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Linux Gaming: Native vs. Wine vs. Windows 7 Performance

Michael Larabel

Published on 20 December 2010
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 4 - 54 Comments

Linux gaming has a bright future ahead with the forthcoming Unigine games, successful indie campaigns, and many other Linux-native game titles being just out on the horizon. Right now though if you are a dedicated PC gamer looking to satisfy your entertainment appetite under Linux, more than likely you find yourself using the Wine program so that you can run many Windows programs under Linux. What is the performance impact though of using this method? In this article, we have a couple benchmarks comparing the performance of Wine, native Linux game binaries, and the native Microsoft Windows 7 Professional performance.

With this testing we ran eight games/benchmarks natively under Ubuntu 10.10, the Windows binaries under the stable Wine 1.2.1, the Windows binaries under the Wine 1.3.9 development snapshot, and then finally under Microsoft Windows 7 Professional. The test profiles used had included OpenArena, Urban Terror, Warsow, Nexuiz, Lightsmark, Unigine Sanctuary, Unigine Tropics, and Unigine Heaven. The OpenGL renderer was used with all of them. With each of them, they were tested at 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1280 x 1024, 1600 x 1200, 1920 x 1080, and 2560 x 1600 to look at the impact that the resolution scaling has on the overall performance in these different areas.

In reality this gaming scenario for these titles would be irrelevant to most Linux gamers as when a native Linux client is available (such as the case for all eight of these) they would just use those binaries straight-away and there would be no reason to consider using Wine unless the Linux client were out of date or had other issues. Most Windows games also are using a DirectX/Direct3D renderer rather than OpenGL. Wine supports translating Direct3D calls up through Direct3D 9~10, but in this article we went with the aforementioned tests because 1. OpenBenchmarking.org test profiles with the Phoronix Test Suite for them were already in place and 2. so we could see precisely the affect that Wine has on the system rather than only testing games under Wine and Windows 7 but not being able to grasp roughly where a native Linux binary would perform. In another article we will look at the performance under Wine for some of the more popular Windows games that are DirectX-only and lack any Linux client now that with this article we have established a baseline for performance.

The test system was made up of an Intel Core i5 750 CPU, an ECS P55H-A motherboard, 4GB of DDR3 system memory, 500GB Western Digital SATA hard drive, and a NVIDIA GeForce 9800GTX graphics card. On the Linux side, Ubuntu 10.10 (x86_64) was used with the Linux 2.6.35 kernel, GNOME 2.32.0, X.Org Server 1.9.0, NVIDIA 260.19.06 proprietary driver, GCC 4.4.5, and an EXT4 file-system. The Wine binaries were obtained from the Ubuntu Wine PPA. On the non-Linux side was Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64. All testing was done with each platform in its stock configuration.

Let us jump straightaway to see how the performance of Ubuntu, Wine, and Windows compares.

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