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The time has come for me to upgrade my aging gpu (9800 gt). The AMD 7950 has caught my attention because of the attractive price with pleasing benchmarks. But it is common knowledge that AMD GPUs have poor support on Linux.

What sort of performance can I expect, with say, the latest version of Ubuntu? Will I have issues starting X. Will I have issues with a dual monitor setup? Will basic games such as minecraft or neverball play as expected without problems? Will there be any issues with video playback or flash?

I tried doing some research with how this card performs on Linux, but google lacks any usable resources.

If the 7950 is completely useless when paired with a Linux system, can someone suggest a comparable nvidia gpu for the same price range with similar performance?

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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

A generally good experience. I did have KDE problems (some minor crashes, really rarely) with my Radeon 7870, but this never happened on Ubuntu with Unity.

Installing the driver is pretty straightforward. I used the AMD installer to generate the .deb files and installed them by hand. Then I generated the config file with (aticonfig --initial), and everything worked.

Games run, wine works, videos play, flash runs, Chrome works.

I can't recommend you a card (as it's not allowed), but keep in mind that Nvidia >> ATI. When it comes to drivers (especially Linux). However an ATI card will give you a better performance (on Windows at least) for a lower price. If I were to use Linux all day, I would buy an Nvidia card no doubt. But I took the leap and bought this Radeon. I'm satisfied on Windows, but it's got some problems under Linux.

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thanks, that's helpful. –  Ramin Mar 18 '13 at 16:44
    
@Ramin: If you have any specific application or something like that, I'm willing to give it a go. –  Shiki Mar 18 '13 at 17:41
    
try playing neverball or supertux. Does it support opengl? –  Ramin Mar 18 '13 at 20:59
    
Of course it supports OpenGL (KWin and Unity both rely on OpenGL heavily, though KDE can fall back. I used the OpenGL render however.) All this said... Nvidia still offers a better experience. Better performance, better support (faster driver release, wider kernel support), more features (even SLi). And there is vdpau for accelerated video playback. (Read the edit.) –  Shiki Mar 19 '13 at 17:46
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There are some minor issues with AMD's proprietary drivers.

They are missing a key protection routine (robust shaders) so you can't run WebGL or OpenGL Shader CSS without risking exploits. (These are turned off in Chrome if you have an ATI card.)

Flash has stopped supporting 3D acceleration altogether in Linux due to security exploits. Hopefully they will resolve this soon.

Notably the HD 5xxx series now runs almost as fast for OpenGL with the Open Source Gallium3D Mesa drivers. The HD 4xxx series actually runs faster, but I wouldn't recommend getting an HD 4xxx card because of this, because it is still slower than the newer cards, and lacks many features that the newer cards have.

The only real issue left on the HD 6xxx series is optimizing the drivers. This is a slow work in progress. It is currently usable, but I wouldn't recommend it.

The HD7xxx is a no-go on open source drivers. While minimal support is handled, many routines features are not completed yet, and are either handled in software or through bottleneck producing workarounds. This is not to say there won't ever be support.

The Open Source drivers do not, however, have good OpenCL (Open Compute) support. You need the proprietary drivers to run that.

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I'd like to add some information to the previous answer, since it covers basic support and functionality, etc. (I also agree regarding NVidia vs ATI).

The performance will not only depend on the card you choose, but also whether you choose to use the Open Source drivers or the proprietary AMD Catalyst drivers. The difference between them is huge (about half the performance for the FOSS drivers), but they are slowly improving for each release.

Phoronix is a page which publishes performance benchmarks regularly, both for the proprietary drivers and the FOSS drivers. The benchmark I've linked to is a test specifically for the card you mentioned, using the Catalyst drivers. Here's one comparing performance between that ATI card and an NVidia GTX680

You can also find many more tests, especially for the FOSS drivers.

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