pcworld Mar 30, 2013 @ 11:57am
After latest driver updates: What's up with AMD vs Nvidia on Linux?
Some time ago it felt clear to me that if you want proper graphics card performance on Linux, you have to go with AMD. Linus rather tended to agree[1] that Nvidia isn't exactly very Linux-friendly.
However when Steam for Linux beta was released, there was quite a buzz about graphics card hardware vendors updating their Linux drivers, namely Nvidia and AMD, which were ought to bring better gaming performance.
My question is, how much of an effect did that have? Is "AMD Linux drivers > Nvidia" not longer true (if it was at all)?
Currently, I'm considering AMD's HD 7850, which seems to perform pretty well on Windows for a price that isn't overly exaggerated, but I'm not really sure what to expect on Linux.

Has anyone made (gaming?) experience with both AMD and Nvidia on Linux in the last couple of months?
Are there any other graphics cards in the same price range that work better on Linux than the one I've mentioned?

I'd appreciate some words on this.
To avoid pure fanboyism, please back up your statements (e.g. "I've experienced that ...").

Thanks!

[1]: youtube.com/watch?v=19jUboon5gI
Last edited by pcworld; Mar 31, 2013 @ 9:26am
Showing 1-15 of 62 comments
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Doc Holliday Mar 30, 2013 @ 11:59am 
haha i like linus
Shark Mar 30, 2013 @ 12:12pm 
On Linux you're much better off with Nvidia, AMD is really hit and miss with games.
b4cki ❤ Katzii3 Mar 30, 2013 @ 12:26pm 
I'm someone who really wants AMD to succeed, I don't want a monopoly in the gpu sector but AMD doesn't make it easy to stay positive. They had enough time but the performance is still not even close to that of the windows drivers. I still hope that it will get better with the time but if you want to have good drivers/performance now I have to say that you have to go with the NVIDIA cards :/
LawAndDisorder Mar 30, 2013 @ 12:28pm 
Well that was an incredibly rude way to start. Regardless, I'll try and help you as best I can. To start, Linus has a point in his comments on Nvidia, in that they do push for GPU support on Android devices (A Linux OS) and yet historically they haven't really been the best of friends with Linux to my knowledge. But, that video is almost 10 months old, and a lot can happen in 10 months, especially in the technology world. In my experience (And this is the part you most likely care about) I have had a Nvidia GPU on both Windows and Linux, and I can tell you that, performance wise, they are not that far off from eachother. In certain applications (Let's use Team Fortress 2) I have noticed no obvious difference between the GPU's performance on either OS, both getting around 200 FPS on max settings. And you're right about the driver buzz, I have Nvidia's latest drivers for Linux, and they are comparable to those of Windows. So I can tell you from what I know, my Nvidia GPU, and its driver performs well on Linux. Unfortunatley I haven't used an AMD GPU in a long time, and as such cannot attest to its quality (Or lack thereof) on Linux.
TarrasQ Mar 30, 2013 @ 12:29pm 
I don't have recent personal experience about AMD's cards or drivers on linux, but nVidia drivers seem to have much less problems. Technically AMD is more Linux-friendly, but nVidia just has better drivers anyway.

I might be tempted to try out a trinity APU sometime in the future, like AMD A10. If the drivers are too disappointing I'll just go buy a mid-range nVidia card for 100€.
Paradroid Mar 30, 2013 @ 12:44pm 
Hi
What do you want to hear, AMD free drivers gives you poor performance with games but very few problems with the Kernel an X. The Nonfree drivers are a Ok with games but have issues with nearly anything else like tearing videos and windows. Best is to boot up a seperate kernel an X server for gaming, and use the free drivers for desktop use. Hey AMD we have 2013 now come on... .
Nvidia drivers do work as good as with windows, because they are nearly the same.
If you ask me with AMD the free drivers are the thing, and that will take some time and developers.
So because graphics hardware is old after one year i would for now still tend to buy nvidia and wait for AMD to move on.
Bye.
Thyriel Mar 30, 2013 @ 1:00pm 
In my opinion the time to really compare (windows vs linux vs amd vs nvidia) has not yet come.
A game, like TF2, that runs at 200+ fps with openGL 2.0 is not suitable for comparison.
That would be like using a DirectX 7 Benchmark to compare a HD7950 vs 680GTX.
If you want to do a good and useable comparison we need a Benchmark / Game that really heats up modern cards and is available on both, Windows and Linux with a decent Engine.

