Vulkan vs. OpenGL Performance For Linux Games
Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Gaming on 14 July 2018. Page 1 of 10. 20 Comments

It has been a while since last publishing some Linux GPU driver benchmarks focused explicitly on the OpenGL vs. Vulkan performance, but that changed today with a fresh look at the performance between these two Khronos graphics APIs when tested with AMD and NVIDIA hardware on the latest RadeonSI/RADV and NVIDIA Linux graphics drivers.

Since last delivering some focused OpenGL vs. Vulkan graphics benchmark results months ago, both the Radeon and NVIDIA Linux drivers have continued to mature. There have been countless RADV driver optimizations for this open-source Radeon Vulkan driver, especially for GFX9/Vega hardware, and as covered in countless Phoronix articles. The RadeonSI OpenGL driver though has continued improving too. For this Radeon benchmarking, tests were done with the Linux 4.17.5 stable kernel and using Mesa 18.2-dev this week as of git-ccb8309516.

On the NVIDIA side, there have been Vulkan driver improvements too. In particular, the latest NVIDIA Vulkan work has been the roll-out of their new Vulkan SPIR-V compiler introduced in the NVIDIA 396 driver series. Testing on the NVIDIA side was with this week's 396.24.10 beta driver that sports the latest extension work from Vulkan 1.1.80.

Given Vulkan is particularly relevant for lower to mid-range processors, for this round of testing the benchmarks were done on a modest AMD Ryzen 5 1400 system that is quad-core / eight threads and features a 3.2GHz base clock with 3.4GHz boost clock. Continuing with the modest/mainstream look, the graphics cards used for testing were the Radeon RX 560 4GB and GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics cards. Ubuntu 18.04 LTS was running on this system with the GNOME Shell 3.28.2 and Linux 4.17.5 kernel with X.Org Server 1.19.6.

The OpenGL vs. Vulkan benchmarks were done with the available benchmark-friendly Linux games supporting both graphics APIs, including Dota 2, Mad Max, Dawn of War 3, and Serious Sam 3 BFE Fusion. Tests were done at a variety of resolutions/settings as well as monitoring the CPU usage during the benchmarking process. For those interested in RX 560 ~ GTX 1050 level performance on a Ryzen 5, following those comparisons are also a look at some of the other Vulkan-only recent Linux game releases including F1 2017, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Thrones of Britannia. Moving forward given that most of the high profile Linux game releases are ports by Feral Interactive, they have been focusing on Vulkan exclusively for Linux given that it has the potential of higher performance and mapping nicer from newer games under Windows now focusing upon Direct3D 12. All of these Linux game benchmarks were carried out in a fully-automated and reproducible manner using the Phoronix Test Suite.

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