Linux Gaming For Older/Lower-End Graphics Cards In 2018
A request came in this week to look at how low-end and older graphics cards are performing with current generation Linux games on OpenGL and Vulkan. With ten older/lower-end NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards, here is a look at their performance with a variety of native Linux games atop Ubuntu using the latest Radeon and NVIDIA drivers.
For those on a tight budget, preferring to buy your GPUs through secondary markets, or only able to find lower-end hardware at reasonable prices given the cryptocurrency mining craze, this comparison is for you. This low-end Linux gaming test request came in this week via a Phoronix Premium member who was curious about Linux gaming possibilities on low-end GPUs. Phoronix Premium is the program that allows ad-free access to the site, multi-page articles on a single page, and other benefits, including priority when providing feedback / future test requests... Phoronix Premium and pay-per-impression web advertisements being the only ways that Phoronix can continue publishing new and original content, seven days per week, 365 days per year. If you aren't already a member, please consider joining Phoronix Premium to help support the site especially if you otherwise are using an ad-blocker.
The low/lower-end graphics cards I had available for this comparison on the AMD side included a Radeon R7 260X, RX 460, RX 550 and RX 560. The AMD cards were tested using the Linux 4.15 kernel DRM and Mesa 17.3-dev built against LLVM 7.0 SVN via the Padoka PPA. All cards were tested using the AMDGPU DRM driver, including the R7 260X, for offering Vulkan compatibility with RADV. On the NVIDIA side the lower-end cards I had available for testing were the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti, GTX 650, GTX 750, GTX 750 Ti, GTX 950 and GTX 1050. The NVIDIA 390.12 beta driver was used with the GeForce cards as the newest OpenGL/Vulkan driver on the NVIDIA side.
For making the tests realistic for an older/lower-end system, I used an A6-7400K Kaveri system for testing. The aging A6-7400K is a dual-core 3.5GHz part and for making sure it's less of a CPU bottleneck I overclocked it to 3.9GHz. This test platform thus provides a nice lower-end look at the Linux gaming possibilities with Steam on Linux. Given this focus, all of the games were tested at 1080p or lower. For additional metrics, the Phoronix Test Suite during testing was also tracking the CPU utilization for the different cards/drivers.