With the launch of the NVIDIA 1.0-8762 proprietary Linux display drivers last week, it has marked the end of the road for the Linux/Solaris/FreeBSD 1.0-8XXX drivers. While we probably will not see the NVIDIA Linux 1.0-9XXX series at an earliest until August or September -- the Windows ForceWare 91.28 Beta drivers had come out last week -- we have decided to do a recap of these recent NVIDIA drivers. We have re-tested the 1.0-8174, 1.0-8178, 1.0-8756, and the newest 1.0-8762 drivers and have put them through an array of benchmarks. We have also recapped the changes for these drivers through the various releases.
The inaugural Rel80 Linux driver -- 1.0-8174 -- had come out on December 5 of last year after there were several delays. In this driver release were GeForce 7800GTX performance fixes, nvidia-xconfig, improved product support, and various other changes. The most notable feature appended was Scalable Link Interface support, which came to the Linux drivers 13 months after they had premiered with the Windows driver. As we had exposed that day, the Linux SLI benefits were rather nonexistent as they lacked critical elements and the performance capabilities found within NVIDIA ForceWare Rel80 series. To this day, at the end of the 1.0-8XXX series, NVIDIA engineers have a long road ahead of them if they wish to improve the multi-GPU support. The nvidia-xconfig utility that premiered with this release was a command-line tool for updating X configuration files, and is similar to ATI's aticonfig. The new products supported in this release were the GeForce 6100, 6150, and 7800GTX 512MB.
Replacing the 1.0-8174 drivers only 17 days later was the 1.0-8178 drivers. This driver was primarily geared as a maintenance release to address bugs brought fourth with version 1.0-8174. Among the changes were fixing installation problems on newer Debian systems to improving the stability with the Composite X extension.
The next major driver installment to come down the pipeline from NVIDIA came in April of this year. Support in the 1.0-8756 release was added for the GeForce 7300, 7400 Go, 7600, and 7900 GPUs. Other release highlights had included improved power management support and added support for suspend-to-disk, nvidia-auto-select mode entry, GLX 1.4 support, and added the AddARGBGLXVisuals option. Other smaller improvements were also made in this 1.0-8756 release.
As was covered in the preview of the NVIDIA 1.0-8762 drivers after their arrival last week, found in this release were a few more noteworthy fixes. Fixes in this release had included addressing a problem with Overlay support in TwinView, X starting with SLI on nForce 4 SLI Intel Chipsets, and resolving other like issues. New product support with the 1.0-8762 drivers had consisted of the Quadro FX4500X2, FX5500, FX3500, and FX1500. NVIDIA Quadro FX3450/4000 SDI support was also improved.
While the NVIDIA 1.0-8XXX Linux drivers were not as prominent as we had hoped prior to their availability, they do have stated SLI support, nvidia-xconfig, and a few other options were brought into the mix. With that out of the way, we will now be focusing on how the frame-rate performance has changed throughout these drivers. Unlike our AYiR (A Year in Review) articles for both NVIDIA and ATI, these performance tests today will not entail comparing them against the Windows ForceWare counterpart, but rather we are solely looking at the frame-rate changes experienced throughout these recent proprietary Linux drivers.
|Processor:||AMD Athlon 64 3000+ @ 2.25GHz|
|Motherboard:||Tyan Tomcat K8E-SLI (nForce PRO 2200)|
|Memory:||2 x 1GB OCZ DDR PC-4000|
|Graphics Card:||NVIDIA GeForce 6800GT 256MB|
|Hard Drives:||Seagate 200GB SATA NCQ|
|Optical Drives:||Lite-On 16x DVD-ROM|
|Power Supply:||Spire RockeTeer V SP-500W|
|Operating System:||Fedora Core 4|
|Linux Kernel:||2.6.15-1.1833_FC4 (x86_64)|
|Graphics Driver:||NVIDIA 1.0-8174
The OpenGL 3D benchmarks used include Enemy Territory, Doom 3, Quake 4, and SPECViewPerf. Our standard GNU/Linux benchmarking practices were used, and on the following pages is our frame-rate comparison between the various 1.0-8XXX components. To run the drivers in their original form, Fedora Core 4 was used for testing with X.Org 6.8.2 and the Linux 2.6.15 kernel.