Nouveau vs. NVIDIA GeForce Linux Performance At The End Of 2014

Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 30 December 2014 at 12:00 PM EST. Page 1 of 4. 8 Comments.

Complementing yesterday's Radeon Gallium3D vs. Catalyst Linux benchmarks that compared AMD's open and closed-source Linux graphics drivers using the latest code at the end of 2014, here's similar benchmarks done in comparing the open-source Nouveau driver against the closed-source NVIDIA Linux graphics driver when testing several GeForce GPUs.

Testing for this article was done using the same Core i7 4790K Haswell system as used by the other recent Linux graphics tests. Ubuntu 14.10 x86_64 was running on the system with the Unity 7.3.1 desktop and X.Org Server 1.16.0. The open-source Nouveau driver consisted of the Linux 3.18.0 kernel, Mesa 10.5.0-devel, and xf86-video-nouveau DDX Git. The proprietary NVIDIA Linux driver used was the latest NVIDIA 346.22 beta driver release from earlier this month.

The tested NVIDIA hardware for this article were the:

- GeForce GTX 680
- GeForce GTX 760
- GeForce GTX 780 Ti

This comparison is much smaller than the AMD tests due to the Nouveau driver being in a less mature state. Nouveau has only basic re-clocking support and for this testing the cards were manually re-clocked with Nouveau to their highest performance state (0a for all tested Kepler cards before issues would occur), which is still well below the graphics card's rated core / memory frequencies. Additionally, this comparison was limited by the GeForce GTX 750 Maxwell support in Nouveau still requiring the binary driver's microcode/firmware to initialize the GPU for hardware acceleration. The GeForce GTX 970/980 new Maxwell GPUs also couldn't be tested since there isn't any hardware acceleration support with Nouveau and that's currently blocked by NVIDIA providing their new signed firmware images.

The Nouveau driver still has a way to go but at least progress is being made and NVIDIA has started making some open-source contributions, albeit on the mobile side for getting the GK20A / Tegra K1 graphics working nicely on the Nouveau driver stack.

NVIDIA vs. Nouveau Linux GeForce 2014

All of the OpenGL benchmarks between the competing drivers were carried out in a fully-automated and reproducible manner using the open-source Phoronix Test Suite benchmarking software. As usual, if you appreciate all of this Linux hardware end-of-year testing done over the holidays, please consider subscribing to Phoronix Premium or making a PayPal tip if enjoying this article.

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