In this article are some early benchmark results comparing the OpenGL gaming performance of the Unity, Xfce, Openbox, LXDE, KDE, GNOME Shell, and Enlightenment desktops when running on a recent development snapshot of Ubuntu 13.04. As many earlier benchmarks have shown, the OpenGL frame-rate for Linux games can sway quite greatly depending upon the desktop in use and more specifically the desktop's compositing window manager.
Back in September there was Ubuntu 12.10 testing done of the different desktops when Ubuntu's Unity provided very slow to KDE, GNOME, Xfce, and the LXDE desktops. The 2D performance was also poor for Unity. Fortunately, with Ubuntu 13.04, there are new versions for most of the major Linux desktop environments plus the open-source graphics drivers continue to be improved.
When the Ubuntu 13.04 final release is on approach in April, there will be another large comparison looking at the different open and closed-source graphics drivers, the latest stable versions of all the desktop environments packaged for Ubuntu 13.04, and a wide assortment of games.
For today's testing, Intel HD 4000 graphics were used from an Intel Core i7 3770K processor on Ubuntu 13.04 and its packaged software components. The desktops being compared were Unity 6.6.0, Xfce 4.10, Openbox 3.5.0, LXDE 0.5.12, KDE 4.9.98, GNOME Shell 3.6.2, and Enlightenment 0.17.
The graphics stack consisted of the Linux 3.8 development kernel, xf86-video-intel 2.20.19, and Mesa 9.0.2. Mesa 9.1 will be pulled in time for the Ubuntu 13.04 release, but again, there will be more extensive desktop benchmarking carried out when the April release nears.
The games used for this desktop benchmark ranged from aging open-source titles like the ioquake3-based OpenArena to id Tech 4 commercial games like Prey.