It makes absoluetely no sense comparing a directX 11 AAA title on windows that is then poorly ported to linux, leaving out effects that OpenGL could do but devs have not implemented.

Lets take for example Heaven 4.0 Benchmark.
It runs on Linux and Windows, it has DX, OpenGL which looks like a good comparison.
But something is just "wrong" with it. For example my 6990M gots 3x more points on DX Benchmark.
With a 12.x driver i had a while back on Linux i got around 650 pts. But Games like SS3 ran extremely slow.
13.1 driver the games did run better, but Heaven Benchmark points dropped to 600.
13.3 beta drivers are running great in games, but Heaven dropped down to 450 points.

So in my eyes, its extremely hard to do some comparison that tells you facts in the end.
Its just unlogical that games run better and better with newer drivers while benchmarks loose nearly 1/3rd of perfomance.

Problem is, on linux there are a ton of things that can effect it. How well was the game ported, is it using the apropiate OpenGL structure, driver compatibility, kernel version and so on
gattocake Mar 30, 2013 @ 1:41pm 
Being "Linux-unfriendly" isn't necessarily relevant. Sure, they faff about with Optimus support and drive Linus around the bend with their antics, but it doesn't really have anything to do with their driver performance.
pcworld Mar 30, 2013 @ 1:42pm 
Thanks for all your responses so far!

Originally posted by LawAndDisorder:
Well that was an incredibly rude way to start.
I'm sorry for that and you're right, but after reading through this thread I couldn't help but write this. The word "mainly" is probably wrong though.
And thanks for your comprehensive answer.
Originally posted by LawAndDisorder:
I have Nvidia's latest drivers for Linux, and they are comparable to those of Windows
Wow, that sounds pretty promising. Do you als run games via wine?

Originally posted by Paradroid:
Best is to boot up a seperate kernel an X server for gaming, and use the free drivers for desktop use
Problem is, if I have to reboot for graphics-heavy work, that's not so far from just using Windows for that.
If I buy an Intel CPU (with integrated GPU), I might check if it's possible to quickly/easily switch between integrated GPU and external GPU.
I hope Intel will make some high-performance GPUs in the future, since driver support for their integrated GPUs (HD3000, HD4000) seems excellent and even FOSS.

Originally posted by epic fail@linux:
I'm someone who really wants AMD to succeed, I don't want a monopoly in the gpu sector
That's one of my reasons why I first looked into AMD cards. Nvidia is so much more expensive for the same performance (on Windows, that is) and I really don't want to support that.

Originally posted by Thyriel:
So in my eyes, its extremely hard to do some comparison that tells you facts in the end.
Its just unlogical that games run better and better with newer drivers while benchmarks loose nearly 1/3rd of perfomance.
I'm very skeptical of these benchmarks as well. That's why I figured I'd ask in a forum about experiences.
Best would be if there were people who could tell from first-hand experience from using both an AMD *and* Nvidia GPU, but that seems to happen very rarely.
One of the few Linux hardware review sites I've found is Phoronix, but it seems like they're just posting hundreds of not-so-useful benchmarks instead of doing some real-world tests and writing about what they've found out.

Originally posted by Thyriel:
13.3 beta drivers are running great in games
So you're saying that AMD's latest Linux drivers work good for gaming?


