Mac OS X 10.6 Brings Serious Performance Gains
As many of you are aware, Nexuiz is an open-source game that uses the DarkPlaces engine (a Quake engine derivative) and has been around for a few years, but does offer quite impressive graphics. Obviously it was hard for the Intel GMA 950 graphics found on MM1 to keep up with this first person shooter, while the GeForce 9400M had a much easier time with its much more powerful graphics processor under Mac OS X 10.5.8. The Phoronix Test Suite automated the entire process of running both tests and both operating systems at the five different resolutions.
Interestingly, with Snow Leopard on both Mac Mini systems there is a peculiar regression. The frame-rate was completely unbearable when running Nexuiz at 800 x 600 and 1024 x 768, but when upping the resolution, the frame-rate returned to where it should and comparable to that in Leopard. While running the game at 800 x 600 it would still report the appropriate OpenGL information as if it was using hardware acceleration from the GPU, but in reality, it was godly slow. Therefore, the results are showing a performance increase as the resolution is stepped up. However, even with the resolution increase, Mac OS X 10.6.0 is still having a lower frame-rate than Mac OS X 10.5.8. It is a noticeable drop too. Certainly, we had not anticipated to starting out or Mac OS X 10.6.0 testing by finding a performance regression immediately.
Urban Terror is one of the games covered by a test profile in the Phoronix Test Suite that uses the ioquake3 engine. Urban Terror had not encountered any NVIDIA OpenGL regressions like we encountered with Nexuiz when running at a lower resolution, however, still the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M had a lower frame-rate under Snow Leopard. The Intel graphics performance was also lower. We have learned that Apple is indeed aware of some 3D performance regressions and that they should be addressed within the next week or two.
OpenArena is another game that uses the ioquake3 engine, but it is certainly less taxing on the system as can be seen from the frame-rates. OpenArena also did not encounter any problems with running on the NVIDIA hardware at a lower resolution and it did not encounter any performance regressions at the higher resolutions either. The performance here was the same as Mac OS X Leopard.
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