When it comes to Linux gamers wanting a discrete graphics card backed by open-source drivers, the only solution right now to truly recommend for those serious about performance and making use of the hardware is really AMD Radeon graphics. While Nouveau has been making much progress, until re-clocking and other issues are worked out the performance can be unbearably slow depending upon the particular graphics processor or run into other problems. (Of course, when talking about proprietary graphics drivers on Linux, the story is entirely different, or if considering integrated Intel HD Graphics.) For those pursuing a AMD Radeon GPU for their own Steam Box/Machine build and hope to use the open-source Gallium3D drivers, here's some Steam on Linux gaming benchmarks from almost two dozen different GPUs.
Using the latest Radeon graphics drivers (Mesa 10.3 with Linux 3.17), I ran some fresh Steam Linux gaming benchmarks. In particular, I tested a few of Valve's original hits powered by the Source Engine. The AMD Radeon GPUs that were tested for this article consisted of:
Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 4670 512MB
Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 4770 512MB
Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 4830 512MB
AMD Radeon HD 4850 512MB
AMD Radeon HD 4870 512MB
ASUS AMD Radeon HD 4890 1024MB
Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 5450 512MB
AMD Radeon HD 5750 1024MB
AMD Radeon HD 5770 1024MB
Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 5830 1024MB
HIS AMD Radeon HD 6450 1024MB
Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6570 512MB
Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6770 1024MB
Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6870 1024MB
Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6950 2048MB
ASUS AMD Radeon HD 7850 1024MB
XFX AMD Radeon HD 7950 3072MB
Sapphire AMD Radeon R7 260X 2048MB
Gigabyte AMD Radeon R9 270X 2048MB
XFX AMD Radeon R9 290 4096MB
The selection of AMD Radeon graphics cards intentionally went back quite away since there's still many Phoronix readers running these older GPUs due to their more mature open-source driver support on the R600g Gallium3D driver, etc. When it came to the newer graphics cards, the selection was limited to those graphics cards within my possession.
The games used for this updated open-source Radeon graphics benchmarking were Counter-Strike: Source, Portal, and Team Fortress 2. The games were tested at 1920 x 1080 and 2560 x 1600. All three of these Source Engine games run on the R600g driver with Radeon HD 4000 series GPUs and newer and work well on the other open-source drivers too. The selection of games was also limited by what could be properly automated and integrated with the Phoronix Test Suite by simply running phoronix-test-suite benchmark tf2 portal cstrike. For those unfamiliar with my requirements with regard to game test automation, read Running Benchmarks On Other New Linux Games, etc. At least Valve is working to push more games to be benchmark-friendly and there's also APITrace for replaying game traces (that will be coming to future articles), etc.