NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980: The Best GPU For Linux Gamers

Written by Michael Larabel in Graphics Cards on 30 September 2014. Page 9 of 9. 20 Comments
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Linux Review

The average GPU temperature of the GeForce GTX 980 reference graphics card while running many different OpenGL workloads was 75 Celsius with a peak of 80 Celsius.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Linux Review

The average AC system power draw during this range of Linux OpenGL benchmarks was 208 Watts for the i7-5960X + GTX 980 configuration and a peak of 272 Watts. The GTX 980 is amazing with its power efficiency compared to the GTX 780 Ti average system power draw up at 285 Watts or the Radeon R9 290 at 260 Watts.

While the GeForce GTX 980 doesn't come cheap with a launch price of $549 USD, for Linux gamers wanting a trouble-free gaming experience with the absolute best performance, this top-end Maxwell card is your best bet for the months ahead.

If you're currently using the GeForce GTX 780 series, the cost isn't probably worth the upgrade at this time unless you're engaging in a lot of GPGPU workloads or conserving electricity is a big deal to you. If you're a GTX 680 owner, the upgrade to the GTX 980 will be noticeable if this graphics card fits your budget.

The GeForce GTX 980 raw performance is great but when factoring in the power efficiency of the Maxwell architecture, the GTX 980 becomes an amazing offering from NVIDIA.

Thanks to NVIDIA's continued commitment to Linux support, albeit closed-source, the GTX 980 works great under Linux. There was not a single crash or other issue encountered while using the NVIDIA 343.22 Linux driver with the GTX 980. All standard functionality is there with the only main area to knick them would be over the current lack of H.265 VDPAU support, but hopefully that's coming soon. It's also too bad there isn't MFAA, DSR, or other features exposed under Linux at this time.

When using the proprietary NVIDIA Linux driver you also really don't need to worry much about game compatibility with the latest Steam on Linux games thanks to most Linux game developers swearing by and using the NVIDIA blob. The AMD Catalyst Linux driver continues to improve with each release, but for right now the serious Linux gamers choose NVIDIA's driver. I think in 2015 the AMD Linux situation should become much more interesting.

Also worth reiterating was the phenomenal OpenCL performance of the GeForce GTX 980 on Linux. In a follow-up article I'll have more GPGPU benchmarks.

About the only situation where I wouldn't recommend the GeForce GTX 980 to Linux users would be to those explicitly swearing by the open-source GPU drivers. The GeForce GTX 980 will be supported by Nouveau in due time, but overall their Maxwell support is still limited and requires generating your own firmware/microcode files, etc. There's also no Maxwell re-clocking yet with Nouveau and even for Fermi/Kepler the re-clocking is still in poor shape so you're limited to running the GPU at its boot clock speeds that tend to be very low. It's on the open-source driver front is where AMD has the upper-hand on Linux while NVIDIA doesn't remain too concerned about open-source driver support on the desktop -- though their relationship with Nouveau is improving.

Stay tuned for more GeForce GTX 980 Maxwell Linux benchmarks on Phoronix in the days and weeks ahead. If you have any specific GTX 980 Linux test requests let me know via Twitter. I'll also work on getting a GeForce GTX 970 for a Linux review as this graphics card should be especially interesting to more Linux gamers given its $329 launch price.

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About The Author
Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.