A comprehensive performance comparison is underway at Phoronix that pits SteamOS against other desktop Linux distributions, but for those anxious to see some performance numbers, here are benchmarks done so far this weekend from seven NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards on the public SteamOS 1.0 Beta operating system. In this article are early benchmarks from seven NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards running Valve's Debian Linux based SteamOS on an Intel Haswell system.
First of all, if you're joining us for the first time or aren't caught up to speed on our technical coverage of SteamOS, first be sure to read the following articles for important details of interest to Linux enthusiasts:
1.0 Is Based Upon Debian Wheezy
- SteamOS Has Its Own Graphics Compositor
- SteamOS Compositor Details, Kernel Patches, Screenshots
- Former NVIDIA, Microsoft Developers Doing Lots Of The SteamOS Work
- Running The SteamOS Kernel On Ubuntu Linux
- The Steam Controller Works "Out Of The Box" On Linux
- NEW: AMD Catalyst Graphics Do Work On SteamOS
- NEW: It's Easy Getting Intel Graphics To Work On SteamOS
The Sunday morning benchmarks to share now are just some reference performance results for seven newer GeForce 500/600/700 series graphics cards when running SteamOS 1.0 Beta with the default software packages. The key versions to point out for this early SteamOS Beta are the Linux 3.10-3 kernel that's been heavily patched by Valve, GNOME Shell 3.4.2 is the default fall-back desktop environment outside of the Steam Big Picture Mode, the X.Org Server 1.12.4 display server, GCC 4.7 is present on the system for game developers, and the NVIDIA 331.20 Linux graphics driver provides all of the GeForce graphics card support by default on SteamOS. There are Intel and Catalyst drivers on the system too, but Valve isn't yet encouraging AMD and Intel GPU owners to try out their Debian-derived operating system.
As shown by other recent Phoronix tests (and more tests coming this month), Intel Haswell graphics with Mesa 10.0+ should be in fairly good shape for handling most Source Engine games. The Catalyst driver should also work for the most part but is notorious about Linux gamers for regressions and issues with different games. AMD though says they will be further improving their Catalyst support. On the open-source side, Radeon Gallium3D for HD 4000/5000/6000 series hardware is where the driver support is the best and can be comparable to Catalyst. The open-source NVIDIA support is in the worst shape via the Nouveau project since up until recently the driver was written entirely through reverse engineering. While Nouveau can handle OpenGL 3 support, its performance is crippling until re-clocking support is sorted out for the driver.
For those not up to speed on other Linux graphics card and driver information, from a few weeks ago I have my 21-way open-source AMD/Intel/NVIDIA comparison as well as my 27-way Linux GPU comparison when using the closed-source drivers. There's also hundreds of other Linux GPU driver articles and Linux graphics card reviews on Phoronix, such as how AMD APU performance can be very good with open-source and how the open-source drivers can take on the legacy drivers. Coming up in the next few days will also be my year-in-review articles for the NVIDIA, Intel, and AMD Linux graphics drivers that I have been writing annually since 2005 concerning the Linux GPU driver state for gamers -- long before Valve got involved with Linux and going back to the days when Linux graphics drivers were a complete wreck.