Testing Nouveau's Open-Source NVIDIA Support On Linux 4.10 With NvBoost

Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 5 January 2017 at 01:45 PM EST. Page 1 of 4. 13 Comments.

After the Nouveau DRM driver updates didn't make it for the Linux 4.9 merge window, this open-source NVIDIA graphics kernel driver saw significant updates for Linux 4.10. Nouveau in Linux 4.10 has atomic mode-setting, DP MST support, a LED driver for controlling the cards that have the illuminated "GeForce" logo, NvBoost support for hitting the higher boost frequencies on supported cards, and many other changes. Here are some fresh benchmarks of Nouveau with the Linux 4.10 kernel.

For those behind on their Phoronix reading, see our Linux 4.10 kernel feature overview and in particular our coverage on the Nouveau changes for Linux 4.10. This is the biggest update we've seen to the Nouveau DRM code in a few release cycles.

But before getting too excited, with Linux 4.10 there still isn't any 3D accelerated support for the GeForce GTX 1050/1060/1070/1080 Pascal series as that's being held up until NVIDIA publishes the necessary signed firmware files for these newer GPUs. Also of disappointment is the lack of re-clocking support for the GeForce GTX 900 series, as that's also sort of blocked by NVIDIA Corp due to not publishing the PMU firmware for the GTX 900 series. So for now, it's the older Kepler cards that remain in best shape with this unofficial NVIDIA Linux graphics driver.

With the Nouveau Linux 4.10 benchmarking today each card was tested out-of-the-box with its default boot clock speeds, then for supported GPUs re-clocked to their 0f performance state (manually reclocking via the pstate file on debugfs, first switching to 07/0a pstate, then to the highest 0f pstate for the highest clock speeds supported), and lastly was re-clocking to the 0f pstate and having booted the system into the NvBoost mode that's new as of Linux 4.10. This is for allowing the GPU to hit its boost frequencies rather than the highest default clock speeds. With Linux 4.10, NvBoost can be turned on by setting nouveau.config=NvBoost=2 when booting the kernel.

The Kepler cards for testing were the GeForce GTX 650, GTX 680, GTX 760, and GTX 780 Ti. An original Maxwell GeForce GTX 750 Ti was also tested followed by the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 980 Ti that have 3D acceleration but with Linux 4.10 were bound to running at their boot clock frequencies. Maxwell presently on Mesa 13.1-dev is also limited to OpenGL 4.1 rather than OpenGL 4.3 with Fermi/Kepler. Ubuntu 16.04 LTS was upgraded to Linux 4.10 Git and Mesa 13.1-dev for the benchmarking today.

Nouveau Linux 4.10 Mesa 13.1-dev Benchmarks

A variety of OpenGL benchmarks were run for this article via the Phoronix Test Suite. Follow-up articles will provide a fresh look at the Kepler GPU performance on Nouveau relative to the proprietary NVIDIA driver, additionally some NVIDIA vs. AMD open-source GPU driver benchmarks.

Before getting to the results, I also wanted to pass along that I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't run into any display problems with Nouveau on Linux 4.10. While their mode-setting code just went through a big rework for Linux 4.10 when adding DisplayPort Multi-Stream Transport and atomic mode-setting, with the cards and display tested on DP/DVI, I hadn't run into any display regressions.

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