For those of you with NVIDIA graphics cards prior to the GeForce 400 "Fermi" series, NVIDIA is soon eliminating the support from their mainline proprietary Linux graphics driver.
As we reported back in March, NVIDIA is dropping pre-Fermi GPUs with the 343.xx driver series. Right now we're up to the 337.25 release so users of these aging graphics cards still have a bit of time before the 343 series is in beta. Beyond that, once the support is dropped from the mainline driver, NVIDIA will still be maintaining a long-term legacy driver for these GeForce 8 through GeForce 300 series graphics cards.
For the GPUs being dropped, NVIDIA has committed to maintaining a long-term legacy driver until April 2016. Unlike AMD, NVIDIA maintains their legacy Linux drivers well. While no new features are generally introduced, they do routinely update all of their legacy Linux drivers for new Linux kernel and X.Org Server compatibility along with important profile bug-fixes.
Aside from using the legacy driver for these OpenGL 3.3 graphics cards and older, the open-source Nouveau driver continues to improve and catch-up to the proprietary driver. The GeForce 8 series was introduced almost eight years ago (November 2006) while the newest hardware being dropped is the GeForce 300 series and the first batch of these GPUs were introduced in 2009. Given that these GPUs are getting rather old, now is potentially a great time to upgrade your graphics card.
For putting the performance of NVIDIA's hardware over the years into perspective if you're thinking of upgrading from one of these older GPUs, here is a look at all of the graphics cards within my possession from the GeForce 8 series through the GeForce 700 series. The graphics cards tested for this NVIDIA Linux comparison were:
Gigabyte NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT 256MB (500/400MHz)
ASUS NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GT 256MB (540/702MHz)
ECS NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 256MB (600/700MHz)
Gigabyte NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT 1024MB (550/400MHz)
XFX NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GSO 512MB (500/900MHz)
MSI NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT 512MB (660/950MHz)
NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX 512MB (675/1100MHz)
XFX NVIDIA GeForce GT 220 1024MB (625/400MHz)
ECS NVIDIA GeForce GT 240 512MB (550/1700MHz)
Gigabyte NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 768MB (675/1804MHz)
eVGA NVIDIA GeForce GT 520 1024MB (810/500MHz)
eVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1024MB (951/2178MHz)
Zotac NVIDIA GeForce GT 610 1024MB (810/533MHz)
MSI NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 1024MB (1084/2500MHz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 2048MB (1006/3004MHz)
eVGA NVIDIA GeForce GT 740 1024MB (1084/2500MHz)
eVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 1024MB (1019/2505MHz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2048MB (1019/2700MHz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 2048MB (980/3004MHz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 2048MB (1045/3505MHz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3072MB (875/3500MHz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN 6144MB (836/3004MHz)
These 22 graphics cards were all tested on the NVIDIA 337.25 Linux driver that was the latest at the time of testing. The graphics cards were tested on a Core i7 4770K system with Ubuntu 14.04 64-bit and the Linux 3.13 kernel.
Besides putting out all of these results for reference purpose if you're curious about NVIDIA's performance evolution or how the new Kepler and Maxwell GPUs are performing compared to their predecessors, through the Phoronix Test Suite open-source benchmarking software you can run your own direct comparison using the same tests, same test settings, etc, all in a fully-automated and reproducible experience. Simply install the Phoronix Test Suite and then run phoronix-test-suite benchmark 1406067-KH-NVIDIAEOL84.