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FreeBSD: A Faster Platform For Linux Gaming Than Linux?

Michael Larabel

Published on 7 September 2011
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 2 of 6 - 102 Comments

In a similar manner to FreeBSD, the NetBSD operating system also provides means of binary emulation for Linux x86 and other operating systems like Solaris.

With the Linux support enabled, x86 Linux binaries can be easily executed on FreeBSD just as you would under any Linux distribution.

As an example of how well this Linux binary compatibility in FreeBSD really is, even the Unigine Heaven technology demo works! This is the most demanding OpenGL 3/4 Linux benchmark based on the Unigine Heaven and it ran seamlessly under FreeBSD/PC-BSD 8.2.

This FreeBSD vs. Linux benchmarking of Linux game binaries began as a simple comparison using the 64-bit builds of each operating system and Ubuntu 11.04 as the Linux distribution. However, after realizing the competitiveness of each operating system, the comparison was expanded to include the 32-bit operating systems and then tossing Fedora into the mix as well.

The test system was bearing NVIDIA GeForce graphics, which is important under FreeBSD. The proprietary NVIDIA graphics driver is the only viable graphics driver for BSD. As talked about on occasions in the past, the state of graphics drivers for *BSD is sad. Even the open-source graphics drivers used by Linux aren't all supported under FreeBSD due to the complexity with many of these open-source drivers migrating to living within the kernel and relying upon new interfaces for memory management and mode-setting. AMD provides no proprietary (Catalyst) driver support to FreeBSD, not even for their workstation graphics cards. As a result, that leaves NVIDIA and their BSD graphics driver as the only real solution for those needing accelerating graphics support.

Like the NVIDIA Linux driver, the NVIDIA BSD driver is still built from a largely shared code-base with their Windows driver and only having a small amount of "glue" code that's BSD-specific. As a result, it is quite a high quality graphics driver and one that boasts roughly the same performance and feature-set as what is available from the Linux binary blob. PC-BSD also makes the installation of NVIDIA's driver quite easy and is additionally available from the FreeBSD ports collection.

The test system used was based on an AMD Phenom II X3 710 triple-core processor at 2.60GHz with NVIDIA GeForce 9800GT 512MB graphics and an MSI 89GXM-G65 motherboard with 4GB of RAM. Full system details are in the table below.

Ubuntu 11.04 and PC-BSD 8.2 were both tested with their stock packages and with both the 32-bit and 64-bit builds. Both operating systems were running the same NVIDIA 270.41.06 driver to rule out any graphics driver differences between operating systems. PC-BSD 8.2 provides the FreeBSD 8.2 packages and its kernel whole Ubuntu 11.04 has the Linux 2.6.38 kernel.

Benchmarking was done under both operating systems using Phoronix Test Suite 3.4-Lillesand, which installs and executes the same exact binaries in the same manner under both operating systems in a fully automated manner.

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