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Re: x86_64 hardware recommendations/warnings?

On Mon, 13 Mar 2017, John D. Baker wrote:
I find myself in the position of recommending components for a friend to build a more up-to-date machine on which to run NetBSD.

I wish you luck. I've been using NetBSD since 1996 and, though I'm a huge fan, I have never found a great method to find "known good" *systems* with NetBSD. You can easily find known-good components by looking at various man pages for the drivers. Ie.. I look up the mobo then look at each problematic chipset and go digging to see if drivers are there. When I say problematic, I mean network, usb, and sound chipsets.

The other method I use is component based. I'll check pcidevs, usbdevs, etc... and then lookup the PCI IDs and find out if they are supported that way. This is sometimes tough because you don't always know what a given bit of kit will show up as (PCI ID). It's also easy to get it wrong when they release a "v2" of the same card.

BeOS used to have this site (way way back in the day) called BeOS Hardware Compatilibity Matrix. Folks would contribute short reviews for working hardware. I found it invaluable.

It's wierd, you get *great* hardware info from all the non-x86 ports, but then again, they have a lot smaller surface area to cover. So, it's no surprise.

 Intel or AMD Radeon graphics

Lately my experience has been that if your Intel graphics are supported in Linux KMS 1.3 code they will work great in NetBSD 7.x. I have a number of Radeon cards (newest is R9 Nano) and most do work, also. However, I care mostly about 2D performance and they can't beat my onboard video in gtkperf, so I only use those in gaming machines now. My i7 with built-in Intel graphics does all tests in 1.8 seconds. Drop the Radeon R9 Nano in and it goes up to 4.5 seconds.

At this stage Intel vs. AMD is not so important as knowing what is supported and will work.

I avoid motherboards with AMD chipsets. It's mostly just superstition, though. I had a helluva time with USB on those under NetBSD 6. They basically never worked well enough for everyday on my AMD hardware. After having the same experience on every other AMD mobo after that point, I basically gave up since the Intel boards would "just work".

In the back of my mind always is the problem:  "new but not TOO new".

That's spot on.

As UEFI support is only now taking shape in -current, is anyone aware of boards which don't support "Legacy Boot" or "Compatibility Support Mode"?

Well, once they do it on HP DL & Dell servers, you can bet it'll start happening everywhere. So far, they still support "Legacy" mode in their latest generations (G9 etc..).

What is known about whether the intel DRM/KMS support in Netbsd-7.1 will work with these? The associated driver for Xorg?

The KMS driver version is what you are looking for. NetBSD 7 uses KMS 1.3, unless I'm mistaken.

 If they work at all, how do they fare when playing video?

Fantastic. XVideo support seems fully baked and works quite well. On the flipside getting things like vdpau to work may be more challenging. I dunno.

What is known about the radeondrmkms support for these parts? The associated driver for Xorg?

It's the same. It's all tied to the KMS version.

If it turns out that the on-board video options are not suitable, the obvious solution is some sort of Radeon-based add-in video card.

That or an nVidia card. Some of those work with the Nouveau driver. I have an old GT9800 I got used that works with that driver even under NetBSD 6.x. The Radeon 9800 is also another can't miss card but it's old, has slow 3D, fairly low memory, etc... However, that card works with the regular old X11 drivers we've had for eons. It really depends on if you want to get good 3D performance.

Given the above, are there recommendations for things that are new (available) but not TOO new (unsupported)?

Man, it really depends on the type of things they will be doing with the machine. What I do before I buy a new rig is to load NetBSD onto a USB drive (as in, do a full install with X11). Then I go to my local computer store (Microcenter is the best in my area, unfortunately) and I tell the sales guy exactly what I want to do and why and explain it won't hurt his machines. Then I start testing all the machines I'm interested. I just boot them up, check the sound device (make sure it's not one of those PoS's that want to route all the sound down the HDMI interface by default) then make sure it plays clean. Then check the NIC, wifi, and finally give the graphics a try with an intrepid "startx" to see what happens. Then you'll know for sure the hardware works before you even go through the trouble of buying & returning gear.

Or conversely, warnings of what to avoid?

I avoid Ralink wifi (they always die/offline on me), Realtek NICs (due to crap iperf performance and occasional hardware flaws), and anything as you put it "too new" on the graphics front.



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