Now that we’ve exposed video card performance under the Linux operating system, it is time to shed light on another aspect of your system’s performance: chipsets. Linux video card performance tests are becoming more and more popular, but arguably the most important part of your computer has seen very little coverage in terms of Linux testing. In this round, we consider Pentium III chispets saving an Athlon comparison for a future article. The three chipsets are the old, but still potent Intel BX chipset, represented by the Asus CUBX, the modern, on-board video sporting Intel 815 chipset, represented by the popular Asus CUSL2 and the outsider, VIA’s Apollo Pro 133A, represented by QDI’s Advance 10.
What makes this article especially relevant to Linux users is that many chipsets are not properly supported. It’s especially disheartening to have your several month-long uptime broken by a hardware AGP bug that locks the machine. This is sometimes common even after chipsets have been available for quite a while; hardware bugs are often the hardest to track down. While Intel’s chipsets are often well supported, the features of the 815 have taken until almost now to be supported. Development kernels are required for full ATA/100 support and the on-board/off-board video card duality can cause problems with agpgart, Linux’s kernel module for AGP support, unless you use the latest kernels.
So, this brings us to what makes a chipset important to a Linux user. Above all, Linux users value their stability. Hardware bugs and software insufficiencies alike can lessen your uptime to near Windows NT levels. Perhaps next most important is the speed and quality of support for these chipsets. Intel chipsets have always enjoyed quicker support in the Linux kernel, so they have an up-front advantage here, but neither company hides information from Linux developers looking to support new features in the chipsets. Performance would have to fall in last place of these three in terms of importance. The reason being that Linux users don’t enjoy the benefit of immediate support for feature X or enhancement Y, they must code support themselves. Thus, support is typically slower to become available and often not as completely implemented or stable as it would be for an operating system that manufacturers find “important.”
In this article, we’ll try to explain how each chipset performs in memory, disk and AGP performance while bringing up important usage and stability points along the way. Discard what knowledge you have of these motherboards and their Windows performance, under Linux, the varying levels of support can really tip the scales.