I’m wondering if anyone has a recommendation for a new laptop to purchase for OpenGL development on Linux. I’m wary of the currently-limited Linux driver support for hybrid (switchable) graphics systems… e.g., on my current machine, the AMD 6470M is useless in Linux since the fglrx driver doesn’t support switchable graphics (and there’s no way to turn off the integrated graphics chip). Is there any machine on the market that supports accelerated OpenGL in Linux on something better than an Intel HD 3000? Performance is painfully slow at the moment…
If you could find a laptop with a single graphic card, and if this graphic card is an nvidia, it is the best.
I have a laptop with ATI Radeon HD 4570 and it works well too, despite of malicious relases of proprietary drivers sometimes.
HP do some laptops with Real GPUs in, but they seem to only do ATI these days. That might not be a bad thing; while NVIDIA is probably better overall for an end-user (at least so far as OpenGL is concerned), for development work you may find that their somewhat lax allowance of things that shouldn’t be allowed by the spec leads you to create code that won’t work on anything else. Developing on ATI will help you avoid this.
Did linux drivers for ATI improved enough ?
But the fact that sometimes it is impossible to install their new driver releases (the last I tried, one month ago, the drivers needed the very old big kernel lock which is a thing the linux kernel team wants to get rid of…), when it works, it works But now, I use the drivers providen by my distribution, even if they are a bit old… At least this avoids me to make some white hairs… But it could also happen that distro drivers don’t even install… I could also have some issues when using two monitors (memory leaks)… But as said, when it works, it works
The main complaint with NVIDIA’s GL is that it is very forgiving, i.e. you’ll usually get what you wanted from an NVIDIA GL implementation even if you forget to do something you should do according to spec, where as ATI will adhere more tightly to the spec in terms (for example core profile, NVIDIA does not require a VAO to be bound, but ATI does). Also, NVIDIA’s GLSL lets one have a fair amount of Cg-ism’s in the your GLSL code. But all in all, I don’t think it is such a big deal, I had a very large GL project and it took me less than a day to get it from grown on NVIDIA to working fine under ATI. As long as you check for GL errors in your debug build all the time, you’ll pinpoint the issues.
As for drivers, I have ATI drivers working on Ubuntu 10.04 (wit mostly no serious issues). Compared to several years ago ATI has come an incredibly long way in terms of their GL implementation. Ubuntu starting at 10.04 (and Fedora as well) default the NVIDIA driver to the open source Nouveau driver. Bad part is that you need to blacklist the Nouveau driver when you use NVIDIA’s driver install… Ubuntu has a jazz to set to use the NVIDIA closed source driver for the user interface, but usually the driver it gives is a touch out of data and sometime it is real flaky on the install (which I find highly ironic as the NVIDIA install works better once Nouveau is blacklisted).
At the end of the day, if you are choosing between NVIDIA or ATI I don’t think you can go wrong (but beware of Optimus, that is not supported under Linux last time I checked, though there is a hack). If the laptop is not Optimus then NVIDIA is great.
Just stay away from Intel GPU’s.
Thanks everyone for the advice!
Don’t get a gateway.
My gateway FX burned up twice. Once in the warranty, the second time a month after the warranty expired.
Most likely the nvidia video card burned and the ball/solder cracked.
So, whatever you do, go for the best cooling system around!!!
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