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15-Way Open vs. Closed Source NVIDIA/AMD Linux GPU Comparison

Michael Larabel

Published on 29 April 2013
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 6 - 69 Comments

Combining the work of the recent Nouveau vs. NVIDIA Linux testing and Radeon Gallium3D vs. AMD Catalyst testing articles, here is a 15-way comparison of both the open-source and closed-source AMD and NVIDIA Linux graphics drivers when testing a mixture of NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards on Ubuntu Linux 13.04.

This testing merges the independent AMD and NVIDIA Linux testing into a single viewable spread for showing off the open-source and closed-source Linux graphics driver performance for discrete NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards.

The AMD Radeon Linux testing consisted of a mixture of AMD Radeon HD 5000 and Radeon HD 6000 series graphics cards. As mentioned in the earlier article and numerous other Phoronix pieces, the open-source Linux graphics driver support for the very latest Radeon HD 7000 "Southern Islands" graphics cards is still a work-in-progress and maturing within the new "RadeonSI" driver. Radeon HD 7000 testing will come separately due to the less than complete OpenGL support at this time. For Radeon HD 7000 series users the best bet right now is just using the proprietary AMD Catalyst graphics card. With the Radeon HD 4000 series GPUs and older not being supported by the mainline Catalyst driver and the legacy Catalyst driver not working well on the latest Ubuntu Linux release, this limited the AMD testing to the HD 5000/6000 families.

The open-source AMD driver stack was xf86-video-ati 7.1.0, Mesa 9.2-devel git-cb12bf7 with floating-point textures, LLVM 3.2, and the Linux 3.9 Git kernel. Swap buffers wait was disabled during testing through the xorg.conf. The closed-source graphics driver stack was the Catalyst 13.3 Beta with an fglrx version string of 12.10.5 and OpenGL 4.2.12173. The AMD graphics cards were the Radeon HD 5750, HD 5830, HD 6560, HD 6770, HD 6870, and HD 6950.

As mentioned in last week's NVIDIA Linux article, the open-source Nouveau driver state still leaves a lot to be desired. The big limiting factor right now for OpenGL performance on the reverse-engineered open-source NVIDIA driver is that there's no "out of the box" re-clocking support so that the GPUs can run successfully at their rated core/memory/shader frequencies than what's programmed at boot time by the video BIOS. There's also an assortment of other issues outlined within last week's article. When showing the results today, the open-source values indicated are for the re-clocked frequencies when successful.

The tested NVIDIA graphics cards that worked with both the open and closed-source drivers were the GeForce 8800GT, 9500GT, 9600GSO, 9800GT, 9800GTX, GT 220, GT 520, and GTX 550 Ti. While there is GeForce 600 "Kepler" support in both drivers, as mentioned last week, the Nouveau state regressed and wasn't successfully working with this open-source driver. The NVIDIA driver configuration was the NVIDIA 319.12 Beta driver. The open-source Nouveau stack was using the same Mesa revision as the AMD testing.

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