Trying Out Nouveau's Accelerated Pascal Support With DRM-Next, Mesa 17.2-dev

Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 25 April 2017. Page 1 of 3. 20 Comments

One of the many features to look forward to with Linux 4.12 is the Nouveau DRM driver providing initial 3D/accelerated support for GeForce GTX 1050/1060/1070/1080 "Pascal" graphics cards. Here are some benchmarks of this open-source NVIDIA driver support for these latest-generation GPUs compared to the proprietary driver.

Up to now the Nouveau DRM driver has just supported kernel mode-setting for the GTX 1050/1060/1070/1080 series without any 3D acceleration. The blocker has been the signed firmware support wasn't released by NVIDIA, but as previously covered, the firmware binaries are now public and the DRM changes are queued in DRM-Next. So if you pair Linux 4.12 with a recent Mesa Git snapshot, you can have working 3D support for these few month old GPUs.

But before getting too excited, this initial support comes without any re-clocking support, similar to the Maxwell GTX 900 series still lacking re-clocking support. Without being able to re-clock the GPU core and memory, the frequencies are stuck to what they were programmed by the video BIOS at boot time -- which for newer GPUs, is quite low. So don't expect much out of the GTX 900/1000 series on Linux 4.12 for any real gaming, as it's quite low as the benchmarks will show.

I've been testing DRM-Next for 4.12 with a GTX 1050, GTX 1060, GTX 1070, GTX 1080, and GTX 1080 Ti. The testing has worked out fine and at least the 3D acceleration is faster than LLVMpipe so a composited desktop at 4K is at least fairly fluid, just not fast enough for any intense gaming or other demanding OpenGL workloads.

Aside from no re-clocking on any of these GPUs, the only other limitation to point out right now was the GTX 1080 Ti was very buggy. As you can see from the screenshot, there were rendering issues and also hangs. So for this article I went without trying to benchmark the GTX 1080 Ti after running into these problems, but the other Pascal cards were happy.

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