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Which is probably better for a new machine running Ubuntu?

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I rolled back the changes to my question because I did not mean 'probably', I meant 'provably'. As in, mere opinions are of no use to the community, we need evidence-based answers. The 'under Ubuntu' bit might very well be redundant, though, so please feel free to remove that again. –  Eugenio Perea Nov 6 '10 at 0:24
    
The question itself may be problematic for the format of askubuntu.com. Perhaps it should be removed. –  Eugenio Perea Nov 6 '10 at 0:26
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3 Answers

In terms of hardware, I think at this moment ATI is providing more bang for your buck, with many cheap cards outperforming NVIDIA cards of the same value.

However, while ATI's open-source drivers are continuing to improve, I don't think they (nor the binary fglrx driver) compare with NVIDIA's proprietary driver -- yet. If you're using a typical desktop/office machine, you may be okay with a nice ATI card and either set of drivers. However, if you plan on doing any gaming, I think you may have less of a hassle using NVIDIA. So, at this point in time, I'd say an NVIDIA video card may be your best bet purely because of the drivers.

I have an NVIDIA GTS 250 and it's been running without issue, except for a text rendering bug in 10.10 (which is still beta) which has already been fixed in a newer driver.

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After an entire year with this card, I will not be using ATI in the future. Both the proprietary and open source drivers have serious, albeit very different, issues. In fact, the experience has been so frustrating that I will make an effort to never use hardware that needs restricted drivers ever again.

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Certain nVidia cards have no Free Software Driver (edit to add: Nouveau doesn't support all nvidia cards). When a security upgrade to Xorg breaks ABI compatibility and therefore breaks your driver, you're stuck on SVGA...well, that's if you're lucky.

With the AMD/ATi driver you have a Free Software Driver that is upgraded when Xorg is upgraded. It is not dependent upon the manufacturer to support it, even if you choose to use the proprietary driver.

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certain ATI cards are not well supported either =)... The best bet is: if the card is > 1000HD series -> get the proprietary driver. If it's an nVidia and it's newer than 2yrs, same thing. –  RolandiXor Oct 30 '10 at 8:21
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noveau is a Free Software driver FYI –  LFC_fan Nov 6 '10 at 0:25
    
@LFC_fan: Yes, I'm aware -- nouveau doesn't support all nvidia cards. –  Broam Nov 9 '10 at 18:37
    
Wow, bunch of freedom-haters on this site. Performance isn't everything. –  Broam Oct 31 '11 at 13:00
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