NVIDIA vs. AMD OpenGL & Vulkan Benchmarks With Valve's Dota 2

Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Gaming on 24 May 2016 at 03:58 PM EDT.

Yesterday marked the public availability of Dota 2 with a Vulkan renderer after Valve had been showing it off for months. This is the second commercial Linux game (after The Talos Principle) to sport a Vulkan renderer and thus we were quite excited to see how this Dota 2 Vulkan DLC is performing for both NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards. Here are our initial Dota 2 benchmarks with Vulkan as well as OpenGL for reference when using the latest Linux graphics drivers on Ubuntu.

Dota 2 with Vulkan can be enabled via opting into the Vulkan 2 DLC on Steam. The game needs to be launched with the -vulkan argument. The Dota 2 test profile on OpenBenchmarking.org has already been updated to work with the latest Dota 2 / Steam and also expose an option whether to run with Vulkan or OpenGL rendering. Thus with the Phoronix Test Suite it's as easy as running phoronix-test-suite benchmark dota2 for carrying out your own automated OpenGL vs. Vulkan benchmarks for your own Linux system.

Before running your own tests or looking at my initial data, be forewarned that the Vulkan support in Source 2 is still in very preliminary shape. If running Dota 2 Vulkan in full-screen at a lower resolution than your monitor's native resolution you may run into some offscreen artifacts appearing on-screen, the game on its first run can produce a bit of stuttering while caching shaders, and there is some tearing with the NVIDIA Linux driver if enabling vsync, among other possible issues.

On the AMD side for this benchmarking I was using the new AMDGPU-PRO 16.20.3 (Beta 2) driver that AMD released last week while explicitly mentioning support for Dota 2 on Vulkan. For the NVIDIA driver tests, the NVIDIA 367.18 beta driver was used as the latest publicly available NVIDIA Linux driver.

The graphics cards tested on the AMD side included the R9 285, R9 290, and R9 Fury. On the green side the NVIDIA GeForce cards benchmarked were the GTX 780 Ti, GTX 960, GTX 970, GTX 980, and GTX 980 Ti.

On the following pages are the initial Dota 2 Vulkan benchmarks as well as OpenGL numbers in the same Dota 2 build and environment. There are also some CPU and GPU usage numbers for additional reference too (simply set MONITOR=cpu.usage,gpu.usage prior to running the Phoronix Test Suite). As always, if you appreciate all of this Linux benchmarking I do on a daily basis, 365 days per year, please consider joining Phoronix Premium or making a PayPal tip to help support the cause.

Update: You can find revised Dota 2 Vulkan vs. OpenGL numbers now via this new article with more data from before and a more demanding Dota 2 test case.

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About The Author
Michael Larabel

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.