Gaming/Graphics Performance On Unity, GNOME, KDE, Xfce
Written by Michael Larabel in Software on 8 February 2012. Page 6 of 6. 43 Comments

Lastly, with Warsow:

- Under the Nouveau driver for the NV50-generation part (GeForce 9800GTX) the best results were found under Xfce followed by GNOME Shell and Unity. Unity 2D and KDE Plasma fell behind a noticeable amount.

- With the binary NVIDIA driver, Xfce 4.8 was also fastest desktop while Unity 2D was the slowest.

- Not much could be learned from Warsow on the Radeon driver since in this particular test configuration the performance was abysmal.

- The Catalyst proprietary driver again performed the same across the six tested desktops, except for GNOME Shell, which had a big performance drop.

Overall the results were interesting from the range of Linux OpenGL benchmarks conducted under Unity, Unity 2D, GNOME Shell, GNOME Classic, KDE Plasma, and Xfce on Ubuntu 12.04. There are some exceptions, but across the driver configurations the desktops to commonly perform the best were Xfce 4.8 and GNOME Shell The default Unity desktop was a mix in terms of performance across the different OpenGL workloads. The outlier to these results though is the AMD Catalyst driver, which for the most part performed the same regardless of desktop environment / window manager.

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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via

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