The GTX 970/980 Maxwell GPUs Light Up With Nouveau On Linux 3.19

Written by Michael Larabel in Nouveau on 10 January 2015 at 05:18 PM EST. 1 Comment
This weekend I got around to trying out the GeForce GTX 970 and GTX 980 "Maxwell" graphics cards with the Linux 3.19 kernel now that there's initial support for these new GPUs via the open-source Nouveau DRM driver.

As part of the big DRM pull request for Linux 3.19, most of the Nouveau driver work was "behind the scenes" with not too much to excite end-users besides initial support for the newer Maxwell GPUs. This support in Linux 3.19 though is just limited to kernel mode-setting with no hardware acceleration being in place for this release.

Nouveau developers are waiting on NVIDIA Corp to provide the new signed firmware images for the hardware and then they'll work more on implementing the hardware acceleration for these newer Maxwell GPUs. The GeForce GTX 750 Maxwell series does have hardware acceleration capabilities within the Nouveau stack, but it's not enabled by default as there they run into firmware issues so if you want 3D support you need to extract the GTX 750/750 Ti firmware/microcode from the Linux binary blob driver.

While the Linux 3.19 support for the GTX 970/980 support just comes down to mode-setting, I decided to try it anyways to verify it worked for both of my graphics cards given I've ran into plenty of Nouveau mode-setting troubles with other hardware in the past. Fortunately, everything worked out fine for the eVGA GeForce GTX 970 and the GeForce GTX 980 reference samples I was testing with -- using HDMI and dual-link DVI displays. The Ubuntu 14.10 box that was running Linux 3.19 Git had no troubles with getting mode-setting done right for these new graphics processors while falling back to using the LLVMpipe Gallium3D driver.

It's a good first step, but serious users probably will be months away from wanting to use Nouveau on a GTX 970/980 since even when the initial hardware acceleration does come it will likely face the re-clocking challenges that can be seen right now across Fermi and Kepler GPUs with Nouveau. At least these new GPUs do work great when running the NVIDIA binary driver, as outlined in my Linux reviews of the GeForce GTX 970 and GeForce GTX 980. From a hardware perspective, these new NVIDIA products are terrific and yield great performance, big improvements in power efficiency, etc.
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Michael Larabel

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 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 automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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