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I have a Dell laptop, Inspiron 9100, with a ATI Technologies Inc RV350 [Mobility Radeon 9600 M10] video card. The video performance has always been pretty poor in Ubuntu. Though slightly improved in 11.04. Symptoms are video tearing on full screen, stuttering images due to low refresh rates.

I have read about the ATI propriety drivers with catalyst. On the web there seems to be those for and against propriety drivers and also some problems (sometimes serious) after installing the propriety drivers.

  1. Would you recommend it?
  2. Will it help video performance?
  3. What are the risks (i.e. will I end up with a blank-screened brick)?
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2 Answers

up vote -2 down vote accepted

a) No. ATI dropped support for older cards in 2008, including your Mobility Radeon 9xxx. This means that the Catalyst/FGLRX driver from ATI will NOT work properly with your card.

b) Very unlikely. Even if you are lucky and the driver would work and get anything from your card, it is doubtful the performance will be any good, because, as I've already said, the support for 9xxx was dropped a long time ago.

c) The risks are very small though, if you try to install it won't do any harm to your hardware, but if the driver won't work, Ubuntu should enter a lo-fi graphics mode with a res of 800x600 or similar, so you will be able to deactivate the driver and fall back to the open-source one. Alternatively you may be unable to start the X server, but you can boot in the rescure mode and disable the driver from command line.

Concluding, your card is simply too old, and ATI does not care about you - they want you to buy a new one. However, the open-source driver developers do care about old cards, so the only way you can get anything from your card is to use the default, open-source driver.

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Note you can get the newest open-source drivers from edge.launchpad.net/~xorg-edgers/+archive/ppa There is a tiny chance they will work better, but this is a brave way of updating them, for there land the very latest drivers, which may be sometimes unstable or may cause other problems - read the notice in PPA's description. –  Rafał Cieślak Aug 12 '11 at 8:55
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  1. I would recommend it only if you are using 3D Applications which have a poor performance or simply don't work with the open source drivers.

  2. Yes it increases the performance (a lot).

  3. You can always boot into the recovery mode and install the open source drivers (if you have a blank screen or stuff like that). See https://wiki.ubuntu.com/X/Troubleshooting/FglrxInteferesWithRadeonDriver#Problem:__Need_to_fully_remove_-fglrx_and_reinstall_-ati_from_scratch for detailed instructions.

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Note that proprietary driver does not support Mobility Radeon 9600 any more. –  Rafał Cieślak Aug 12 '11 at 8:47
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