NVIDIA ION: Nouveau Competes With The NVIDIA R310 Driver
It's been quite a while since delivering any Linux graphics benchmarks of the NVIDIA ION, the platform for pairing integrated NVIDIA graphics with an Intel Atom processor for small form factor PCs. While NVIDIA's ION is basically defunct, for those still having a nettop or netbook that's ION-based, here's a performance comparison of the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics between the open-source Nouveau driver and the NVIDIA 310.xx binary Linux graphics driver.
From an ASRock ION 330HT-BD Blu-ray NetTop that has an Intel Atom 330 CPU with ASRock AMCP7AION-HT motherboard and the integrated GeForce 9400M graphics to the NVIDIA MCP79 chipset, these NVIDIA ION driver benchmarks were carried out. Delivering this NVIDIA Linux driver comparison was done on Ubuntu 12.10 with its stock open-source Nouveau stack (Linux 3.5 + Mesa 9.0 + xf86-video-nouveau 1.0.2) and then compared to the nvidia-experimental-310 driver package from the Ubuntu 12.10 archive (NVIDIA 310.14 with OpenGL 3.3).
At first the plan was to compare the NVIDIA ION graphics performance under Linux using several releases of Ubuntu to see how the performance has evolved back from 2010 through today, but Ubuntu 13.04 was having problems with this hardware and Nouveau. When using an Ubuntu 13.04 daily snapshot from this week, its Linux 3.8 kernel would produce a segmentation fault every time upon boot when loading the Nouveau driver and running into some show-stopping video memory issues with the Nouveau DRM in this latest Linux kernel. When not using the Nouveau driver (passing "nomodeset" to the kernel command-line), the Ubuntu 13.04 installation worked just fine.
A variety of Linux OpenGL benchmarks were run from this low-end Intel Atom + NVIDIA ION (GeForce 9400) system to see how well the open and closed-source drivers compare on this lackluster hardware. For a comparison on more exciting hardware, see the recent five-way NVIDIA GeForce comparison and the NVIDIA GeForce 600 Kepler open-source benchmarks. All benchmarking was handled in a fully automated and reproducible manner using the Phoronix Test Suite GPL software.