View Full Version : Nvidia vs. Nouveau?

9th February 2013, 06:46 PM
That is the question.

Let me preface this with my compliments to the Nouveau team. Bluntly, it used to be a barely functional mess whose only limited use was as a second-best placeholder to get a system up and running long enough to go fetch the proper Nvidia drivers. Now days ... not so much.

In fact I'm typing this out of the Fukushima Special, running MATE on F18, and to be candid, I have seen little or no reason to bother installing the Nvidia drivers here. Nothing lags, there is no screen tearing, Window manipulation is smooth and steady, and I can detect nothing in the graphics performance that would incline me to go through the effort of doing the Nvidia install ... save perhaps the ability to clock-down the video chip. And it's debatable about whether I'd even be able to do that. This beast required the 173 drivers in the past, and I don't know if the new driver even supports this old chipset. (GeForce 7150M)

So, I'm wondering if anyone is seeing enough of a real increase in performance in the Nvidia driver over the Gallium 0.4 default to justify the effort and time of installing it?

9th February 2013, 07:10 PM
I use dwm as a rule, do very little gameplaying--on occasion, an online FPS or perhaps frozen bubble or pinball.

On ONE machine (and a second, very similar machine, running Arch) with an older NVidia card, I was getting a lot of freezing with the nouveau drivers. On those two machines, I installed the NVidia drivers. I don't know if this is a 3.7 kernel driver thing, this particular, somewhat old card, GEforce 6150SE or something else.

However, prior to 3.7.x kernels, (on the Fedora machine's, prior to F18) everything has been fine (for me) with Nouveau.

Very subjectively, the screen and fonts do seem a bit clearer to me with NVidia, and this might make a difference to you with the graphic stuff you do. However, for me, were it not for this recent freezing problem, I wouldn't notice a difference.

I know that Leigh has stated there are major performance differences, but I don't remember how recently he posted that.

9th February 2013, 07:23 PM
Well ... the extent of my gaming is Freecell and Mahjong. Not much of a speed demand for that.

Bottom line on the graphics stuff is, it'll be a cold July day in Waco before I trust the Fukushima for anything! In fact, what I'm doing now is playing around with a dying anachronism. Sometimes the sound works, sometimes it doesn't. Mostly doesn't lately. Honestly, I really don't know why it worked the first time I booted it (into Vista) after it slunk back onto my front porch. Hasn't since then, in Vista or anything else, and wasn't working the last time I ejected it from the house. So that's intermittent, which means it probably ain't a heat related issue. But if not that, then ... what? <..:confused:..>

So what it really has turned out to be, is a chance to mess around with F18, not on a good box that's already running well. F16 is running just peachy-keen fine on the desktop, and the new laptop runs just fine on F17. So with those, if'n it ain't broke ... I don't intend to "fix" 'em.

So I get to play around with The Fuku.

Gareth Jones
9th February 2013, 07:26 PM
I’d only bother with the nVidia driver if you need it for actual 3-D stuff and Nouveau is demonstrably not good enough. Nouveau integrates better with the system, and doesn’t taint the kernel. Also, at least on some hardware, 2-D performance seems to be better with Nouveau (I need to track down a reference for that, I’ve forgotten where I read about it!).

On a laptop there may be battery-life to be gained with the blob though. I don’t know what the situation there is.

9th February 2013, 07:46 PM
You may find you will need the nvidia drivers for hdmi output ;) thats the only real difference ive personally found for what ive done.

9th February 2013, 07:51 PM
Looking at the html format documentation that comes with the v304.64 Nvidia drivers, in the "supportedchipsets" section, your chipset is listed.

GeForce 7150M / nForce 630M 0x0531 -
The ending "-" is just a placeholder under the "VDPAU features" column.
I would take that with a grain of salt though, as the ancient "GeForce GO 6800 Ultra" chipset in my old Dell XPS M170 laptop claims to be supported as well, but in reality, the nvidia driver stopped working on that chipset somewhere back around v275.something.

I think the problem was actually the update to the Xorg-server which broke usability. It wouldn't cost anything but time to try the nvidia driver.

... save perhaps the ability to clock-down the video chip
That speaks volumes to me. You're already dealing with a laptop that has thermal issues, right? I'm not sure what the "current state" is for the nouveau driver to clock-down nvidia chipsets is, if it's non-existent as in the past or works to some degree on some nvidia chips now, or what. The current nouveau driver running on the lappy in cosole mode, the thermals are OK, no bad heat buildup. But here's what happened to me.

