The Test

We will run a few different configurations of GPUs and operating systems just to give everyone a point of reference. The graphics cards that we have selected today should strongly correlate the same market segments - the Radeon X800 Pro and the GeForce 6800 generally both run at or over $300. Unfortunately, there are very few cards still available today that compete on the 9800 Pro level, so we were limited to including a GeForce 5700 Ultra for comparison (both cards run around $200.

Performance Test Configuration
Processor(s): AMD Athlon 64 3800+ (130nm, 2.4GHz, 512KB L2 Cache)
RAM: 2 x 512MB Mushkin PC-3200 CL2 (400MHz)
Motherboard(s): MSI K8T Neo2 (Socket 939)
Memory Timings: Default
Video Card(s): GeForce 6800 128MB
GeForceFX 5700 Ultra 128MB
Radeon X800 Pro 256MB
Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB
Operating System(s): SUSE 9.1 Professional kernel 2.6.8-14-default x86
SUSE 9.1 Professional kernel 2.6.8-14-default x86_64
Driver: fglrx 3.12.0
fglrx 3.14.6
NVIDIA 1.0-6111
NVIDIA 1.0-6629
Compiler: GCC 3.3.3

We will try to demonstrate the performance between the 64-bit and 32-bit kernel on Linux with the two driver sets. The NVIDIA driver that we are looking at today is already a month old - but most Linux users take a very conservative approach to inserting binary code into their kernels and we wouldn't be surprised if a strong majority of users have not updated to this release yet. ATI's 3.14.6 driver is also about a month old, which gave us some lead time to test the newest build of Doom3 with the newest drivers.

You will notice the test configuration that we are running looks a little old - SUSE 9.2 has been available for a few weeks now. However, since we had some of these benchmarks completed in October on the SUSE 9.1 platform, we opted to continue this analysis with the same platform to illustrate the differences on a stable platform. Feel free to check out the previous analysis test page here. The kernel used in this benchmark is still fairly current, but the userland is older.

Our test methodology is very straight forward, since we will only be benchmarking three games for this analysis. For Enemy Territory, Unreal Tournament and Doom3, we will run a basic set of timedemos along with two dimensional data from the AnandTech FrameGetter utility that we unveiled several weeks ago. We will be watching for specific fluctuations between the two driver sets on each video card. Furthermore, we will use Unreal Tournament 2004 in 64-bit and 32-bit mode to compare performance between the two sets of drivers in 64-bit mode. Unfortunately, there are still no 64-bit ATI binaries, so those tests are limited to NVIDIA only.

Index Wolfenstein Enemy Territory
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  • KristopherKubicki - Friday, December 17, 2004 - link

    Pannenkoek: Unfortunately I have large doubts about ATI or NVIDIA ever opening up their drivers. Both companies have more software engineers than hardware engineers. They spend a *lot* of time and money reinventing the wheel between the two of them - and I think they want to keep it that way.

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Friday, December 17, 2004 - link

    MooseMuffin: It's SUSE 9.1 - i think i might have a typo in there somewhere. We kept it at 9.1 instead of 9.2 just for that reason (the kernel is very updated though).

    Hope that helps,

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • Pannenkoek - Friday, December 17, 2004 - link

    I back up #5: 10-15% gain from 32bit to 64bit is not "meager"...

    Before you ditch the open source 3D drivers for the newer videocards (if any exist...), please keep in mind they have to reverse engineer the cards, as NVIDIA and ATI don't co-operate and no hardware spec's are available. As far as I know only serious 2D OSS drivers are in development.

    Also, we should not applause ATI's gains in performance, as they were abominable to start with. However, we should applause their changing attitude towards open source platforms. Let us hope it will continue to improve!

    And let us hope NVIDIA and ATI will open their hardware in the future, so open source drivers can be made for them. No buggy proprietary drivers tainting the kernel anymore. But I fear we may wait a long time for that to happen. ATI is hugging Direct3D and MS too closely to encourage development of good OSS drivers as a way to counter NVIDIA's lead in OpenGL. And NVIDIA won't open up as long as that is the case.

    Nevertheless, hereby I beg NVIDIA and ATI to design their future generation cards in such a way that opening the spec will not expose their holy IP.
    Reply
  • Myrandex - Friday, December 17, 2004 - link

    And that should only increase with time with optimized 64bit code, drivers, improved operating system components, etc. Reply
  • icarus4586 - Friday, December 17, 2004 - link

    ...performance gains between 32-bit and 64-bit distributions on Unreal Tournament 2004 were meager

    I agree with Icehawk, and beg to differ with the author. >10% performance gains are not "meager" by any stretch. Imagine NVidia/ATI releases a new Windows driver that increases performance 10%. I'm pretty sure nobody would say that was a "meager" improvement.
    Reply
  • R3MF - Friday, December 17, 2004 - link

    thank god i have an nForce2 and Ti4200, SUSE 9.1 runs like a dream.

    i have just bought an nForce3Ultra and 6800GT for the parents.

    i will upgrade to an nForce4 and 6800GT early next year.

    notice a trend? you would have to be daft using ATI silicon in a machine you intend to install Linux onto.
    Reply
  • Icehawk - Friday, December 17, 2004 - link

    I should say total delta from 32:32-bit to 64:64-bit . Reply
  • Icehawk - Friday, December 17, 2004 - link

    I don't know why they say the bump in 64-bit UT performance is minor - if you look at the total delta from 1.0-611 32-bit -> 1.0-6629 64-bit it is a ~13% increase on the 6800 and ~15% on the 5700U which is pretty darn good IMO. Reply
  • MooseMuffin - Friday, December 17, 2004 - link

    How did you guys get these drivers installed on Suse 9.2? As far as I can tell suse 9.2 uses xorg and ati only supplies xfree drivers. Reply
  • mickyb - Friday, December 17, 2004 - link

    ATI's performance is shameful on linux. They have some serious work to do. Reply

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