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ATI vs. NVIDIA on Linux - the showdown

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Hardware

Jo Shields, Manager of the Oxford Supercomputing Centre, lays ATI and NVIDIA hardware on the line, evaluating which perform best under Linux.

Almost five years have passed since my last formal comparison of ATI and NVIDIA on Linux. At the time, it was only a brief mention as part of a larger tutorial article, and the result was "an NVIDIA card three times cheaper is three times faster". Since then, I've let the impressions left on me remain, and have been pretty religious in buying NVIDIA hardware, to ensure performance under Linux.

However, is it fair of me? Does ATI still suck under Linux, or have I let opinions formed in 2004 cloud my judgement all the way up to today? I've been tasked with finding out - and for the task, I have two reasonably equivalent cards to compare: an Inno3D GeForce GTX 260 OC 896 MB (the modern 216-core variety), and a PowerColor PCS+ HD4870 1GB.

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