I was given the old Dell XPS M170 sans hdd for free. The donor didn't even want reimbursement for the shipping. Cost me $120 for a 2.5" 120GB PATA hdd + adapter to get a working laptop with 32 bit Fedora installed. With the default nouveau driver, the gpu ran full bore and heated up laptop in the area of the gpu to "Fukushima Special" standards. So you know what I'm talk'n 'bout.

I installed the Nvidia drivers (kmod-nvidia), set it up to use the gpu throttling on-demand kind of thing, and life was good and laptop temps stayed reasonable. Then the nvidia driver update that caused the incompatibly took hold and I was forced back to using the nouveau driver. The incessant heat build up on the gpu from that did a bad number on something on either the mb or the graphics memory chip(s), throwing graphical artifacts all over the screen.

GUI mode became impossible. Console was usable after a boot -> reboot, which is how I run the laptop now. Yes, I'm looking for a new laptop to run Fedora on. My point being, if using the Nvidia drivers does anything (provided they work in the first place) to keep the gpu thermals down, I'd say it would be worth the effort.

As far as performance/usability from the nouveau drivers, they seem fairly competent these days.

9th February 2013, 07:52 PM
Afternoon, Dave!

Should be pretty safe on that, then. Too old to have HDMI. Strictly the old blue VGA connector.

Really is sad the sound system took the deep six. This thing used to have great audio. Nothing like the Beats audio in the new one, but it was nothing to toss rocks at.

9th February 2013, 07:58 PM
I briefly tried the nouveau drivers, however with even the low-tech Sauerbraten game that I love, they were not usable. Nvidia drivers for gaming, but otherwise nouveau would be all you'd need.

9th February 2013, 08:55 PM
Ya know ... with numbers like this, I'm just not seeing the real need.

[dan@fuku-experimentral Desktop]$ glxgears
Running synchronized to the vertical refresh. The framerate should be
approximately the same as the monitor refresh rate.
1892 frames in 5.0 seconds = 378.389 FPS
2089 frames in 5.0 seconds = 417.716 FPS
2363 frames in 5.0 seconds = 472.567 FPS
2093 frames in 5.0 seconds = 418.472 FPS
2026 frames in 5.0 seconds = 405.062 FPS
2195 frames in 5.0 seconds = 438.955 FPS
2194 frames in 5.0 seconds = 438.636 FPS
1987 frames in 5.0 seconds = 397.386 FPS
changed window size here
1234 frames in 5.0 seconds = 246.707 FPS
changed window size here
705 frames in 5.0 seconds = 140.798 FPS
703 frames in 5.0 seconds = 140.401 FPS
703 frames in 5.0 seconds = 140.517 FPS
[dan@fuku-experimentral Desktop]$

9th February 2013, 09:39 PM
does nouveau support more than two screens yet? my desktop has four displays. the proprietary driver makes it usable (xinerama combines two twinview displays, not ideal but....). in the past, nouveau couldn't touch it. has something changed?


9th February 2013, 09:42 PM
I'm using the Nvidia driver out of habit, more than anything else. This machine is homebuilt. I wanted a quiet card, so relatively low decibels was the motivation. It just happened to be an Nvidia.

I don't come close to stressing the card, so Nouveau ought to work just fine, as long as it doesn't boost fan speed.

Without the Nvidia driver, the card requires nomodeset with 3.2/3.3 kernels, otherwise the machine locks up on boot with a black screen. On some distros, nomodeset results in a screen of such limited resolution that panels, docks, desktop icons, whatever, are pushed well off the display.

Next time I do an install, though, I guess I ought to give Nouveau a try, especially after Gareth's mention of 2D performance.

9th February 2013, 11:18 PM
Two things in favor of nvidia

Multiple Monitor Support (as previously stated)
Nouveau Driver Causes Xorg to Abrt after Resume from RAM https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=847479 (Can't suspend/resume laptop with noveau)

10th February 2013, 12:02 AM
last time i use the blob drivers ( Nvidia ) was when i had Fedora11 or 12 installed. i never used 13 or 14. i may have used 14 but apart from that i have always used the Nouveau drivers, it is getting better though, i think the Nouveau driver was re-written for the 3.8 kernel i think? i may play the smallish Games like you Dan but i have had no need for the blob driver. an as Dave said you may need it for HDMI an i havent got a HDMI device yet

10th February 2013, 12:05 AM
From my experience, the GeForce 7xxx series can use either the 173xx or the regular Nvidia drivers.

