipe, 
       it's always late, and it's always slower then claimed.

Personally I'm amazed how much bang for the $ is available today, this
is IMO the limelight of the 3d world.  Justifying a 2.0 Ghz vs a 1.5 Ghz
these days is pretty hard, end users don't notice much difference.  But
each generation of 3d cards offers significant increases that are noticable.
There's more technology is a $100-$200 video card these days then in the
entire rest of a computer.   The memory system on a video card totally
embarasses the rest of the system.   Anyways, enough ranting.

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