Xi Graphics Accelerated-X Display Server 5.0.2 $99.95
In a Nutshell
- Configuration and fine-tuning even easier than XFree86
- Faster, smoother performance than XFree86
- True customer support
- New and enhanced drivers frequently available on their Web site
- Documentation poorly organized
- Uses its own configuration file, and doesn’t pick up changes made by tuning applications
- Does not use RPMs for installation
- Costs money
|X-cellerate This: Configuring and tweaking XWindows is made easy with Accelerated-X.|
- VGA video or better (better is better)
- 4 MB Video RAM (more is better)
- CD-ROM drive for product installation
Anyone who believes that Linux will eventually challenge Microsoft Windows on the desktop (as we do) also must believe that the X Window system will become easier to configure and smarter about detecting your hardware. The X Window system is the underpinning of every window manager, desktop, and graphical application running on Linux systems. Even with the advances provided by XFree86 v4.0, correctly configuring the X Window system for your monitor and video card still requires the sacrificing of an occasional chicken or two — under a full-moon, of course.
Xi Graphics’ Accelerated-X server keeps more chickens clucking. It is a supported X Window System server that outperforms XFree86, knows about more video cards, and is easier to configure and fine-tune than XFree86. Accelerated-X is just an X Window system server on steroids — nothing else. You’ll still have to install your favorite window manager(s), desktop software, X Window system applications, and so on. For optimal ease of use, we suggest installing XFree86, everything else, and then overlaying Accelerated-X on top of the resulting system.
The Xsetup utility that is used to configure Accelerated-X is powerful yet easy to use. Rather than taking the linear approach to configuration used by the standard XConfigurator or xf86config applications (“you must see every menu and option”), Xsetup takes a menu-driven, random-access “tweak a parameter, any parameter” approach. After installing Accelerated-X for the first time, and accepting the auto-probed defaults, starting the X Window system on one of our test systems displayed our favorite desktop with a sea of foaming gray pixels occupying the right-most inch of the screen. Not good.
Frantically flipping the manual revealed a possible answer — the monitor refresh rate might be too low. Sure enough, we increased it, and after running startx again, everything was rock-solid and perfect.
The manual (or in this case, the Accelerated-X User’s Guide) was the one major disappointment with this product. It is totally disorganized and difficult for new users to understand. For example, a chapter on installation appears after a chapter on how to configure and fine-tune Accelerated-X. Perhaps this makes sense if you expect to install it once and then tweak it many times, but we found it to be truly irritating and confusing for users who are trying to get Accelerated-X installed and configured in the first place.
To Pay, Or Not To Pay?
XFree86 will still work great on most machines, but there’s no longer any reason to pull your hair out over the more obscure or bleeding-edge X servers. Also, even if XFree86 supports your graphics card, XFree86 may not be optimized for your chipset. Accelerated-X addresses this as well by offering a variety of X servers that are fine-tuned for laptops and Accelerated 3D video cards.
Plunking down $100 for Xi Graphics’ Accelerated-X server is a fair trade. It costs more than XFree86 (obviously), but you certainly don’t get any nasty migraines trying to install or configure it.