This guide will show you how to use the Free, Open Source driver for many ATI graphics cards called "radeon" or "ati". It will provide 2D and 3D acceleration in your video hardware. This driver's 3D is usually not as fast as the closed-source, proprietary "fglrx" driver from AMD/ATI Inc. for some cards, but has better dual-head support, and supports some older chipsets that fglrx does not.
Identifying Your Graphics Chip
First, check your graphic card name and chipset:
sudo update-pciids #optional command, requires internet lspci -nn | grep VGA
It should report something like this for your graphics card:
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD/ATI] RV710 [Radeon HD 4550]
For the very latest cards, open-source driver support is not always instant. Using proprietary fglrx/Catalyst driver may be necessary.
Supported, but Hardware is Too Old for Unity
These cards will not run Ubuntu's Unity desktop with 3D acceleration. They will still run Unity, but the CPU will be used for basic drawing and performance may suffer. If you have one of these cards, a lighter desktop (such as xfce or lxde, found in Xubuntu and Lubuntu respectively) is recommended.
R100 Radeon 7200 RV100 Radeon 7000(VE), M6, RN50/ES1000 (2D only) RS100 Radeon IGP320(M) RV200 Radeon 7500, M7, FireGL 7800 RS200 Radeon IGP330(M)/IGP340(M) RS250 Radeon Mobility 7000 IGP R200 Radeon 8500, 9100, FireGL 8800/8700 RV250 Radeon 9000PRO/9000, M9 RV280 Radeon 9200PRO/9200/9200SE/9250, M9+ RS300 Radeon 9100 IGP RS350 Radeon 9200 IGP
All these Radeon(HD) cards and derivatives have good 3D acceleration support. This is not an exhaustive list:
RS400/RS480 Radeon XPRESS 200(M)/1100 IGP R300 Radeon 9700PRO/9700/9500PRO/9500/9600TX, FireGL X1/Z1 R350 Radeon 9800PRO/9800SE/9800, FireGL X2 R360 Radeon 9800XT RV350 Radeon 9600PRO/9600SE/9600/9550, M10/M11, FireGL T2 RV360 Radeon 9600XT RV370 Radeon X300, M22 RV380 Radeon X600, M24 RV410 Radeon X700, M26 PCIE R420 Radeon X800 AGP R423/R430 Radeon X800, M28 PCIE R480/R481 Radeon X850 PCIE/AGP RV505/RV515/RV516/RV550 Radeon X1300/X1400/X1500/X2300 R520 Radeon X1800 RV530/RV560 Radeon X1600/X1650/X1700 RV570/R580 Radeon X1900/X1950 RS600/RS690/RS740 Radeon X1200/X1250/X2100 R600 Radeon HD 2900 RV610/RV630 Radeon HD 2400/2600/2700/4200/4225/4250 RV620/RV635 Radeon HD 3410/3430/3450/3470/3650/3670 RV670 Radeon HD 3690/3850/3870 RS780/RS880 Radeon HD 3100/3200/3300/4100/4200/4250/4290 RV710/RV730 Radeon HD 4330/4350/4550/4650/4670/5145/5165/530v/545v/560v/565v RV740/RV770/RV790 Radeon HD 4770/4730/4830/4850/4860/4870/4890 CEDAR Radeon HD 5430/5450/6330/6350/6370 REDWOOD Radeon HD 5550/5570/5670 JUNIPER Radeon HD 5750/5770 CYPRESS Radeon HD 5850/5870 HEMLOCK Radeon HD 5970 PALM Radeon HD 6310/6250 SUMO/SUMO2 Radeon HD 6370/6380/6410/6480/6520/6530/6550/6620 BARTS Radeon HD 6790/6850/6870/6950/6970/6990 TURKS Radeon HD 6570/6630/6650/6670/6730/6750/6770 CAICOS Radeon HD 6430/6450/6470/6490 CAYMAN Radeon HD 6950/6970/6990 ARUBA TAHITI/PITCAIRN/VERDE Radeon HD 7000/"Southern Islands" series OLAND Radeon HD 8xxx series HAINAN Radeon HD 88xx series RICHLAND Radeon HD 8xxxG series
Testing The Driver
To look for boot messages/errors, check
dmesg | egrep 'drm|radeon'
To see your OpenGL information, you can run the commands below. Make sure your OpenGL renderer string does not say "software rasterizer" or "llvmpipe" because that would mean you have no 3D hardware acceleration:
sudo apt-get install mesa-utils LIBGL_DEBUG=verbose glxinfo
Removing the proprietary fglrx driver
If you've previously installed the ATI binary/proprietary driver (a.k.a Catalyst/fglrx), you need to make sure it's fully purged before trying to use the open-source ati/radeon driver. See this page
Recommended configuration for X.org
No configuration is necessary for ATI driver in the modern versions of Ubuntu. You can safely take away your /etc/X11/xorg.conf and your computer should run fine.
Check the manpage of the radeon driver for advanced options.
The open-source radeon driver supports HDMI audio on Radeon HD 6000-series and earlier chips. On Trusty/14.04 and newer, HDMI audio should work automatically.
On release older than Trusty/14.04, users will need to to enable HDMI audio manually by passing the radeon.audio=1 kernel parameter. It can be done with the following command:
echo "options radeon audio=1" | sudo tee /etc/modprobe.d/radeon.conf
Ubuntu Precise/12.04 users should also note that they may need a newer kernel (>= 3.5.x) to enable HDMI audio on later cards.
Kernel 3.10.x and Earlier
Power management was one of the weak spots of the open-source driver prior to kernel 3.11.x. If you have a laptop that's getting too hot, try setting the power management profile to low.
sudo bash -c "echo \"profile\" > /sys/class/drm/card0/device/power_method" sudo bash -c "echo \"low\" > /sys/class/drm/card0/device/power_profile"
Kernel 3.11.x (Ubuntu 13.10/Saucy) and Later
You can enable DPM on RadeonHD cards by adding a boot parameter. This should greatly help power consumption, especially when idle. To do so, edit /etc/default/grub and add the 'radeon.dpm=1' to the GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT line, so it would look something like:
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash radeon.dpm=1"
After you save/quit the text editor, update grub:
BinaryDriverHowto/ATI - The Wiki page for the proprietary AMD/ATI driver "fglrx" which also offers 3D acceleration, and works on newer cards than the "radeon" driver. Since it's closed-source, only AMD can work on it and give efficient support, and the open-source community can generally not help you with problems.
Arch Linux ati driver documentation - includes TV-out information
http://wiki.x.org/wiki/RadeonFeature Radeon Feature Table