Gaming Performance Only Faintly Touched By MDS / Zombie Load Mitigations

Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Gaming on 17 May 2019 at 01:31 PM EDT. 13 Comments
Yesterday I published some initial MDS/Zombieload mitigation impact benchmarks while coming out still later today is much more data looking at the CPU/system performance impact... But is the gaming performance impaired by this latest set of CPU side-channel vulnerabilities?

With the Spectre/Meltdown mitigations, the gaming performance fortunately wasn't impaired by those mitigations. In fact, it was pretty much dead flat. With my testing thus far of the MDS/Zombieload mitigations on Linux, there does appear to be a slight difference in the rather CPU-bound scenarios compared to Spectre/Meltdown, but still it should be negligible for gamers. Well, that is at least with the higher-end hardware tested thus far, over the weekend I'll be running some gaming tests on some low-end processors/GPUs.

From the tests ran so far with the high-end parts, having the MDS mitigations active only would cause a frame or few hit in the rather CPU-bound scenarios. In those cases already, the games tend to run well over one hundred frames per second so would likely not be noticeable at all to gamers.

This comparison is just looking at the MDS mitigations with HT still enabled and the other Spectre/Meltdown/Foreshadow mitigations at their defaults.

So maybe a ~1% hit for some Linux games (if that in some configurations) as a result of the new default MDS mitigations and stopping short of disabling Hyper Threading, but even there most Linux games at least don't use more than a few cores/threads. But as said, will have some low-end Linux gaming hardware tests out in the days ahead. More of the CPU/system benchmarks that are much more interesting in the context of these mitigations will be out shortly where it seems to be commonly 4~5% but more significant in the context switching heavy workloads.
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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 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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