The purpose in conducting the following benchmarks was to establish the relative performance of the various video cards that are supported by DRI. I've included two cards which should be supported by ATI's proprietary FGLRX drivers and two cards that should be supported by Nvidia's proprietary drivers for comparison. For several years I exclusively purchased Nvidia cards under the impression that FGLRX was unreliable and DRI was too slow. This is not necessarily the case if you arm yourself with a bit of knowledge before purchasing a DRI compatible video card.. The open source DRI drivers, combined with the right video card, are a workable alternative to ATI and Nvidia's proprietary offerings.
I used an old ECS k7s5a pro motherboard with an Athlon 2400XP. 512 MB of PC2100 Ram, onboard sound, IBM G74 monitor, and Maxtor ATA100 drive. The OS was Debian Unstable, with the sources.list set to snapshot.debian.net with a date of 15 Aug 2004. The DRI packages I used are the same ones on my server (CVS checkout from 15 Aug 04 with S3TC and Radeon DynamicPM.) I shut off most of the services on the machine. Rcconf shows klogd, makedev, and sysklogd as the only services active at boot. The kernel used was 2.6.7-1-k7 from Debian. FGLRX drivers were build from Flavio Stanchina's packages (3.11.1-1) and the Nvidia drivers were build from Debian's non-free archive (1.0.6111). All of the cards tested were AGP versions.
X was set to 1024x758 with 16 bit color for everything other than the FGLRX cards. ATI's proprietary drivers do not support 16 bit color. All benchmarks were started inside X launched from a user account with "xinit /usr/X11R6/bin/xterm -- :0". Benchmarks were run, one after another, without restarting X except where X crashed, froze or became corrupted in the process.