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The Open-Source Linux Graphics Card Showdown

Michael Larabel

Published on 27 April 2012
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 2 of 13 - 48 Comments

The low and mid-range graphics processors being tested on open-source drivers include:

Intel Core i7 3770K / HD 4000 - Intel's brand new Ivy Bridge graphics core built into their latest generation processors. The results on Monday were great for Ivy Bridge and showed some significant improvements under Linux compared to Sandy Bridge. The HD 4000 graphics has a base frequency of 850MHz and can dynamically clock (it works under Linux by default with the Intel DRM! Unlike the Radeon and Nouveau drivers...) up to 1350MHz. The HD 4000 has 16 execution units, supports OpenGL 3.1 (the support is still being worked on to get past GL3.0 compliance in Mesa), and overall is quite compelling for being low-powered integrated graphics. The Ivy Bridge graphics had access to 1GB of system memory.

AMD Radeon HD 4670 - The 512MB graphics card with its "RV730XT" core was introduced in 2008 and is clocked at 750MHz while the video memory is at 1100MHz. The Radeon HD 4000 (R700) support in the open-source Radeon driver stack is quite mature at this point (although there's still no PCI Express 2.0 support by default nor is 2D color tiling flipped on yet, etc), although the performance is still a ways behind Catalyst, which is soon getting rid of all R600 / R700 GPU support.

AMD Radeon HD 5750 - The "Juniper PRO" graphics card from 2009 has 1GB of video memory while the Evergreen-based core was clocked at 700MHz with an 1150MHz memory clock. The Evergreen open-source support is quite stable at this point, though there remains the usual caveats for the open-source Radeon driver.

AMD Radeon HD 6450 - The one-year-old Calcos graphics card is clocked at 625MHz while the 1GB of video memory is running at 667MHz. The Northern Islands support now is quite mature in the open-source world and similar in quality to the Evergreen series. It is the HD 6000 / Northern Islands series that is the last to use the "R600g" driver for Gallium3D.

AMD Radeon HD 6570 - This "Turks PRO" graphics card had a 650MHz core clock and its 512MB of video memory was set to run at 1000MHz.

AMD Radeon HD 6770 - The Radeon HD 6770 is actually a re-badged Radeon HD 5770 with the Juniper XT GPU. Anyhow, this graphics card had an 850MHz core clock and 1200MHz for its 1GB of video memory.

NVIDIA GeForce 9500GT - The first NVIDIA graphics card being tested is the GeForce 9500GT. This G96 graphics processor from 2008 is well supported under the Nouveau driver. In fact, recent testing has revealed that for some OpenGL workloads it offers performance comparable to the binary driver. The 9500GT can also run at its reference clock frequencies of 550MHz for the NVIDIA G96 core, but unfortunately, there was a video memory re-clocking problem so its 1GB of vRAM was locked in at the BIOS-set frequency of 399MHz.

NVIDIA GeForce 9800GT - The NVIDIA GeForce 9800GT is based on the G92 core and is supposed to run at 600MHz for the graphics processor and 1800MHz for the video memory. With the Nouveau re-clocking the card was unstable at the factory-rated state, so it had to be tested at its boot frequencies of 399MHz for the core and 399MHz for the video memory. As a result when running under Nouveau the GeForce 9800GT performance is severely hampered. This card was left in the Ivy Bridge comparison since 399/399MHz is commonly the performance level the Nouveau driver finds itself at for many different graphics cards by default / when re-clocking isn't set. So the 9800GT in this card represents the crippled child.

NVIDIA GeForce GT 220 - The GeForce GT 220 had a core clock of 625MHz as it should while the video memory topped out at 405MHz for Nouveau. The GT216 graphics card generally works fine with Nouveau and can deliver decent performance, but has had some pain points at times. This is the limit of the NVIDIA graphics cards being tested for the GPUs working "well" with Nouveau from the mid/range-class hardware being targeted for this Linux comparison. No newer hardware was tested on the NVIDIA side since the GT 240 remains borked with Nouveau, the GeForce GT 520 Fermi cannot properly mode-set with Nouveau at this time, and various other issues depending upon the card.

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