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[LazyWeb] DualHead: Hardware suggestion

Taken in Portugal

I just got a second LCD for free. Of course I'd like to use it ;-) Currently, my computer has an old ATI card which doesn't support a second LCD-Panel (it is an ATI RV350 AR Radeon 9600).

I just noticed that I have 0% knowledge about graphics adapters... And I don't care about them, to be honest. All I want is KDE on two LCDs and be able to move windows between the two panels ;-)

I never ever play games on that machine and only do EMail, Firefox and OpenOffice on it. That means 3D performance is completely unimportant, I am sure the slowest chip is more than fast enough. As I am using the machine a lot passive cooling would be really nice. 3D effects in KDE would be nice, of course.

Question: Which graphics card would you buy if you were me?

  • Works on Linux (I am using Chakra (Arch Linux))

  • Dualhead is easy to configure (that means documented and I don't need to compile my own or kernel and such)

  • Inexpensive

  • Silent

Thanks you for your suggestions.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 28th, 2009 10:08 am (UTC)
Dunno how good Dualhead works with ATI cards
but this one seems to be both inexpensive and silent.
Jun. 28th, 2009 10:23 am (UTC)
buy whatever fanless nvidia and use the binary driver
Jun. 28th, 2009 10:44 am (UTC)
This one seems like it's got all you need and is only 24 bucks
Jun. 28th, 2009 11:00 am (UTC)
Re: This one seems like it's got all you need and is only 24 bucks
i don't know about dualhead, but i would suggest intel graphics :D

compositing works out of the box and on my netbook i can configure my LCD Display/HDTV with krandtray...

but afaik the dont make desktop graphic cards with intel chips?
Jun. 28th, 2009 11:05 am (UTC)
I have a Club3D 8400GS with 512MB RAM, in Denmark it costs about 300 kroner which is about €40.

It has 1 DVI-out and 1 VGA-out, it's fanless and with the binary nvidia driver it's easy to setup for dualhead.

If you are into HD-videos this card also have built-in hardware decoder, which is supported by newer versions of mplayer. :)
Jun. 28th, 2009 11:09 am (UTC)
At work I have an Nvidia 6600GT and at home an Nvidia 9800GTX+. Both work well with dualhead (and easy to set up using nvidia-settings on kubuntu, at least). The 9800GTX+ is probably not silent, tho :P I can't hear it over the rest of everything that runs in my flat.
Jun. 28th, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC)
Definitely not NVidia!
You definitely shouldn't buy NVidia card. Support Free Software - buy ATI card and use open source drivers.
Jun. 28th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
I've been really happy with the ATI/radeon open source driver - it's powerful enough to do all the 3d I need of it, and has stable support xinerama/moving things between screens.

Warning though - once you start developing on dual-screen, you'll find it near impossible to go back to single screen. Give me a shout if you need a sample xorg.conf to get it working - I always had trouble getting that part right.
Jun. 28th, 2009 05:07 pm (UTC)
which chipset has your card because here the r730 is rather bad, and following the development on radeon is quite impossible, which git tree give you what?

If you're speaking of a r300 that may a good choiche but what to buy a new card?

Also using the binary ati drivers is not really an option.

The nvidia proprietary, closed source, drivers work well even with the latest kernel.

The status of intel drivers is very good, but they require to change the motherboard, possibly not an option.

If you (like me) do real work on your linux powered pc chose nvidia, or wait, possibly kernel 2.6.32, and some xorg stuff.
Jun. 28th, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
Isn't R730 part of the HD series? I have a R520 which isn't HD and is well supported - I don't follow the HD development effort but I was under the impression that it isn't as complete as the main radeon branch. keeps me up to date as far as the major features go

If your interest isn't in 3D, then I'd just pick up a second hand X1x00 if you can find one pretty cheaply.

I'm currently running Fedora 11 - so kernel and whichever version of the radeon drivers come with that. Prior to that revision though I was having horrendous stability issues, but it seems that they've fixed the regression. The only issue I have now is attempting direct3d through wine, which is something I don't generally do anyway.

