Graphics: Pick a Card...Any Card

With graphics capabilities being so important and new cards appearing all the time, you need a score card to pick the right one. Here it is...
How to Choose?

Now that you can see all the cards available, here are few questions that may help you choose the card that best fits your needs.

  • Is fast, accurate OpenGL performance important to you? Do you demand the best Quake III Arena performance?

If you require the best OpenGL acceleration under Linux, look to NVIDIA for your card. They have a great OpenGL implementation and can offer you fast hardware as well. That carries over to Quake III Arena, where OpenGL performance is critical.

  • Do you play Unreal Tournament or other games that require Glide?

Currently, Unreal Tournament plays best in Linux using Glide. That means you need 3dfx hardware, and for best performance, a Voodoo3 or better. While it is possible that the OpenGL renderer in UT will catch up to Glide, it's by no means a certainty.
  • Do you want to run two monitors at once without sacrificing a card slot for the extra video card?

The Matrox G400 dual-head cards offer reasonable OpenGL acceleration through Mesa and the ability to drive two monitors. Other companies allow you to run several cards at once in your system, but Matrox's solution is more elegant.
  • Is your budget limited and you need a 2-D/3-D card with reasonable performance?

The ATI Rage 128 cards are a good balance of features and price, while the NVIDIA TNT2 comes in a close second.

The best way to find out what you like, naturally, is to see the products in person. So while you can't buy each card to try it out, a next best choice is to ask around your local LUG and find a user with a card you are considering. Ask what they like about it and perhaps even ask to see their system up close; in doing so, you'll not only get an idea of what value you see in the hardware, but also what an owner has come to think about it as well.

Matt Matthews , a PhD student in Applied Mathematics at NCSU, became a Linux user in the summer of 1999 when he and his advisor bought new machines for their research. In addition to his computational work, he enjoys playing games and testing out the newest 3-D video cards under Linux. When time allows, he writes up those experiences for his favorite web-site, LinuxGames ( can find him out with his wife, Mandy, or tending to his ever-growing collection of video games.