This week NVIDIA began advertising their new "R310" Linux graphics driver that "delivers [a] massive performance boost to Linux gaming" as a result of Valve releasing their Steam Linux Beta. The NVIDIA 310.xx Linux graphics driver not only improves the performance for Valve's Source Engine games, but many Linux OpenGL games. In this article are benchmarks from three graphics cards to highlight the optimizations.
NVIDIA's 310 Linux driver beta actually came last month with the performance enhancements and multi-threaded OpenGL support, but it wasn't until Tuesday when the Valve beta got underway that NVIDIA issued the press release. Last month I did some early NVIDIA 310 Linux benchmarks and of the threaded OpenGL support. The 310 driver was faster than earlier series, but the experimental threaded OpenGL support wasn't always delivering better results.
In this article are benchmarks comparing the NVIDIA Linux 304 and 310 series in their default modes (without the experimental threaded GL option) for a variety of Linux OpenGL games. While I am part of the early Valve Linux beta, Valve has requested that results not be published at this time until the more open beta begins and they have worked out any early problems. Stay tuned for Valve Linux benchmark results as soon as I am permitted to share the data.
Aside from the OpenGL threaded optimizations, some of the other performance-enhancing work done by NVIDIA's Linux engineers include enhancements that target running OpenGL applications while having an OpenGL compositing manager such as Compiz with Unity, extending the OpenGL shader disk cache to load faster, and optimizing FBO (Frame-Buffer Object) and VBO (Vertex Buffer Object) paths.
The graphics cards used in this article were a NVIDIA GeForce 9800GT, GeForce GTX 460, and GeForce GTX 680 to represent a spectrum of NVIDIA GPU families. The NVIDIA 304.43 Linux driver was compared to the NVIDIA 310.14 "R310" beta Linux driver. All testing was handled in a fully automated and reproducible manner using the open-source Phoronix Test Suite software.