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I've used Linux distros quite a lot and remember horrible AMD support for graphic cards. I'm building a new rig, atm, and would like to know if the situation improved?

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I've used both nvidia and AMD/ATI drivers, they've both worked without incident in the last few years. Do you have specific issues that you ran into last time? – slm Dec 29 '12 at 13:43
I have a radeon 4350 that I used for OGL programming 3-4 years ago on linux. It's sitting in a box now because I'm not doing that stuff anymore and consider PCIe cards a waste of power, but it worked fine both with the proprietary driver and with mesa + open source drivers. There was a very significant (as in, exponential) difference in frame rates using the prop. driver, however (which makes sense). – goldilocks Dec 29 '12 at 14:42

For 2D acceleration Radeon open source drivers actually perform better than offical drivers. If you need 3D acceleration (or OpenCL) then you might need to install Catalyst drivers, which may work good from time to time. But open source drivers do work and give you basic 3D acceleration in accelerated desktop environments.

I have radeon on my media server. It has been worked perfectly since I haven't needed OpenCL yet... If you need OpenCL then you must have Catalyst drivers.

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Another radeon user here. It has been looking OK in the past years, although I don't use any intensive 3D applications. Another thing to take in account is that, if you rely on AMD's own drivers, they have been dropping support for older cards. I wonder how likely are they to do that again in the future. – njsg Dec 29 '12 at 21:08

The only thing bad for the official binary driver is the support of hibernation.

In the old days, open source driver have no problems on hibernating, but with catalyst driver, it crashes frequently on resume.

And yes, open source driver is pretty "stuck" with games like Nexuiz, unless you wanted to do hibernation, there's no reason to use it.

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Download the current driver for your card from AMD.

They integrate very well with X11 and will even create deb or rpm packages for your system.

This looks way better than nvidia (which must build a new kernel module during every kernel-update and breaks after certain X11-updates).

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