Testing 60+ Intel/AMD/NVIDIA GPUs On Linux With Open-Source Drivers
Written by Michael Larabel in Graphics Cards on 4 June 2014. Page 13 of 13. 21 Comments

Most of the results came in line with expectations when considering the various limitations of the open-source Linux graphics drivers.

To summarize the situation:

- The NVIDIA GeForce graphics results were slow due to the lack of re-clocking support by the open-source Nouveau driver; the proprietary NVIDIA vs. AMD driver tests coming out in a few days will be more interesting for NVIDIA Linux users... Nouveau is good enough if you're just a lightweight desktop user, but Linux gamers wouldn't be recommended to use Nouveau until re-clocking is sorted out.

- Aside from the re-clocking issue, the Nouveau support for Fermi and Kepler graphics processors were in good shape, sans a few issues with some of the tests. Nouveau developers are currently working on the open-source Maxwell support and hopefully that will be in good shape in the next few months.

- While many Linux enthusiasts talk up the open-source drivers for older GPU hardware support remaining and not be dropped like is the case every few years with the proprietary AMD and NVIDIA drivers, the quality of the support varies. For many of the older graphics processors tested, there were various OpenGL issues and regressions with these older GPUs as the developers focus more on the newer graphics cards and outside of Intel's Open-Source Technology Center there's little in the way of formal QA processes for the open-source Radeon/Nouveau drivers between kernel and Mesa releases. (Fortunately, that's another thing I'm working towards with the new test farm to try to better automatically detect and isolate regressions for some common hardware.) Of the 65 graphics cards that were tried, only 50 of them worked out well enough to deliver results.

- Features like OpenCL, CrossFire/SLI, overclocking, and advanced visual features are among the most apparent missing items for open-source Linux GPU drivers. There also isn't yet full OpenGL 4.x support by Mesa/Gallium3D.

- The open-source OpenGL support for the AMD Radeon R9 290 Hawaii series remains broken as it isn't yet a focus by AMD's open-source staff.

- The open-source Intel Linux graphics driver experience overall remains the best and least troublesome, with Intel also employing the most open-source developers working on the Linux graphics stack. The Haswell Linux performance is okay but I'm really excited about the potential for Broadwell.

- For most newer AMD Radeon and Intel HD Graphics hardware, you really can't go wrong. With the Radeon HD 7000 and Rx 200 series, the support is now nearly on-par with the RadeonSI Gallium3D driver compared to the mature Radeon R600 Gallium3D support with the Radeon HD 6000 series... If you find a good deal on a Radeon HD 6000 series GPU (outside of the HD 6900 series), that's where open-source fans will best likely be served, but aside from that the RadeonSI support is turning out quite nice.

Overall though, in the past ten years the open-source drivers have advanced a heck of a lot... In the days ahead will be the 2D acceleration benchmarks along with the GPU thermal / performance-per-Watt / power consumption data followed by the proprietary AMD and NVIDIA Linux graphics card benchmarks, which will also include some more interesting tests (Source Engine games included). If you appreciate all of this Linux hardware testing done at Phoronix, please consider subscribing to Phoronix Premium, providing a PayPal tip, or even a Bitcoin donation. You can follow Phoronix on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more of our great Linux and open-source content.

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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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