NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 950 Is A $150+ Bargain For Linux Gamers
Written by Michael Larabel in Graphics Cards on 20 August 2015. Page 9 of 9. 23 Comments

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950 ran past the AMD competition on Linux with the lone exceptions being the brand new DiRT Showdown port to Linux and Xonotic. On the OpenCL side is also the other area where Catalyst is at least able to run strong on Linux. In some of the OpenGL tests, the GeForce GTX 950 on Linux was competing with the much more expensive Radeon R9 290. Compared to the Catalyst driver, the NVIDIA Linux driver will also work with more Steam Linux games than what could be tested, such as illustrated in the recent port of Shadow of Mordor on Linux. NVIDIA also has the advantage of their modern Maxwell architecture being much more efficient than AMD's older, re-branded GCN tech in the Rx 300 (non-Fury) series.

About the only case that I can't recommend the GeForce GTX 950 for when it comes to Linux is if you explicitly only want open-source driver support. Since there isn't yet any accelerated GeForce GTX 900 series support by Nouveau, you can only really use the proprietary NVIDIA driver. This situation probably won't change for some months, at least if wanting a re-clocked, performant GPU, etc. However, if you are fine with simply wanting the most featureful and performant driver and not caring about the driver's software license, NVIDIA is the answer. The only other exception would be for OpenCL, but if that's the case, chances are you'd want a higher-end graphics card to make better use of GPU computing.

When it comes to open-source Linux drivers, even on the AMD side it took more than a half-year for them to deliver AMD Radeon R9 285 support due to the new AMDGPU driver stack and even there for dedicated GPUs it doesn't yet support re-clocking. The Radeon R9 Fury open-source support is coming to the next Linux kernel but likewise is initially limited to no re-clocking support. Nevertheless, the AMD open-source driver remains years ahead of the open-source NVIDIA driver for GeForce GPUs. Aside from in the Tegra space, NVIDIA remains seemingly uninterested (or at least lacking the business justification) in advancing their open-source driver desktop support. In the desktop space NVIDIA has largely just provided technical answers and some documentation to the Nouveau developers while they still wait on the signed Maxwell firmware in order to ship GTX 900 series open-source hardware acceleration code. For those curious about the open-source AMD/NVIDIA driver state on the Linux desktop can see last month's Open-Source AMD/NVIDIA GPU Tests On Linux 4.1 + Mesa 10.7-dev, among many other routine Phoronix articles.

As long as you're fine with using NVIDIA's official Linux driver, the GeForce GTX 950 is a sub-$200 beauty and its OpenGL performance and Linux support makes it a bargain. For starting out at $159 USD you can get quite decent 1080p performance for casual gamers and is certainly more than sufficient for any composited Linux desktop environment and other day-to-day tasks. If you are a gamer interested in very capable 1080p performance (and for some games, 4K) and aren't wanting to spend a whole paycheck on your graphics card, the GeForce GTX 950 drives a bargain and will work great for Linux / SteamOS gaming. With this EVGA GeForce GTX 950 FTW graphics card that's factory-overclocked coming in at just $180 USD, it will hit a good nerve for both Windows and Linux gamers. While this EVGA model is around $20 more, there is better equipped cooling with this graphics card and the 17% increase in clock frequency.

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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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