The Graphics Cards On Open-Source Linux Drivers With The Best Value + Power Efficiency

Written by Michael Larabel in Graphics Cards on 15 September 2015 at 11:49 AM EDT. Page 1 of 7. 23 Comments.

While we routinely run performance comparisons at Phoronix looking at the OpenGL performance on the latest open-source Linux drivers with a variety of different graphics cards, in this article we're not focusing only on the raw performance but also what graphics cards on the latest Radeon/Nouveau drivers deliver the best power efficiency and value (performance-per-dollar). Here's a look at a mixture of modern AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards with Mesa 11.1-devel, LLVM 3.8 SVN, and the Linux 4.3 development kernel.

This article is intended to be complementary to the recent proprietary driver testing when looking at The NVIDIA GPUs Delivering The Best Performance Per Watt & Per Dollar For Linux Gamers and The Most Power Efficient & Best Value Of AMD GPUs For Linux Gamers. The performance-per-dollar benchmarking is being done using this new open-source module.

The test system was loading with Xubuntu 15.04 while having manually upgraded to the Linux 4.3.0-rc1 kernel, xf86-video-ati 7.5.99, LLVM 3.8.0 SVN, xf86-video-nouveau 1.0.11, and Mesa 11.1.0-devel Git master as of this week. The RadeonSI and NVC0 Gallium3D drivers expose OpenGL 4.1 while the R600g Gallium3D driver for the Radeon HD 6870 test run only shows off OpenGL 3.3 compliance at the moment.

The graphics cards for this open-source value/efficiency comparison were limited to the GPUs within my possesion and that run well on the open-source drivers. The tested hardware included on the AMD side the Radeon HD 6870, HD 7950, R9 285, R9 290, and R7 370. On the NVIDIA side was the GeForce GTX 650, GTX 680, GTX 760, and GTX 780 TI.

The NVIDIA proprietary driver comparison linked to above was much more extensive with NVIDIA having been supplying every one of their GPU models to Phoronix as review samples. However, unfortunately, there still isn't hardware acceleration support for the GeForce GTX 900 Maxwell graphics cards under Linux. Thus all of the latest GTX 900 GPUs couldn't be tested in this article (go see my other articles for the binary driver tests), the GTX 750 series hardware has hardware acceleration but there is no re-clocking support at all so the performance is piss poor, and so it basically left me with testing the older GTX 600/700 Kepler graphics cards on open-source. Of my Kepler graphics cards, only the GTX 650 can fully re-clock to its highest exposed performance state (0f) while the other tested hardware on Linux 4.3 could only reach the 0a performance state. For more information on the current Nouveau re-clocking/performance state, see Trying Out The Open-Source NVIDIA/Nouveau Driver Rework In Linux 4.3.

When it came to the AMD hardware testing for this open-source comparison, it was limited to the cards in my possesion, which are much more limited due to having had to buy nearly all of my AMD Radeon graphics cards in the past few years. The only other limitations on that side were the Radeon R9 270X being borked on the latest open-source driver code (as covered in another recent article) and the R9 Fury lacking re-clocking/power management support.

Driver Value Open-Source Linux

For the power efficiency benchmarking, the AC system power consumption was monitored by the Phoronix Test Suite using a WattsUp Pro power meter. When it came to using the performance-per-dollar module, that was used on the graphics cards where the cards are still available for purchase from retail channels like and NewEgg. For older graphics cards only available via second-hand/auction sites, their value calculations were ignored.

With that said, here's our latest open-source Linux graphics benchmarks.

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