I understood that the Unity desktop in Natty uses Compiz and therefore requires a graphics card driver that support composition effects. Does this mean if I have an ATI or NVIDIA card I'm forced to install a proprietory driver because the open source drivers for those cards do not support Compiz?

  • 1
    Canonical should focus on Unity2D instead!! I don't see a good reason for forcing Unity to use 3D. Visually it doesn't help and makes it less functional. Unity was targeted to netbooks and tablets, so it's more convenient bundling a lightweight version without 3D acceleration. Also think in gaming.Compiz affects negatively opengl Games. Linux could be a nice alternative for casual games, even Google has conceiving it's Chrome OS as a gaming platform too.
    – user10829
    Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 17:05
  • Chrome OS does OpenGL (ES) compositing so if what you say is true they would have the same problems. The truth is with a properly written driver you should have little to no slowdown from running compiz unless compiz is actively running an effect (close animation or something). Commented Mar 5, 2011 at 6:34

8 Answers 8


I believe Unity requires 3D graphics. So if there is an open driver that can do that, you don't require proprietary drivers.

Looking a the status of the FLOSS nouveau drivers, currently you probably would need the proprietary drivers for NVIDIA, however, they are working on the necessary features.


For people who use older hardware or have driver problems the Unity 2D interface will be available in 11.04 (and in a PPA for 10.10)


I have an ATI card, and Unity/Compiz works fine for me with the open drivers in natty, although I'm sure that depends on the state of the drivers for your particular card. If your card supports compiz with the open drivers than it should also support unity.

There is a (impressively long) list of ATI cards with open-source 3D acceleration at https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RadeonDriver


On Maverick I can use Nouveau for my Nvidia graphic card and I have 3D graphics; so I believe that on Natty you could use drivers open source if you want..

  • Since when did Nouveau have 3D capabilities? Last I checked it didn't have Commented Jan 13, 2011 at 23:23
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    Nouveau has had some 3D capabilities for at least a year, but they remain unsupported and not ready for "prime time". That said, recent google results indicate that quite a few folks have gotten it working in a way they find satisfactory.
    – koanhead
    Commented Jan 14, 2011 at 3:48
  • 1
    Exactly, and as long Nouveau developers label the 3D support experimental/unsupported, Ubuntu won't do otherwise. :)
    – htorque
    Commented Jan 14, 2011 at 10:29

The requirement for Unity is that the graphics driver should have 3D support.

Nvidia cards would need the proprietary driver since the open source driver doesn't support 3D.

I have a laptop with Intel chipset 945GM which has open drivers for graphics. It also supports 3D.

The answer is - Unity needs 3D support. If your card has FOSS driver which support 3D, then you are fine, otherwise you need to install proprietary drivers


Currently I am running Natty with Unity 3D on an Nvidia card using the provided experimental 3D FOSS drivers. No issues aside from my cards fans spinning faster.

If the quality of the driver at least stays the same you will not need properitary for Nvidia cards.

The nvidia-current driver does not yet support the new Xorg anyways.


In short: No.

I hear that there should be a low-power (2D) option with Unity.


The answer is No: Compiz will be happy as long as your free/libre/open source driver has -- even experimental -- support for 3D acceleration. My dad has an AMD K7 box w/ GeForce2 MX 400 (nv11). I just ran a natty live session on it and Compiz nicely showed me all the desktop effects (The "try Ubuntu" button did choose the fallback Gnome desktop for me though...)

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