NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 On Linux
Written by Michael Larabel in Graphics Cards on 23 August 2010. Page 11 of 11. 122 Comments

Testing of this NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 768MB graphics card under Linux was quite interesting. The overall GeForce GTX 400 / Fermi support for Linux is in quite good standing, assuming you are using the proprietary NVIDIA driver. The only real issue we have with the Fermi Linux driver is the current lack of overclocking support, but it is likely to come in a future driver update.

In terms of the OpenGL performance between the GeForce GTX 460 and the other tested graphics cards, the GeForce GTX 460 768MB at stock speeds was a close performer to that of the ATI Radeon HD 4890. At 2560 x 1600 and in the most demanding tests (Unigine Heaven) the ATI hardware had come out slightly ahead, which actually is a somewhat different outcome than most of the NVIDIA GF104 results published under Microsoft Windows. If needing to generalize the Linux performance situation, the Radeon HD 4890 and GeForce GTX 460 performed about the same. Aside from the OpenGL quantitative performance, the NVIDIA driver's rendering was trouble-free where with the Catalyst 10.7 Linux driver there continues to be an odd regression in Lightsmark, running Unigine Heaven with ATI Radeon HD 5000 series hardware is regressed badly, and XvBA with Evergreen hardware is also in very bad shape. If video playback on Linux is critical to you and a very common task, VDPAU with NVIDIA hardware is certainly the best approach.

Lastly, for the Linux enthusiast there is the open-source driver support to consider in making your next graphics card purchase. AMD has an open-source strategy in place where they provide some documentation (though not nearly as much documentation is making its way out for recent generations after their initial 2008 push), they have a small but dedicated group of developers working on publishing these specifications and contributing code to the Mesa/Gallium3D and DRM and DDX components, and the open-source ATI driver is also commonly worked on by their partners at Red Hat and formerly at Novell. Even though with this official backing from AMD, their open-source support isn't on the same level as their Catalyst driver nor anywhere close and it's not even close to "same day" support as when the hardware launches for even kernel mode-setting support, but at least AMD makes progress -- AMD's also looking to improve their turnaround time with the ATI Radeon HD 6000 series. NVIDIA, on the other hand, backs no open-source strategy at all nor do they support the Nouveau project, which is left to reverse-engineer NVIDIA's driver.

While this is the first chance we have had to look at the GeForce GTX 400 "Fermi" hardware under Linux, we are rather pleased with it from the hardware perspective. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 768MB graphics cards, such as the Palit NE5TX460FHD79 that we reviewed today, are currently selling for around $200 USD. On the ATI side selling in the same price-range is the ATI Radeon HD 4890, ATI Radeon HD 5830, or there is the ATI Radeon HD 5770 that is selling for around $150~160 USD. If purchasing any of these graphics cards, be sure to use our shopping links for NewEgg and Amazon shopping links to help support our extensive Linux hardware testing that we do (you can also subscribe to Phoronix Premium).

If you are most concerned about having open-source support, the Radeon HD 4890 would be your best bet due to ATI's open-source support and while it may not be the most optimal drive at the moment, it is better than bringing nothing to the table. With the Radeon HD 4890 you get comparable performance to the GeForce GTX 460 but the ability to use an open-source software stack with kernel mode-setting and a classic Mesa 3D driver and the still-emerging Gallium3D driver for ATI R600/700 hardware -- while going with an Evergreen class GPU right now you'll be waiting for the open-source support to improve. If video playback though plays heavy into your video card upgrade decisions, most any NVIDIA graphics card supporting PureVideo HD will do you best when paired with their proprietary driver that bears the Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix. Lastly, with the OpenGL performance and quality between the two companies, it depends upon the games or applications you use and the specific hardware you are considering for purchase. Sans any views on open-source, if I had to choose between the GeForce GTX 460 and the ATI Radeon HD 4890 or a similar graphics card for a Linux system, it would be the NVIDIA Fermi solution due to better video acceleration and comparable Linux performance while the ATI Catalyst Linux drivers as of late seem to be prone to regressions (in the OpenGL stack and elsewhere) that lead to Unigine Heaven not even working with their flagship consumer hardware.

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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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