35-Way NVIDIA/AMD Proprietary Linux Graphics Driver Comparison
Last week with Phoronix turning ten years old I celebrated by testing 65 different GPUs with the open-source Linux graphics drivers from Intel, AMD, and Nouveau. I also followed-up with power efficiency and thermal benchmarks from all of the graphics cards that played nicely on the latest open-source drivers. Today I'm following up with the next round of testing by checking out the proprietary NVIDIA and AMD Catalyst graphics drivers under Linux with 35 different graphics cards.
After carrying out all of the PCI Express graphics cards at my disposal for last week's open-source tests, I then immediately turned to testing all of the supported GPUs by the proprietary AMD and NVIDIA graphics drivers. Today's comparison is still large (35 graphics cards) but smaller than the earlier comparison because the latest mainline drivers don't support the diverse selection of Radeon and GeForce GPUs going back as many years as the open-source drivers. NVIDIA does maintain multiple legacy drivers that work well with updated Linux distributions, but for the Radeon HD 4000 series and older hardware, AMD doesn't really maintain their legacy Catalyst Linux driver for new Linux kernel and X.Org Server releases. As a result, just the latest mainline AMD Catalyst and NVIDIA driver releases were testing, which gives us support for the GeForce 8 series and newer and on the AMD side is the Radeon HD 5000 series and newer.
The latest proprietary Linux graphics drivers at the time of testing was Catalyst 14.6 Beta (fglrx 14.20.7 / OpenGL 4.3.12967) and NVIDIA 337.25. All benchmarking happened from the same Intel Core i7 4770K system as used in the original open-source GPU driver tests while running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS x86_64 with the Linux 3.13 kernel. The graphics cards used for this comparison included:
Gigabyte NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT 256MB (500/400MHz)
Compared to the original article where the performance-per-Watt and GPU core temperature data was split into a separate article, for the proprietary driver testing it's all part of this article. Additionally, for this article with using the high-performance proprietary drivers we are using some more demanding Linux games and OpenGL benchmarks. As always, the testing was all organized and facilitated in a fully-automated and reproducible manner using the open-source Phoronix Test Suite software. The AC system power consumption was monitored using a USB-based WattsUp Pro power meter and the GPU thermal data was obtained via the AMD/NVIDIA driver interfaces -- all automated via the Phoronix Test Suite by setting the MONITOR=sys.power,gpu.temp environment variable.
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