In this article is a look at the state of the open-source Nouveau Gallium3D driver on low-end NVIDIA GeForce graphics hardware. In particular, a $10 USD NVIDIA retail graphics card is being tested under Ubuntu Linux on both Nouveau and the proprietary NVIDIA driver and is then compared to a wide range of other low and mid-range offerings from NVIDIA's GeForce and AMD's Radeon graphics card line-up with a plethora of OpenGL benchmarks.
The graphics card that is the focal point of this article is the NVIDIA GeForce 9600GSO. It is a few generations old, but recently was made available from a major Internet retailer for as low as $10 USD with free shipping, thanks to an instant discount and then a mail-in rebate. Normal GeForce 9600GSO graphics cards are still retailing for around $50 USD. This particular graphics card is the GeForce 9600GSO from XFX with a part number of PV-T96O-YHFC. This article is testing under an Ubuntu 12.04 development snapshot with package versions close to what they'll be found in the final release, which additionally makes this article a first-look/preview at low-end graphics cards under Ubuntu 12.04 with the open and closed-source drivers.
Included with the XFX GeForce 9600GSO 512MB PCI Express graphics card was the usual quick install information, Windows driver CD, and hardware warranty information. Also bundled with this retail graphics card as a bonus was a copy of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. This extremely popular first person shooter sadly lacks a native Linux client. However, when using Wine, the Windows version is rated (according to the WineHQ AppDB) as "Platinum" for earlier versions of the game while the latest versions are rated between bronze and gold. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare should therefore work under Linux when using the latest Wine code or CodeWeavers' CrossOver Games.
The GeForce 9600GSO has 96 CUDA cores, 550MHz graphics clock, 1375MHz processor clock, and a reference 800MHz memory clock. The standard memory configuration is 384MB of video RAM on a 192-bit interface, but the XFX GeForce 9600GSO was shipping with 512MB of GDDR3 video memory on a 128-bit bus while its core clock was only at 500MHz but with a 900MHz memory clock.