Benchmarks Of The Open-Source Intel/AMD/NVIDIA Drivers, 11 Years On

Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 5 June 2015 at 10:50 AM EDT. Page 1 of 5. 9 Comments.

In celebrating 11 years since starting Phoronix to cover the Linux hardware scene, here's some fresh benchmarks of the open-source Intel / AMD / NVIDIA Linux graphics drivers. Various GPUs were tested atop Ubuntu when moving to Git with the Linux 4.1 kernel, Mesa 10.7-devel, and LLVM 3.7 SVN.

Similar to the article earlier this week comparing many AMD/NVIDIA graphics cards with the latest proprietary drivers, the Phoronix birthday article today is looking at the performance of various graphics cards on the very latest open-source driver code. In the days ahead I'll have another historical look at the open-source Linux graphics drivers over the past many years as another Phoronix birthday special.

This article isn't as large as the proprietary driver comparison article earlier this week for a few reasons: various issues encountered with the open-source NVIDIA (Nouveau) driver comparison; the GeForce GTX 900 series don't yet have working open-source hardware acceleration; the Radeon R9 285 Tonga wasn't tested due to not testing the new AMDGPU driver support since that driver isn't landing until Linux 4.2 and requires branched versions of Mesa/DRM. The AMDGPU Linux testing will come in a separate article.

On the Intel side for testing was the Intel HD Graphics 4600 from the Core i7 4790K Haswell CPU used for testing. The tested AMD hardware was the Radeon HD 6570, HD 6870, HD 6950, HD 7950, and R9 290 based on available hardware. The Radeon HD 7850 and R9 270X had to be left out since they ran into mode-setting issues on this system with the current driver. The tested NVIDIA hardware was the GeForce GTX 650, GTX 680, GTX 750, GTX 760, and GTX 780 Ti. Some of the Nouveau issues encountered include:

On Nouveau with some of the NVIDIA graphics cards, they would hang at the Xonotic loading screen...

Some other NVIDIA GPUs with Nouveau made it into running Xonotic, but would hang later on in the game benchmark. However, some of the GPUs on Nouveau managed to run the entire benchmark test without failure.

While Nouveau has working hardware acceleration for the GeForce GTX 750 series finally, there remains some odd text corruption issues for the Maxwell hardware on this reverse-engineered driver.

With Mesa 10.7-devel, all of the GPUs tested on Nouveau NVC0 Gallium3D encountered the window borders/decorations not rendering correctly under Unity 7 + Compiz on Ubuntu 15.04.

One of the biggest limitations of Nouveau remains and that's the lack of proper re-clocking support. In today's testing, I attempted to re-clock the graphics cards that support it with Nouveau, but most of the time they couldn't be statically re-clocked to their highest performance state. Most Kepler GPUs can be re-clocked to the mid-level (0a) but would lock-up and produce artifacts as illustrated above when attempting to hit the highest performance state for the video memory. Of the GPUs tested, only the GeForce GTX 650 was able to hit the 0f (highest) state and run without failing. Nouveau developers have been working on re-clocking for years but it's an incredibly large task without support or technical documentation from Nouveau. It seems unlikely that this year the feature will be accomplished, especially for seeing any dynamic re-clocking out-of-the-box.

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