There Is A Steam Linux Game Where Nouveau On Kepler Is Outperforming NVIDIA's Blob

Written by Michael Larabel in Nouveau on 31 March 2016 at 11:00 AM EDT. 26 Comments
With yesterday's Nouveau Kepler vs. Maxwell Performance On Linux 4.6 + Mesa 11.3-dev benchmarks, a number of Phoronix readers expressed their surprise how well the GeForce 600/700 "Kepler" series hardware was performing on the open-source Nouveau driver once manually re-clocking these graphics cards. It's certainly much better than the GTX 900 series performance on Nouveau as the Maxwell GPUs don't have any re-clocking support on Nouveau at all. I'm working on some fresh Nouveau vs. NVIDIA Kepler tests and for one Steam Linux game, this reverse-engineered NVIDIA open-source driver is able to beat out the "binary blob" from NVIDIA.

In the next day or two I will be publishing my complete set of NVIDIA vs. Nouveau tests on GTX 600/700 series hardware when engaging in manual re-clocking for the Nouveau driver and using the Linux 4.6 kernel DRM paired with Mesa 11.3-dev. On the NVIDIA proprietary driver side, the latest 364.12 driver was at play. Most interesting from this testing is that for one game the manually re-clocked (to the 0f pstate) Kepler graphics cards could beat out the binary drivers on the GeForce GTX 680 and GTX 780 Ti...

That game is Valve's Team Fortress 2 where the re-clocked Kepler cards could give the binary NVIDIA Linux driver a hearty run.

But it's not too surprising considering Team Fortress 2 tends to be more CPU limited than fully exploiting the potential of modern GPUs.

Here are the results of Nouveau on Linux 4.6 with Mesa 11.3 when running "out of the box" (default) and then manually re-clocked to the static 0f performance level and then the proprietary driver on the GTX 680 and GTX 780 Ti. You can find all of the system details via this result file.
Nouveau GTX Kepler vs. NVIDIA - TF2

The re-clocked Kepler GPUs to their highest exposed performance state (0f pstate) was enough to beat the proprietary driver by just a few frames. Again though, keep in mind that TF2 is more CPU limited (hence the GTX 680 and GTX 780 Ti not seeing much of a performance difference for this benchmark) even with this 4GHz turbo processor and this performance parity is certainly not the case in the more demanding OpenGL games/benchmarks. Stay tuned for the complete NVIDIA vs. Nouveau Kepler result set in the next day or two.
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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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