Starting with the ioquake3-powered OpenArena game we found NVIDIA's official binary Linux driver to be close to five times faster than the current Nouveau stack with its Gallium3D driver. While the frame rate being five times higher is quite significant, with the GeForce 9800GTX the proprietary driver was over ten times faster! While NVIDIA's official driver is clearly faster, it is not to a real surprise considering the Nouveau driver is still immature and is a reverse-engineered effort by the free software community without the assistance or work force of NVIDIA with its proprietary driver development.
Even though the Gallium3D driver for Nouveau was not as fast, OpenArena was certainly playable with both of the NVIDIA GeForce 8/9 series graphics cards tested. Even at 1920 x 1080, OpenArena had run at 32 FPS for the GeForce 9800GTX and at 49 FPS for the GeForce 8600GTS. Yes, the older and lower-end GeForce 8600GTS is actually faster than the 9800GTX with the Nouveau driver at this time.
The World of Padman tests share a very similar story to that of OpenArena, which is running off the same engine. The NVIDIA binary driver was several times faster, but at 1280 x 1024 for instance both graphics cards could run at a modest frame-rate of 44 and 30 FPS for the NV84 and NV92 GPUs, respectively. At 1920 x 1080, the 8600GTS had an average frame-rate of 37 FPS while the 9800GTX was at a choppy 25 FPS. Meanwhile, NVIDIA's binary driver ran at 217 and 373 FPS, respectively. In this test as well the GeForce 8600GTS continued to be noticeably faster than the higher-end 9800GTX at every stepping.
Urban Terror is another ioquake3 test and the fate of the Nouveau Gallium3D driver was similar to that of the two other test runs. The GeForce 9800GTX was only on the bring of being playable while the 8600GTS scored above 30 FPS at resolutions up to and including 1920 x 1080.