Nouveau For A $10 NVIDIA Graphics Card?
Written by Michael Larabel in Graphics Cards on 26 January 2012. Page 4 of 13. 13 Comments

The XFX GeForce 9600GSO 512MB (PV-T96O-YHFC) graphics card has a simple heatsink-fan solution, but it is disturbingly noisy. This fan runs at a constant speed, regardless of using the official NVIDIA driver or not, and can easily compete with the most high-end graphics cards when it comes to noise levels. In fact, it is worse since most of the high-end NVIDIA/AMD graphics cards at least dynamically adjust based upon the temperature/load using PWM. If you are not to be running the graphics card within a well-built chassis or intend to replace it with an after-market heatsink (such as the ARCTIC Accelero Xtreme Plus II), the XFX graphics card is likely to be considered too noisy.

The binary NVIDIA Linux driver supports SLI, but there is currently no multi-GPU support within the Nouveau driver. The binary NVIDIA Linux driver (290 series) and Nouveau (Linux 3.2 + Mesa 8.0) both supported the card well for core functionality during this testing.

With the binary NVIDIA Linux driver, 1024MB of video memory was detected by the blob while there is only 512MB of memory on the XFX GeForce 9600GSO... Presumably this is due to the NVIDIA driver allocating some additional shared memory within the main system RAM, as I've seen this reporting also happen on a GeForce 8500GT and other select graphics cards. The PCI device ID on the GeForce 9600GSO is 0x0610.

The thermal settings information from the NVIDIA Settings panel reported the XFX fan to be running at 100% (while idling) and being a variable control type, but never during the testing did the fan speed actually decrease. With the Nouveau driver it was also running at 100% speed the entire time, which was extremely noisy. This is among the noisiest graphics card fans that I have ever across, among the dozens of graphics cards I actively test, when the GPU is running with a suitable driver.

The NVIDIA PowerMizer information reports that the graphics card only has one performance level: 500MHz graphics core clock, 900MHz memory clock, and 1250MHz processor/shader clock. Fortunately, thanks to only having one performance level, the Nouveau driver on Linux 3.2 was able to detect it too, but based upon the results, there were still clocking problems. "[drm] nouveau 0000:03:00.0: 1 available performance level(s) [drm] nouveau 0000:03:00.0: 3: core 500MHz shader 1250MHz memory 900MHz voltage 1000mV fanspeed 100%"

The binary NVIDIA Linux driver exposes OpenGL 3.3.0 support for the 9600GSO, which is the latest Khronos OpenGL specification supported by the hardware. The Nouveau Gallium3D driver advertises OpenGL 2.1 / GLSL 1.20, but hopefully the OpenGL 3.0 / GLSL 1.30 support will be here soon for the GeForce 9 series and eventually will catch-up with the rest of the OpenGL 3.1/3.2/3.3 specifications.

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