NVIDIA Optimus On Ubuntu 13.10 Linux vs. Windows 8.1

Written by Michael Larabel in Graphics Cards on 17 December 2013. Page 1 of 5. 19 Comments

With having picked up an ASUS Zenbook Prime UX32VD recently that features Intel HD Graphics 4000 and the discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 620M graphics, I decided to run some benchmarks seeing how the currently available Linux solutions for supporting NVIDIA's "Optimus" technology are comparing to Windows 8.1. The benchmarks in this article compare the performance of this Core i7 3517U ultrabook between its stock operating system to Ubuntu 13.10 with its stock open-source packages, to using DRI PRIME, and then lastly using the "Bumblebee" solution with the NVIDIA binary driver.

The Zenbook Prime (UX32VD-DS72) I have been benchmarking since the beginning of the month and it features an Intel Core i7 3517U processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, dual 128GB SSDs capable of RAID 0, Intel HD Graphics 4000 + NVIDIA GeForce GT 620M 1GB graphics, and a 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080 display. Many benchmarks from this powerful yet petite Intel ultrabook are forthcoming on Phoronix as we see how Linux performs in the growing ultrabook world.

For getting the Zenbook Prime Linux benchmarks going, I carried out a set of OpenGL benchmarks on Microsoft Windows 8.1 -- the stock operating system shipped by the device. All available software/driver updates were applied at the time of testing. With all updates in place and stock settings on the Windows ultrabook, I proceeded to run the benchmarks using the Phoronix Test Suite.

Following the Windows tests, I wiped the drives and proceeded to install Ubuntu 13.10. With Ubuntu 13.10 in its stock configuration and using the open-source Intel/NVIDIA drivers, I proceeded to run the benchmarks from the OS with its Mesa 9.2.1 software and Linux 3.11 kernel. Following that testing, with the same software I then ran the Phoronix Test Suite when setting DRI_PRIME=1 so that the discrete NVIDIA graphics would be activated over the Intel "Ivy Bridge" HD Graphics 4000.

Finally, I installed and setup Bumblebee as the community project for trying to support NVIDIA Optimus on Linux. For more details on Bumblebee see the Ubuntu Wiki page. With Bumblebee installed and using the proprietary NVIDIA driver, I ran the Phoronix Test Suite under optirun for using the high performance NVIDIA GPU on the binary driver.

ASUS Zenbook - Windows 8.1 vs. Ubuntu 13.10

While laptops/ultrabooks with Intel + NVIDIA (or AMD) graphics have been out for years, the Linux support for them is still far less than ideal. On the open-source drivers there is now DRI PRIME for manually activating the alternative GPU when using the very latest X.Org/Mesa/kernel packages. However, the power management for these systems is less than ideal as is the work-flow -- if telling a Windows gamer convert to use Bumblebee or set DRI_PRIME=1 or deal with XRandR providers when running their favorite game, they would likely be confused or simply defect back to Windows.

On the following pages are these initial benchmarks completed on the ASUS Zenbook Prime using the Phoronix Test Suite. Plenty more Ubuntu tests of the UX32VD-DS72 are forthcoming on Phoronix, including power consumption numbers and other metrics.

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