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Nouveau NVIDIA Driver Can Be Faster With Linux 3.8

Michael Larabel

Published on 2 January 2013
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 5 - 2 Comments

Published already on Phoronix have been benchmarks of the in-development Linux 3.8 kernel when it comes to measuring the DRM graphics driver performance improvements for AMD Radeon hardware. In this article is a look at the Nouveau driver performance, the reverse-engineered open-source NVIDIA graphics driver. There's a fair amount of changes to look forward to in the next Linux kernel release for Nouveau and it's yielding some performance improvements.

There was the big DRM pull for Linux 3.8 while there was a second-round of fixes to land recently that also enabled hardware acceleration support on NVIDIA hardware, namely the GF119 and NVIDIA GeForce 600 "Kepler" series. New benchmarks of Nouveau Kepler support will come soon while in this article is a look at the Nouveau performance when comparing different Linux kernel releases on three different NVIDIA graphics cards.

The Linux 3.8 development kernel from 29 December 2012 was benchmarked against the mainline stable releases of the Linux 3.6 and 3.7 kernels to look at the OpenGL performance changes in these different scenarios. The graphics cards used for this Linux benchmarking comparison were a NVIDIA GeForce 9800GT, 9800GTX, and GT 220. When the Linux 3.8 final release is near, additional graphics benchmarks will be published. A daily development image of Ubuntu 13.04 was the base operating system during benchmarking while the Mesa user-space graphics library was upgraded to Mesa 9.1-devel from Git master.

When running these benchmarks, re-clocking the GPU core and memory frequencies to their highest performance levels was attempted. However, of the three GeForce graphics cards used, only the GeForce 9800GTX could be properly re-clocked from 399/399MHz to its rated speeds of 675/1100MHz. The GeForce 9800GT meanwhile was stuck to operating at 399/399MHz while the GeForce GT 220 was stuck to 405/324MHz. The lack of adequate re-clocking support within the Nouveau driver continues to be a big problem and leads to a dramatically degraded performance experience compared to the NVIDIA binary graphics driver. For more information on this matter, see Nouveau Reclocking: Buggy, But Can Boost Performance and Clock-For-Clock, Nouveau Can Compete With NVIDIA's Driver.

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