Ubuntu – Should I install ATI propriety video drivers on Ubuntu 11.04 on the Dell Inspiron 9100


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)?

Best Answer

  • 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.