After earlier this week delivering a 12-way AMD Radeon graphics card comparison with the open-source Linux Gallium3D graphics driver, being published today is a similar comparison on the NVIDIA side. Tested for this article were eight NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards from multiple hardware generations while using the very latest open-source Nouveau driver code.
While I have well more than eight NVIDIA graphics cards, this comparison was limited to just eight GeForce graphics cards since the Nouveau driver has fallen back into a fairly regressed state. With many of the graphics cards -- even for GPUs that are several generations old -- the latest Linux 3.7 kernel development code isn't too stable and there's a number of other outstanding bugs too. There was the Nouveau DRM driver rewrite that was merged with Linux 3.7 and unfortunately there seems to be much yet-to-be-fixed fallout; it was frustrating to the point that these tests almost weren't completed and the article abandoned.
The issues experienced ranged from stability issues to mode-setting/display issues if Plymouth was used while running Nouveau on the Linux 3.7 kernel on Ubuntu (easy workaround though in that case by removing splash from the GRUB entry). Nouveau re-clocking support to run graphics cards at their factory-rated core, shader, and memory clock speeds rather than their boot speeds also remains a big mess. For the graphics cards tested, not all of them were stable or would immediately lock-up when switching to the higher performance level. Where stable, the graphics cards were re-clocked. The Phoronix Test Suite table shows the frequencies of all the tested graphics cards.
The graphics cards tossed at Linux 3.7 Git + Mesa 9.1-devel + libdrm Git + xf86-video-nouveau Git were a GeForce 8400GS, GeForce 8800GT, GeForce 9500GT, GeForce 9600GSO, GeForce 9800GT, GeForce 9600GSO, GeForce GT 220, and GeForce GT 550 Ti. Like the large Radeon Gallium3D comparison, these numbers are being put out here for reference as to the very latest state of the open-source Nouveau graphics driver for those open-source enthusiasts that may be shopping for a new graphics card this holiday season.