Last week NVIDIA released their first 256.xx proprietary beta Linux display driver that brought many VDPAU improvements, installer improvements, support for new GLX extensions, various bug-fixes, and other enhancements. However, some user reports have shown the 256.xx driver is actually slower than NVIDIA's current pre-200.xx series drivers and so we have carried out a set of tests to see what things are looking like from within our labs. Our preliminary tests do indeed illustrate a drop in performance when upgrading to this new driver.
As this is NVIDIA's first 256.xx driver release and it is in beta form, we tested out this driver on just one NVIDIA system for now and it happened to be a ZaReason notebook we are currently reviewing. This ZaReason notebook has an Intel Core i7 720 quad-core CPU with Hyper Threading, is based around an MSI LTD MS-1656 barebones, has 6GB of system memory, sports a 60GB Intel SSDSA2MH08 for storage, and has a NVIDIA GTS 250M 1GB graphics processor.
On the software side was Ubuntu 10.04 LTS x86_64 with the Linux 2.6.32 kernel, GNOME 2.30.0 desktop, X.Org Server 1.7.8, and the EXT4 file-system. We compared the performance of the NVIDIA 256.26 Beta Linux display driver to the stable NVIDIA 195.36.15 driver release that can be found within Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and also other Linux distributions released around that same time.
The Phoronix Test Suite driven tests included Nexuiz, OpenArena, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Unigine Sanctuary, Unigine Tropics, Unigine Heaven, Lightsmark, and VDrift.