The Open-Source NVIDIA Driver Will End Out 2019 In Poor Shape Still For Newer GPUs
Written by Michael Larabel in Nouveau on 24 November 2019 at 07:49 AM EST. 37 Comments
NOUVEAU --
For the imminent Linux 5.5 kernel cycle we have talked about exciting AMD Radeon and Intel graphics driver changes on deck from Navi OverDrive overclocking to more Intel Tiger Lake and Jasper Lake bits, AMDGPU HDCP support, and other features queued. But what about the open-source NVIDIA "Nouveau" Linux driver?

Sadly, it's been several kernel cycles since there has been anything major to report. In fact, as it stands right now, there haven't been any changes queues from Nouveau into DRM-Next. Earlier this week Red Hat's Ben Skeggs did push a few bits of new code to the skeggsb/nouveau repository but that work hasn't appeared in DRM-Next as of writing nor any indication on the mailing list.

That work though is primarily fixes anyhow with just a handful of alterations to the KMS code, a fix for atomic code-paths on pre-NV50 GPUs, the built-in firmware handling tweak for some Kepler and early Maxwell parts, and just other routine maintenance.

As we approach the end of 2019, sadly, the Nouveau driver is still not practical for NVIDIA hardware newer than the GeForce GTX 600/700 "Kepler" series (or GeForce GTX 750 Maxwell series). The GeForce GTX 900 Maxwell series does have 3D support but no re-clocking yet so the dGPUs cannot be re-clocked and for that they are stuck to running at their (very low) boot clock frequencies. Pascal and Volta GPUs are in a similar boat of being crippled and that's likely to remain that way if/when NVIDIA releases the PMU firmware so the Nouveau drivers can begin working on re-clocking for the newer cards. For NVIDIA's latest-generation Turing graphics processors, there is only kernel mode-setting support right now without any 3D acceleration as there NVIDIA hasn't released any of the necessary signed firmware files.

So as it stands right now the GeForce GTX 700 series is still the best for Nouveau as when manually re-clocked (no dynamic re-clocking yet based on load) there is the ability to have decent performance with the Nouveau Gallium3D OpenGL driver -- no working Vulkan driver yet.

So there won't be any exciting Nouveau changes for Linux 5.5 but we can hold out hope there will be some sort of open-source miracle in 2020.
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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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