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FreeBSD Can Compete With Ubuntu Linux, Windows 8

Michael Larabel

Published on 31 July 2013
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 4 - 13 Comments

Yesterday I published results that show NVIDIA's Linux driver is very competitive with Microsoft Windows 8 when it comes to OpenGL gaming performance. It turns out that the NVIDIA BSD driver, which is still mostly shared common code with Linux and Solaris and Windows, pairs very well with FreeBSD's Linux binary compatibility layer. The NVIDIA BSD performance is very good for OpenGL as shown in this article with a comparison of Windows 8 vs. Ubuntu 13.10 vs. FreeBSD 9.1. In fact, for some OpenGL workloads the Linux games are running faster on FreeBSD/PC-BSD 9.1 than Ubuntu!

FreeBSD (and some other BSD distributions) offer Linux binary compatibility support for being able to run native Linux binaries on BSD. This feature was covered at length two years ago on Phoronix when talking about FreeBSD as a fast Linux gaming platform. The binary compatibility relies upon a FreeBSD kernel module for Linux plus ported Linux run-time libraries (pulled from Fedora 10 RPMs at present). That aforelinked Phoronix article has more details on the Linux emulation / binary compatibility support for those interested in the low-level details.

One of the unfortunate limitations of the Linux binary support in FreeBSD is that it's presently limited to x86 binaries without any support for x86_64 Linux binaries or other architectures. Linux x86 binaries will work just fine on the FreeBSD x86_64/amd64 host, which is what was used for this testing. With using Unigine tech demos and other benchmarks, some of these binary-only OpenGL Linux test cases are 32-bit only anyways so it's less of a deal. All benchmarking was handled in an automated manner using the open-source Phoronix Test Suite software for facilitating cross-platform tests.

The NVIDIA 310.44 FreeBSD display driver was used for testing, which is the latest FreeBSD driver version available through FreeBSD Ports. As mentioned many times before on Phoronix, the NVIDIA FreeBSD driver shares a majority of common code with the Linux, Windows, and Solaris targets aside from platform-specific bits. Traditionally we have found the NVIDIA driver performance to be roughly the same across operating systems. The remainder of the PC-BSD 9.1 installation was in largely a stock configuration and the system details are noted in the same table above. For those curious about installing PC-BSD 9.1 on modern hardware (such as Haswell), it's not without some challenges.

The same hardware was used across benchmarking Windows 8, Ubuntu 13.10 Development, and PC-BSD 9.1; the tested graphics cards were still the GeForce 9800GTX, GeForce GTX 460, and GeForce GTX 680. The 64-bit versions of all operating systems were used during testing. If you didn't read the earlier Windows 8 vs. Ubuntu Linux NVIDIA GeForce article though, be sure to read that first since this article doesn't show the Nouveau Gallium3D (open-source NVIDIA) performance results as shown in that earlier article.

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