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I can't believe I am asking this question here myself. Apologies if this is not the right place for this question.

I've been using linux since 1996, SuSE version 4.1...

And yet I am still not able to put together a well performing machine.

I bought a simple box a few months ago. I am a software developer. I don't need high end graphics nor RAID nor stuff like that.

My main goal is to have a fast responsive machine. I installed arch linux on it, and i3 as desktop environment - really it should be quite fast.

And yet...the machine responsiveness is very low, especially graphics lag A LOT. I know I didn't opt for a high end graphics engine - but shouldn't such a modern machine be enough for lag-free youtube and other video watching? Lag-free firefox browsing?

Maybe I just misconfigured my machine, and that's what my question is about. Some hardware info follows below.

As you can see, I have a AMD E-350 processor with 8GB-RAM - I should think this would be quite enough for a standard linux installation...

What I also did is, as the MoBo comes with a GPU/processor bundle, I thought that maybe upgrading just the graphics card may have some impact - nope. I bought a AMD HD5450 card with 1GB RAM (!!!) - and still I can't enjoy a fluent video on youtube, nor a sufficient experience web browsing...(maybe it's even better to have the original GPU than the added card I bought?). Of course I know that modern browsers are pretty demanding, but I should think such a machine should be able to handle it?

I read the posts on the arch linux forum about optimizing video, and AMD cards are not very well reviewed really...

There are infinite posts about how to choose your distro, there are hardware compatibility lists - but are there any tutorials or guides which actually help setting up a fast and responsive machine?

  • Is my machine maybe badly configured?
  • Does it just have a bad hardware set up? Should I maybe replace one or the other piece to cheaply get satisfactory performance?
  • Am I just asking too much from my cheap hardware?

I am considering replacing the whole MoBo (I know it was cheap and I shouldn't expect too much from it, but I thought I should be able to tweak it...)

(lshw):

*-memory
          description: System memory
          physical id: 0
          size: 7967MiB
*-cpu
          product: AMD E-350 Processor
          vendor: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD]
          physical id: 1
          bus info: cpu@0
          size: 800MHz
          capacity: 800MHz
          width: 64 bits
          capabilities: fpu fpu_exception wp vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush mmx fxsr sse sse2 ht syscall nx mmxext fxsr_opt pdpe1gb rdtscp x86-64 constant_tsc rep_good nopl nonstop_tsc extd_apicid aperfmperf pni monitor ssse3 cx16 popcnt lahf_lm cmp_legacy svm extapic cr8_legacy abm sse4a misalignsse 3dnowprefetch ibs skinit wdt arat hw_pstate npt lbrv svm_lock nrip_save pausefilter vmmcall cpufreq
     *-pci:0
          description: Host bridge
          product: Family 14h Processor Root Complex
          vendor: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD]
          physical id: 100
          bus info: pci@0000:00:00.0
          version: 00
          width: 32 bits
          clock: 66MHz
          configuration: latency=32
        *-pci:0
             description: PCI bridge
             product: Family 14h Processor Root Port
             vendor: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD]
             physical id: 4
             bus info: pci@0000:00:04.0
             version: 00
             width: 32 bits
             clock: 33MHz
             capabilities: pci normal_decode bus_master cap_list
             configuration: driver=pcieport
             resources: irq:16 ioport:e000(size=4096) memory:fea00000-feafffff ioport:c0000000(size=268435456)
           *-display
                description: VGA compatible controller
                product: Cedar [Radeon HD 5000/6000/7350/8350 Series]
                vendor: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD/ATI]
                physical id: 0
                bus info: pci@0000:01:00.0
                version: 00
                width: 64 bits
                clock: 33MHz
                capabilities: vga_controller bus_master cap_list rom
                configuration: driver=radeon latency=0
                resources: irq:41 memory:c0000000-cfffffff memory:fea20000-fea3ffff ioport:e000(size=256) memory:fea00000-fea1ffff
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    Gotta agree w/ mt_ about that processor -- it's atrocious. It is a bit odd that it reports as 800 Mhz since it is described online as 1.6 Ghz (perhaps lshw is erroneously dividing by the number of cores?). In any case, you might as well be working on a middle of the road smartphone. Add-on GPU cards are way, way overrated unless you are a gamer -- buy all the CPU you can afford and whatever integrated graphics it comes with should be fine. – goldilocks Mar 1 '15 at 19:44
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You CPU is slow. A score of 760 for a dual core CPU is bad. If you take a look at the single-core performance for that CPU on the site it's on par with a good Pentium III.

The GPU should be good enough for YouTube but together with the CPU it could be not enough. I can watch 760p YouTube in HTML5 on a Pentium M with a much slower AMD GPU. Be sure to have the correct drivers installed.

Another issue could be Flash. Google Chrome uses Pepperflash that seems to disable some optimizations for GPUs and makes everything very slow. On a almost 10 year old Core2Duo (still 2-3x faster than your CPU!) 760p Flash on Firefox works fine with the onboard Intel GPU, while on Chrome everything Flash related is very slow. Also be sure to have VDPAU or other acceration APIs working and running. Also check that OpenGL works.

Maybe try a current Ubuntu LiveCD to check for a performance misconfiguration - the hardware detection works quite well on Ubuntu and if the machine works fluent in this configuration consider checking your xorg configuration.

Modern Desktop Linux is unfortunately at least equally depending on fast hardware as Windows. Recent Windows versions like 8.1 work even better than Linux on older hardware for me. But usually it's memory that's the problem so that should not be a problem for you.

Check your xorg configuration and get rid of that CPU and you'll be fine I think. If you need something cheap go for a fast used Core2Duo or check the list on cpubenchmark.net. If you are developing consider also looking at the single thread performance comparison. That, in my experience, is the most important factor for snappiness.

For 200$ you can buy a decent used computer that has multiple times the performance of your system. The biggest impact for snappiness beyond a reasonable fast CPU will be a SSD.

  • Thanks, looks like reasonable recommendations! I was already doubting about my CPU...unfortunately it's soldered onto the MoBo so upgrading equals to replace the whole MoBo! Well should have been looking better in the first place...Thanks again! – fablife Mar 1 '15 at 18:49
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    I've looked at the list again and at least YouTube should work fine for 480p and maybe 760p with this configuration. However I've struggled in the past to get Linux do the right thing on older hardware and as sad as it sounds Windows worked better most of the time. If you don't want to give up the hardware try running Windows 8.1 on it. Or get intimate with configuring Linux. However mplayer or VLC should play videos fine. You can use youtube-dl to get the video data. – mt_ Mar 1 '15 at 18:53
  • "a multitude of the performance" is slightly idiosyncratic wording, though I know what you mean. I've left it alone because everyone has a right to be colorful, but you should think about altering it. – Faheem Mitha Mar 1 '15 at 20:43
  • Not a native speaker. I clarified it. – mt_ Mar 1 '15 at 21:26

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