Reading /usr/lib/X11/doc/README.* in the Red Hat Linux distribution (which are actually README files from the XFree86 distribution) was the best way I found to determine which video card to buy for a Linux machine. First of all, you should decide which graphics chip set you want, then find a supported card that uses it. Graphics chips support ``acceleration'' to offload the CPU as much as possible. The file /usr/doc/HOWTO/XFree86-HOWTO in the Red Hat Linux 6.1 distribution states:
For optimal performance, we suggest using an accelerated card, such as an S3-chipset card. You should check the documentation for XFree86 and verify that your particular card is supported before taking the plunge and purchasing expensive hardware.Take a look at README.S3V and README.S3 for the details of S3 support. Another well supported graphics accelerator is the ATI chip set. The file /usr/lib/X11/doc/AccelCards talks about supported accelerated cards, but it was last modified in 1994! I ultimately chose the Matrox Millennium G400 card because (1) CCRMA machines have always used Matrox Gxxx cards for Linux, (2) the G400 was introduced fairly recently and got very good reviews, (3) G400 support is said to be available, and (4) I liked the following line in /usr/lib/X11/doc/README.MGA:
o Makes extensive use of the graphics accelerator. This server is very well accelerated, and is one of the fastest XFree86 X servers.That's just what I wanted to hear! I also considered the Asus GeForce, since it seemed to have the edge in game-oriented performance reviews, but acceleration support in the GeForce was unclear (being listed only as ``supported'' in general). Also, it would have required downloading and installing the latest XFree86 release without the benefit of a Red Hat .rpm package, and this looked a bit messy and time consuming. Besides, I don't even plan to use this computer for games. All I want is a maximally fast display of text, Web pages, and illustrations.