Pretty much yes, my Arch ISO starts with nomodeset automatically just to eliminate these type of problems problems.
Anyways, I got Fedora installed and running, Gnome 3 was laggy due to not having any video drivers running aside from the basic ones, installed the xf86-video-ati drivers and loaded the radeon module and still laggy as all can be. Tried a few more things and still couldn't get it to work properly. Decided to just install my tried and true Arch image loaded xf86-video-ati and the radeon module modeset and it's running beautifully. I'm really not a fan of AMD/ATI graphics, lol.
Although there are other issues it had. Arch without nomodeset seemed to panic before anything really loaded. It would go to mount the root drive and just completely lock up. And there's a few instances I found on the Arch forums with the same laptop and relatively same issue; here's one
and linked in that one is another. So basically I'm stuck with nomodeset on the kernel boot and then immediately after have a service load the radeon driver and modeset to get it to boot properly. Bit of a pain but it works.
First time I've had to bother with them in my own machines in ages ( at least since the AGP days ). Can't say the experience was any better, granted the laptop had a relatively old card not support by the fglrx drivers anymore. VGA compatible controller: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] nee ATI M52 [Mobility Radeon X1300]
. Will be a fun machine to mess around with though.
Though I loaded up one of my old Ubuntu 8.04 discs and it didn't have a single problem. Almost just decided to keep that on there, lol.