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NVIDIA Workstation Performance: Windows vs. Linux vs. Solaris

Michael Larabel

Published on 7 March 2008
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 5 - 13 Comments

Earlier this week we previewed the Quadro FX1700, which is one of NVIDIA's mid-range workstation graphics cards that is based upon the G84GL core that in turn is derived from the consumer-class GeForce 8600 series. This PCI Express graphics card offers 512MB of video memory with two dual-link DVI connections and support for OpenGL 2.1 while maintaining a maximum power consumption of just 42 Watts. As we mentioned in the preview article, we would be looking at this graphics card's performance not only under Linux but also testing this workstation solution in both Microsoft Windows and Sun's Solaris. In this article today, we are doing just that as we test the NVIDIA Quadro FX1700 512MB with each of these operating systems and their respective binary display drivers.

The last time we had looked at the NVIDIA performance under both Linux and Windows was last July when comparing the GeForce 8 performance as the Linux drivers at the time were experiencing some initial performance issues with the G80 GPUs. Back in July there was a rather large performance delta between the two operating systems and drivers for the GeForce 8500GT and 8600GT, but the mature 6600GT had performed virtually the same in both environments. Then in September, we had looked at NVIDIA's multi-GPU performance under Linux and Windows when running two GeForce 8600GT 256MB graphics cards in SLI (Scalable Link Interface). Windows XP and the ForceWare driver had outpaced Linux in every gaming test we conducted.

When it comes to Solaris testing, the last time we had carried out any comparative NVIDIA tests was back in June when looking at a GeForce 8500GT 256MB on Fedora and Solaris. NVIDIA's Linux and Solaris drivers are virtually identical and as such, the performance was very close between Fedora 7 and Solaris Express Developer 5/07 and Solaris Express Community Edition Build 66.

For today's workstation testing we had run the NVIDIA Quadro FX1700 512MB on Ubuntu 8.04 Alpha 5, Solaris Express Developer 1/08, and Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate. Ubuntu 8.04 uses the Linux 2.6.24 kernel and Solaris Express Developer Edition 1/08 is based upon Solaris Nevada Build 79b. Windows Vista was used over Windows XP because of compatibility problems with the Intel 5400 Chipset and Windows XP SP2. With each operating system we had used the latest supported NVIDIA drivers, which was 169.12 for Linux and Solaris and 169.25 for Windows Vista. During the testing, the screen resolution used was 1680 x 1050 and all settings from the NVIDIA drivers to the operating system were left at their defaults.

To benchmark these three operating systems and drivers we had used SPECViewPerf 9.0.3 to represent workstation use. SPECViewPerf 10.0 is not yet available for Linux/UNIX, which is why we are still using SPECViewPerf 9 for conducting these tests. We have published the results to all of the SPECViewPerf 9 tests: 3dsmax-04, catia-02, ensight-03, light-08, maya-02, proe-04, sw-01, ugnx-01, and tcvis-01. However, with the 3D Studio Max (3dsmax-04) test, Windows Vista was unable to complete the benchmark. SPECViewPerf is designed to be an OpenGL performance benchmark that is representative of real-world workstation performance through these different tests/view-sets such as 3D Studio Max, Maya, Pro/ENGINEER, and SolidWorks.

Aside from the PNY Quadro FX1700 512MB, the other hardware components consisted of a Tyan Tempest i5400XT motherboard, 4GB of Kingston DDR2-533 FB-DIMM RAM (8 x 512MB), dual Quad-Core Intel Xeon E5320 processors, Western Digital 160GB SATA 2.0 16MB cache hard drive, SATA DVD-RW drive, and a Cooler Master Real Power Pro 1000W PSU.

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