Linux PC for OpenGL Development

For a graduate class in Computer Graphics (using OpenGL), I want to set up an nice, powerful Linux PC with OpenGL. But I don’t know where to start.

I need a recommendation for PC manufacturer, hardware configuration, Linux distro, and OpenGL setup. I have some time, because the class doesn’t start until January 2012. But it may take me until then to figure out what I need.

Money is not a big consideration. I want a powerful system. Not the very latest cutting edge (i.e. no overpriced bling). But I want a powerful system.




Linux systems are particularly good when money is a consideration. For example, you can more easily setup software rendering on Linux, with shader support (GLSL 1.2), than on Windows.

So, you need to choose the cheapest, but, as you say, still “powerful” system with a Radeon (former ATI, now AMD) or NVIDIA GPU, both of which have good Linux support. But this is by no means a requirement. You can get modern OpenGL (4+) support even on both cheap & reasonably powerful computer systems using, for example, one of the AMD Fusion (desktop, quad core) motherboards. I think the best ratio (performance / price) is there.


I recommend Ubuntu or Mint for the operating system. Ubuntu if you know what your doing with Linux, and Mint if you want something a little more user friendly. Mint is the Ubuntu core with modifications to include common features for a desktop environment.

I have a cheap $450 compaq with a Dual-Core Athlon II, ATI HD 4200 and it runs 3d applications rather well. My game I’m developing runs about 20fps on my laptop currently without speed enhancements. However on my quad-core i5, SLI Nvidia GeForce desktop I get around 6 times that speed at ~140fps. Both systems run Linux Mint with the Compiz 3D desktop.

The newest hardware is a bad idea with linux, it is not always supported right away. SLI does work for most cards but some have had problems, it is well worth it to have though. Newer motherboards can have problems with integrated sound but the processors shouldn’t be a problem. I recommend a i5 if it’s in your budget, and SLI with Nvidia even though it can be a trick to get set up properly. ATI has drivers that seem to be a bit more automatic with their installation but I have had problems with ATI in the past.

Hope this helps.

Based on past experience, would highly recommend an NVidia GPU card. Great Linux drivers. I hesitate to recommend any specific model because we don’t know what your anticipated needs are. You may want to save some dough and get a GTX460 to start with, and then maybe upgrade later as you get a better feel for what your long-term GPU needs are. Definitely get a plug-in GPU card though; would avoid integrated GPUs since you want high-end perf.

Can’t advise on whole PC manufacturers – I always build my own PCs. Whether you build your own or buy, go for good quality internals with solid cooling (120mm fans only – very quiet!) and plenty of power capacity in the power supply (high-end GPUs need lots!). I always go Asus motherboards. Current CPU is Core i7 and have been very pleased – highly recommended. And just as something for you to look at and compare against, take a look at Antec P-183 case (2 120mm fans) and Antec CP-850 power supply (mfgrd by Delta; Delta and Seasonic are two of the best for power supplies) which has 120mm fan, of course :).

Anyway, have gone way far afield of OpenGL here and we could talk shop on hardware all day. Feel free to shoot me a PM if you have any other questions.

Personally, use OpenSuSE for development, but there are plenty of other good distros in the sea, and they all use the same kernel and tools.

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