VirtualBox 4.0 OpenGL Gaming Performance
Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Gaming on 13 December 2010 at 10:20 AM EST. 8 Comments
Put out earlier this morning on Phoronix were Linux virtualization benchmarks comparing the native performance of a high-end Intel Core i7 system to that of the de facto standard Linux KVM virtualization method as well as Oracle VM VirtualBox 3.2.12 and Oracle VM VirtualBox 4.0 Beta 2. These tests focused largely upon the disk and CPU performance within Ubuntu Linux virtual machines, since that's often where enterprise users are most concerned with virtualization performance. For desktop users, there's also the matter of 2D/3D acceleration support within virtual machines.

VirtualBox does provide support for OpenGL acceleration in guests as well as 2D/video acceleration. For Microsoft Windows guests, there's also Direct3D acceleration support. The VirtualBox graphics acceleration requires an accelerated GPU driver to be installed on the host (obviously) and then also the guest operating system to have the Oracle VM VirtualBox "Guest Additions" to be installed. Contained within this VirtualBox guest software for Windows/Solaris/Linux operating systems is a graphics driver that allows passing the OpenGL/Direct3D to the host system.

The VirtualBox 2D/3D acceleration though isn't quite as nice as VMware's implementation, which is based upon Gallium3D. VMware guests have not only Direct3D/OpenGL acceleration on the graphics processor, but any Gallium3D state tracker could be utilized such as OpenVG and OpenGL ES. The VMware implementation with Gallium3D is also more efficient (not to mention that VMware also owns the Tungsten Graphics developers responsible for Mesa / Gallium3D). There's also a Gallium3D driver for Xen virtualization, but sadly there's no such 2D/3D support for QEMU/KVM.

Without accelerated GPU support for QEMU/KVM, we hadn't ran any 3D virtualization tests in the article from this morning. However, for your pleasure, below are two OpenGL gaming tests from the same system. There's the performance of the host compared to VirtualBox 4.0 Beta 2 with this Intel Core i7 970 CPU + NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 system.

While VirtualBox has guest 3D acceleration, its implementation is significantly slower than running OpenGL on the host with the proprietary NVIDIA Linux driver. At least though it's a fairly playable experience (above 30 FPS average), but it's with a lightweight, ioquake3-powered game.

The World of Padman performance was about the same too. While the virtualized gaming performance lags behind, there's at least some level of support and it's enough to power a composited desktop.
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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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