I also got bit by the proprietary AMD/ATI drivers, as they decided to drop support for the R5xx.. despite the fact my card is less than 3 years old.. never using binary AMD/ATI/NVidia closed-source drivers again.
Jun. 28th, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
Check out the ASUS silentpipe range - and make it nVidia :)
Jun. 28th, 2009 08:43 pm (UTC)
Normally I'd say go with Nvidia. The idealist in me hates relying on their closed-source blob, but the pragmatist in me loves that said blob has always Just Worked for me.

Since 3D doesn't matter to you, ATI/AMD is a fine choice. Using their binary driver is very, very painful, but sounds like you need not mess with it. R500 cards are very well supported by the ati and radeonhd drivers (3D, Xvideo, EXA, the works), but it's hard and expensive to find them new. HD-series cards (R600+) support exactly what you need with the open source drivers, and currently nothing else. 3D, power management, and the other bells and whistles are in development, but I don't think any distribution packages the newer code for that just yet.

Both brands support Xrandr now, so configuring for dual-head should be a snap.
Jun. 28th, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC)
Have to agree with the nvidia suggestion because of quality drivers and the xrandr support. I got this one for $40 after a rebate from fry's. Great 2d performance, medium 3d, probably more than what you need but will be good for a few years. Also the link has details on what you might need to know about upgrading your video cards (i.e. whether you have the power requirements...)
Jun. 29th, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)
Based on your criteria...
Get an nVidia card. I have an 8400, and getting it up and running with dual-head on Arch (with the binary driver) is dead simple. (e.g. one cli command, with a bunch of easy-to-understand switches). It fits all your criteria, as it is also cheap, and fanless, as previously mentioned by others. It sounds like it would be good enough for your purposes. I noticed you didn't mention driver licensing as a concern... at the moment, ATI's proprietary drivers are horrific, and the FOSS drivers are hit-and-miss, and on some cards are pretty awful to deal with. This is no fault of the FOSS devs, as ATI only recently gave out most of their specs. nVidia has shown no moves (that I've heard of) to release their specs, but their proprietary drivers are great (the worst issues I've had were a bit of corruption, and that has been fixed), they release them often, and Linux doesn't seem to be an afterthought for them - at least not as much as it is for ATI. ATI support is catching up, from what I've heard, but from my experience, anyway, if you want a reasonably new card right now with no hassles, go with nVidia.
Jun. 29th, 2009 08:29 am (UTC)
Keep the same power with dual screen...
As I suppose your ATI 9660 is AGP, be carefull to find an AGP video card.
The best way for that is to buy used hardware : really inexpensive, yet powerfull enough.

I use a ATI 7500 - 128 MB with two screen connectors : one DVI, and one VGA.
Two 15' plat screens connected to it, and then it goes : 2048x768 screen size.

You only need to indicate in xorg.conf that you want a bigger max size :
Subsection "Display"
       Depth 24
       Virtual 2048 1024

Then run this on the command line (the name of the outputs may be different):

xrandr --output VGA-1 --right-of LVDS
Jun. 29th, 2009 08:33 am (UTC)
Re: Keep the same power with dual screen...
oups, forgot to say that this card has only passive cooling....

Jul. 1st, 2009 08:47 am (UTC)
Re: Keep the same power with dual screen...
Well, I don't have a ;-)
Jul. 1st, 2009 09:34 am (UTC)
Re: Keep the same power with dual screen...
Created one, works now. Cool!
Jun. 29th, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)
Any ATI Card
Just buy any ATI card with two DVI's and viola, awesome linux dual head desktop with open source drivers. 3D is lacking, but minus that the xrender extension works well even on the newest cards so you get some of the more basic composite desktop features and what not. With kernel 2.6.30 the newer cards finally have direct rendering as well.

I have a ATI 3870HD, works awesome with chakra.

I can say the same about the nvidia cards as well, but I prefer to not be stuck with their binary blobs if I can help it! So unless you need 3D, I'd say go ATI with the open source ati driver.
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Taken in Portugal

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