NVIDIA Mobile: Nouveau vs. The Linux Binary Driver

Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 7 July 2013 at 03:19 AM EDT. Page 1 of 4. 8 Comments.

With the Linux 3.10 kernel having been pulled recently into the Ubuntu 13.10 archive, new benchmarks have been conducted comparing the open-source Nouveau driver against the binary NVIDIA 319.32 Linux graphics driver on a NVIDIA-powered laptop.

This is just some quick weekend testing comparing the current state of Nouveau vs. the blob on Ubuntu 13.10 in its current development form. Ubuntu 13.10 right now is still running the Unity 7.0.1 desktop over an X.Org Server and is shipping the Linux 3.10 kernel with Mesa 9.1.4. Mesa 9.2 will be pulled in prior to the official Ubuntu 13.10 release, which is why this weekend testing is just a quick one-laptop benchmarking session.

Both the Nouveau and NVIDIA graphics drivers were tested in their "stock" configuration on Ubuntu 13.10. The Nouveau driver still lacks dynamic re-clocking support "out of the box" even with the Linux 3.11 kernel. After running the stock tests, Nouveau re-clocking was attempted to force the NVIDIA Quadro discrete GPU to its highest power state. However, with Linux 3.10, the re-clocking still ends in a miserable mess for this Lenovo ThinkPad W510 laptop:

Aside from the re-clocking failure (and thus lower performance and no dynamic re-clocking for maximum power savings), everything else had went smooth for the Nouveau driver on the W510 laptop with the Intel Core i7 720QM CPU and NVIDIA Quadro FX 880M graphics.

Ubuntu 13.10 Linux 3.10 NVIDIA Testing

The clocking difference was the Nouveau driver using the boot frequencies of 405MHz for its core and 324MHz for the dedicated video memory versus 550MHz for the core and 790MHz for its rated frequencies and the speed where the NVIDIA binary driver is able to control the hardware.

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