Help me pick a dual-head video card compatible with OSx86 (hackintosh) and Linux
March 25, 2009 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Recommend a video card that can push dual monitors on OSX86 (Hackintosh) and Linux. Lots more info about my setup inside.

I have a stock Gateway GT 5636e, and two HP w2207h 22" Monitors (1680 x 1050 with HDMI). I want to buy a video card that's compatible with OSx86 and Ubuntu (or a similar workstation distro) that's dual head.

Usage: The primary use of this machine is for web development. (I'm pretty much just going to be running RubyMine/IntelliJ and a web browser). It will also see occasional Photoshop, Flash, and Illustrator work. In theory, it should be capable of working with video. I have zero intention of playing games on this machine, so I don't need gaming level performance.

Budget: as close to $50 (after rebate, if necessary) as possible, but feel free to give recommendations up to $100 if this is too low or there's a compelling reason to spend extra money for my needs. Ideally I won't have to buy a new power supply to get the new video card running (according to some newegg commenters, the current power supply is 400w and it *may* have a 6 pin pci express adapter -- I haven't cracked the seal to verify yet). Being carried by Amazon/Newegg/Fry's or anyone with fast shipping is a plus.

Compatibility: Supposedly, nVidia Geforce cards work best with Hackintosh/OSx86, which is my first choice to install on this machine, but if the OSx86 install fails, I will be installing some flavor of Linux, most likely Ubuntu. If it comes to that, I want to be able to run the whiz-bang compiz effects. Generally, I want a card that will work for either purpose, but if I have to sacrifice some minor linux compatibility (slightly harder to install, etc) for having greater OSx86 compatibility, that's fine. Actual experience and/or links to comments/threads that verify compatibility is preferred to guesses, but I'm not picky.

The Zotac 1GB Geforce 9500 is an example of the sort of cards and price range I've been looking at. Still, I am no longer clued in to what makes any particular card model better than another (last time I built a machine, whichever card had more RAM and a 'bigger' model number was usually better). Mostly, I'm worried that I am misinformed in thinking that simply because a video card has two separate DVI ports that it will be able to drive two separate monitors.

I probably won't be able to check back until midday to provide more information, so hopefully I didn't leave anything out. Thanks guys!
posted by fishfucker to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
and yeah, if i didn't make this clear enough: dual head! Two monitors! That's my primary compatibility concern.
posted by fishfucker at 7:59 AM on March 25, 2009

Do you have OS X running on that gateway box already?
posted by now i'm piste at 9:37 AM on March 25, 2009

I do not.
posted by fishfucker at 9:59 AM on March 25, 2009

(but it appears that more recent versions support both the q6600 and the g965 motherboard, so it *looks* possible -- that's why I need the linux compatibility as a backup though).
posted by fishfucker at 9:59 AM on March 25, 2009

If your PSU doesn't come with a 6pin PCI-E power adapter, the video card may come with a converter from 4pin molex in the box. My last two cards did (ATI HD4870 and Nvidia 7900GTO).

Newegg has good customizable searches to start looking at models in your price range with the features you need-

I picked: Nvidia, $75-100, 2 DVI output.

More memory gets utilized at high resolution instead of lower resolution. FWIW, 1680x1050 is not exactly high res when trying to decide between 512mb and 1gb of memory, more along the lines of 1920x1200 or 2560x1600, but even that's nitpicking framerates in games. Memory interface bandwidth is more important- don't go for less than 256bit.
posted by liquoredonlife at 10:09 AM on March 25, 2009

For those wondering, I'm ended up buying the 8600GTS. It *is* only a 128bit card, but the geforce 8xxx series is supposedly more supported on osx86 distros than the 9xxx series at this point. Bonus: the card only cost $54.99 (about $65 after shipping/tax). Incredibly, it runs dual screens on the Kalyway 10.5.2 distro *almost* out of the box on my GT5636. I say almost because when I got it, the sucker came straight up, and then I made the mistake of trying to upgrade via the system update utility to 10.5.6 which put me in IntelCPUPowerManagement hell for a couple days (I couldn't even get the damned installer to come back up!). After tweaking the BIOS every which way, a factory reset seemed to do the trick (although it didn't work the first time), and I was able to get back to "normal" by re-formatting the drive and re-installing (a regular install didn't let me boot -- nor did disk install).

So, more voodoo was involved than I normally like, but I'm now running a smoking fast OSX install on a quad core. Ethernet came in with the Intel82566MM.kext available on the internets (the one with source on google code). Haven't figured out sound yet, but I don't care *that* much -- this is a dev machine. A dev machine on which I'm typing this post right now.
posted by fishfucker at 7:04 AM on April 4, 2009

Also, it scored 150.72 on an xBench benchmark test (while I was running that classic memory hog Firefox). That's a result comparable to a Mac Pro on a intel box that cost less than $1000 when it was bought two years ago. That is to say, IN YOUR FACE, MAC PEOPLE>
posted by fishfucker at 7:14 AM on April 4, 2009

hmm, ok, it appears I am comparing my benchmark with apple hardware that's mostly from 2005-2006 (which is to say, also two years old), but I'm going to still say I'm awesome.
posted by fishfucker at 7:19 AM on April 4, 2009

by the way, this machine has seen constant use for the last 4 months or so (dual monitors!!!) and has been absolutely rock-solid. No problems besides not being able to upgrade (i'm still at 10.5.2 -- afraid of upgrades now). In fact, I think my last reboot was months ago.
posted by fishfucker at 4:34 PM on July 24, 2009

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