Open-Source NVIDIA Driver Approaches Stable State
In general, the GeForce 9 series support continued to be the most stable overall.
With those caveats noted, here's the benchmarks comparing the GeForce 8500GT, 8600GTS, 8800GT, 9500GT, 9600GSO, 9800GT, 9800GTX, GT 220, GTX 460, and GTX 550 Ti graphics cards between the proprietary NVIDIA Linux graphics drivers and the latest Nouveau code. The same system hardware and operating system was used throughout the testing process. The NVIDIA 295.33 was the binary blob in use while the Nouveau stack consisted of Mesa 8.1-devel git-c653287, xf86-video-nouveau Git DDX, and the Linux 3.4 development kernel. Aside from the caveats mentioned above, all graphics cards were re-clocked under Nouveau to their highest performance state so they should be at the same speed of the NVIDIA graphics driver. Differences are indicated in the system table above.
The game/test selection was limited to Linux-native OpenGL workloads that ran fine with both the Mesa/Gallium3D and proprietary drivers -- largely the older GL1/GL2 id Tech 3 era titles. All benchmarking was done via the Phoronix Test Suite.
There are a few surprises with some of the results so be sure to check out all of the pages. If you want to view the article ad-free and all results on a single page, there's Phoronix Premium.