10 Reasons Linux Gamers Might Want To Pass On The NVIDIA RTX 20 Series
Written by Michael Larabel in NVIDIA on 5 September 2018 at 05:37 AM EDT. 118 Comments
NVIDIA --
Continuing on from the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 expectations on Linux shared earlier this week, here's a list of ten reasons why Linux gamers might want to pass on these soon-to-launch graphics cards from NVIDIA.

The list are various reasons you may want to think twice on these graphics cards -- at least not for pre-ordering any of them right away. Not all of them are specific to the Turing GPUs per se but also some NVIDIA Linux infrastructure problems or general Linux gaming challenges, but here's the list for those curious. And, yes, a list is coming out soon with reasons Linux users may want to consider the RTX 20 series -- well, mostly for developers / content creators it may make sense.


Our Linux benchmarks of the GeForce RTX 2080 when available at least will clear up a lot more about the state of Turing for Linux, but so far it seems the launch is much more exciting on the Windows side...

- The most obvious reason some Linux users immediately write-off NVIDIA... Lack of open-source driver support. If you want to fully leverage the GeForce RTX 20 "Turing" hardware or even Maxwell and Pascal graphics cards, it's really only viable using the closed-source proprietary graphics driver for maximum performance and features. There is no open-source Turing support today and even if there was it will likely be plagued by the same Maxwell2/Pascal limitations of no re-clocking support -- meaning the GPU on the open-source driver is stuck to performing at the very low clock frequencies programmed by the hardware at boot/initialization time. It's still with the GeForce 600/700 "Kepler" graphics cards as the last generation having decent open-source Nouveau support at this time. It used to be that if you preferred open-source driver support, you had to sacrifice a lot of the performance/gaming potential, but thanks to AMD and Valve that turned around over the past few years that there are quite competent open-source driver offerings on the red side.

- It will be a while before seeing RTX/ray-tracing Linux games... There are a number of Windows games forthcoming that will ship with NVIDIA RTX technology for ray-tracing on these new graphics cards, but nothing imminent coming to Linux. In fact, NVIDIA has yet to publish their preliminary Vulkan ray-tracing extensions. It will likely be a long while before seeing any RTX/ray-tracing games natively on Linux or even for having Wine/SteamPlay working with any sort of RTX portability layer. RTX is one of the main selling points for Turing.

- Turing appears to be a fairly incremental upgrade outside of RTX. NVIDIA's references to the great performance capabilities of the RTX 20 series have almost entirely been for games utilizing RTX ray-tracing... Outside of that context, it's looking like Turing will offer just modest performance improvements over Pascal. For Linux users with not seeing ray-tracing games anytime soon, these new graphics cards lose a lot of the excitement. But our benchmarks will see soon enough.

- The GeForce GTX 1080 series already runs very well with all current generation Linux games. The GTX 1080 / GTX 1080 Ti easily runs all current native Linux games with ease, unless going for like demanding visuals at 4K... It's just been recently that Rise of the Tomb Raider was released for Linux while Windows gamers are already having the RTX-enabled Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the horizon. On Linux, the Radeon RX Vega 64 currently comes in line with the GeForce GTX 1070 for the most part.

- Poor Wayland support. While NVIDIA has attempted to get Wayland compositors to implement EGLStreams in order to support their current binary driver, few of them have. NVIDIA is still pursuing the new "Unix device memory allocation API" that could succeed EGLStreams/GBM, but after years of talk, it still has yet to really materialize. It will likely be next year at the very earliest before seeing any real work on a possible new API with adoption by the main Wayland compositors... NVIDIA's proprietary driver is the main inhibitor right now to better Wayland adoption on the Linux desktop.

- The Linux driver support for Turing is unclear. NVIDIA hasn't publicly made any Linux comments or showcases relating to these new graphics cards yet. As outlined in my earlier article, NVIDIA seems not interested in Linux coverage of Turing... We'll see at the end of the month if there is a real reason why, beyond the beta driver state.

- These graphics cards are incredibly expensive. Compared to their predecessors or the RX Vega line-up, it's quite high. The GeForce RTX 2080 starts out at $799 USD while the RTX 2080 Ti starts out at $1,199 USD... For Linux gamers at this point that's likely very hard to justify.

- SLI is next to worthless on Linux. With the RTX 2080 series NVIDIA introduced the new "NVLink SLI-ready bridge" for connecting two of these graphics cards. Multiple NVIDIA graphics cards on Linux is fine for OpenCL/CUDA compute, but for gaming is largely worthless. NVIDIA has supported SLI on Linux for over a decade but few Linux games benefit. With Vulkan there are the multi-device extensions, but no Linux games/applications currently supporting the functionality.

- VR Linux support is still in rough shape. One of the other areas where the extra horsepower and capabilities of the RTX 20 series makes sense is for virtual reality (VR). Unfortunately, the SteamVR Linux support is still in rough shape and with few titles available. NVIDIA's driver is better off than the Radeon side (though the latest open-source bits should now be in much better shape than before, still on my TODO for testing), for Linux VR gaming there isn't much to get excited about currently.

- Pascal prices will almost surely drop when Turing is widely available. That will make for a much better value out of the GeForce GTX 1000 series. As already mentioned and shown routinely in various Phoronix benchmarks, the GeForce GTX 1080 series runs great with current Linux games... Pick up a GeForce GTX 1080 today and by the time more demanding Linux games are here, hopefully those games will support multi-device Vulkan for rendering and you can have another GTX 1080 at even better value if needed.

That's the quick list outside of my detailed pre-launch Linux analysis. A similar list of the pros for the RTX 20 series on Linux will be coming out shortly. It will certainly be interesting to see after 20 September how the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20 series works on Linux... If you appreciate all of our daily Linux hardware testing, consider showing your support by joining Phoronix Premium or making a PayPal tip.

Update: Published now are also 10 of the positives for RTX 20.

About The Author
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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 10,000 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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