NVK Open-Source Vulkan Driver Development Progressing On Nearly Decade Old GTX 980M

Written by Michael Larabel in Nouveau on 8 May 2023 at 08:22 AM EDT. 9 Comments
Development of the NVK open-source NVIDIA Mesa Vulkan driver is being done in part on a nearly decade old GeForce GTX 980M mobile graphics processor since at the moment it's one of the more recent NVIDIA GPUs that can be re-clocked using the existing Nouveau kernel driver code.

While the Nouveau developers continue work on making use of the NVIDIA GPU System Processor (GSP) found with RTX 2000 "Turing" GPUs and newer for in the end allowing re-clocking and proper power management on this open-source NVIDIA driver, that code remains in-development and has yet to be mainlined. Eventually though this GSP'ed Nouveau driver should allow for supporting modern NVIDIA GeForce GPUs with the open-source Linux graphics driver stack and allowing the hardware to operate re-clocked to its highest performance state / optimal clock frequencies, rather than as is currently the case being limited to the very low boot clock frequencies. (See my Nouveau vs. NVIDIA Turing GPU benchmarks for an idea how poor the performance is currently on the open-source driver.)

Until the Nouveau GSP support is sorted out and mainlined, the best Nouveau driver support with the fastest support remains the GeForce GTX 700 "Kepler" (and GTX 750 "Maxwell 1") graphics processors. Plus with some patches, some of the GTX 900 "Maxwell 2" GPUs can be re-clocked, such as with laptop GPUs where the laptop is in control of the overall system cooling.

Collabora developer Faith Ekstrand shared on Mastodon how the Linux and Vulkan native game Hollow Knight is running "buttery smooth" on a GeForce GTX 980M laptop:

Faith Ekstrand shows off NVK progress on the GTX 980M

Ekstrand further added, "Why 980m and not something more recent? Well, the kernel folks are still working on the GSP firmware situation and it's not quite stable yet. For as crappy as the hacked up 4.19 kernel I have running on this ancient alienware may be, it can actually re-clock the GPU and, as it turns out, that kinda matters. Once the GSP situation is sorted, we'll be able to re-clock everything Turing+."

So for now, NVK development is being done in part on this nearly decade old NVIDIA GeForce GPU. It will be interesting to see how the Nouveau GSP support plays out once ready and is mainlined into the Linux kernel.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 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 OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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