As I have not looked into Nvidia cards at all, are there any suggestions concerning a graphics card with reasonable performance on both Windows and Linux, around 160€ (200USD)?
gattocake Mar 30, 2013 @ 1:49pm 
Originally posted by pcworld:
As I have not looked into Nvidia cards at all, are there any suggestions concerning a graphics card with reasonable performance on both Windows and Linux, around 160€ (200USD)?
For what it's worth, I had a HD 7850 back around June last year and only had problems with it in Linux, probably improved by now though.

Coincidentally, NVIDIA just released the GTX 650 Ti Boost which seems to fit into your budget.
Last edited by gattocake; Mar 30, 2013 @ 1:50pm
s.plisskin [Archlinux] Mar 30, 2013 @ 2:07pm 
Originally posted by pcworld:
Some time ago it felt clear to me that if you want proper graphics card performance on Linux, you have to go with AMD. Linus rather tended to agree[1] that Nvidia isn't exactly very Linux-friendly.

Perhaps from a kernal driver developer perspective. From a gamer end user perspective, Nvidia is the way to go. The vast majority of feedback from users regarding closed proprietary drivers is that nvidia wins hands down in any forum i've ever visited. AMD has only recently picked up the ball again, putting some work in the catalyst driver, but it still lags Nvidia by a wide margin from my personal experience. It is also especially noticeable from a wine users perspective.

As for open source drivers on any card, sadly in the gaming arena they just don't cut the mustard.
Paradroid Mar 30, 2013 @ 2:10pm 
There should be nVidia cards as well in that price range, and if they cost the same they nearly do the same. I personally like AMD cards more as you do, but AMD drivers are really anoying on linux. The problem starts with it takes ages for AMD to publish a new driver when the kernel or the Xserver changes, and if there is a security fix for those you do not want to be stuck to an old kernel or Xserver for that long.
So if you want AMD you should stick to windows for now, and test a distribution(linux is just the kernel) at the same time to see it for yourselfe. Power management and AMD display drivers is a mess, too.
And i say this because i have a AMD card here and i just use linux.
Performance and stability are good, but nearly everything else does not really work. I have high cpu usage with any video i watch because there is no hardware acceleration working for that. And still the videos tear. I guess it is that years old vsync bug that someone else mentoined here. So to cut it short AMD and linux is still a no go for now, if you ask me. I just hope with Valve now showing that much effort AMD will wake up and will do so, too.
The hardware is fine just crippled by a piece of software.
The problem is actually the same with windows and AMD drivers but it is far better there.

So if you want a AMD card that badly I recomend you to use good old gameloader OS.
blackout24 Mar 30, 2013 @ 3:33pm 
You do realize that Linus's statement had nothing to do with the GPU drivers?
ToTeX_Baked Mar 30, 2013 @ 5:05pm 
I have the AMD 6650m card. and all valve source games runs on maximum settings with great fps. also many windows games works via wine :).

So going for amd wont be a problem, but go with nvidia if you are unsure
Last edited by ToTeX_Baked; Mar 30, 2013 @ 5:06pm
LOLCAT Mar 30, 2013 @ 5:10pm 
I have experience with recent AMD cards and older nvidia cards.:

Nvidia, the good:
Very nice performance with proprietary drivers. Fixing bugs and partially supporting cards even after 10 years.

Nvidia, the bad:
Completely closed drivers, no help for the linux community. (Therefore open source drivers are crap.) Drivers can easily be installed from repositories but the binary installer is a nightmare.

AMD, the good:
Active work with the open source community, open source drivers are good. Proprietary drivers are very stable and are easy to install even using the binary installer.

AMD, the bad:
Very bad OpenGL performance, games have 50-60% performance compared to their windows ports. Moving cards to unsupported state very soon after releasing them (only a few years).
Last edited by LOLCAT; Mar 30, 2013 @ 5:11pm
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Date Posted: Mar 30, 2013 @ 11:57am
Posts: 62