However, I haven't found anything lately that has required me to install the Nvidia drivers. Nouveau has worked great for me since F16. (And yes, you can use nouveau with multi-monitors, works with dual head cards, and multi card setups) I use it with a dual head two monitor setup in F16-F18 without issues. I have been able to configure it as a single X screen, and separate X screens.

If you are using it for gaming or high demand 3D graphics, then the Nvidia drivers will probably work better, but for just normal usage, the nouveau drivers should be sufficient. About the only thing I have seen is that the Nvidia drivers do offer better control of the fan (on cards that have fan control) than the nouveau drivers.


To use multi-monitor and separate screens, you need to look at the ZaphodHeads option of the nouveau driver in your xorg.conf file. (Someone is a fan of the hitch hikers guide to the galaxy :lol: )

10th February 2013, 12:13 AM
Fan control on this beast is not an issue. One fan, two devices using it. The CPU has priority first and always. And as the CPU never gets cool enough to shut the fan off ... <..:rolleyes:..>

The nouveau driver does seem able to use two monitors without issue. Although it also puts the fan into turbo mode almost instantly.

10th February 2013, 12:21 AM
The current stable nouveau driver, X server and kernel on one of my Fedora 17 machices breaks wake from suspend. Upon wake up the fan on my 8800GT card goes to full speed and stays. It's too loud to tolerate and I have to reboot.

That's the one thing that's making me think about going back to Nvidia's driver

10th February 2013, 12:22 AM
I guess a fan in turbo mode is better than a nuclear meltdown :p

10th February 2013, 12:27 AM
Ayup. But I keep a 10# ABC Kiddie right next to the table ... just in case.

10th February 2013, 12:54 AM
Marko for me it's not just a question of fan speed - I get a white screen of death (typically) when waking up from suspend with nouveau. To me it's definitely a deal breaker. A laptop needs to be able to suspend/wakeup with no issues imho.

10th February 2013, 01:12 AM
I have a friend who could not get the correct screen resolutions using the Nouveau drivers, no matter what she tried. Installing the nVidia drivers solved the problem. I've seen this exact same issue in threads on here.

On the flipside, I've seen the exact opposite. Another friend could get a resolution of 1440x900 when using Nouveau but that option disappeared after he installed the nVidia drivers. Go figure..

My experience is that in most cases, the nVidia drivers are faster and less buggy, However, they can, at times, be trickier to get setup correctly.

My feeling is if the Nouveau drivers work out of the box for a given hardware combination, and the performance is acceptable, there is no reason to install the nVidia drivers.

I personally prefer the nVidia drivers. Overall, I've had fewer issues and much better performance with the nVidia drivers.

10th February 2013, 01:25 AM
I haven't used the NVidia driver in a while now. I have found nouveau to be more than sufficient for my needs on my GTX 260 (KWin desktop effects, some light gaming - xonotic, nexuiz, torcs etc...)

10th February 2013, 07:15 AM
OS: Fedora 18 i686, KDE 4.9.5, 3.7.6-201 kernel.
Until a few weeks ago I had Geforce 9800 GT, now I have GeForce 8800 GT (downgrade:rolleyes:).
I had problems using Nouveau on both cards, especialy playing movies (laggy). But with Nvidia driver even the desktop seems to be faster.

10th February 2013, 07:19 AM
I actually think the fan speed problem is the fault of the kernel people, because when I took the kernel down to 3.6.x the fan speed was ok but with 3.7.x it would go to full speed. That was with the same nouveau package on both boots. So it seems the newest kernel messes up the nouveau driver in an indirect way.

10th February 2013, 08:39 AM
As a gamer I always use the latest NVIDIA drivers, but if I wasn't, Nouveau would probably be just fine, so long as my HD video requirements were met etc. And on anything that isn't ancient, I imagine that would be no problem anyway.

17th September 2013, 08:53 PM
I wanted to read this issues before decide and change into noveau. I'm an Autodesk Maya user, and what I can say is I never used Noveau driver, I first decided to install proprietary drivers, and it's very interesting and disgusting at the same time.

My card is a GTX 570M.

Before the update of the recent xorg, Nvidia made not to run most of the applications that need 3D acceleration. for some strange reason skype 4.2 and steam didn't run, but Maya did.

After the update of the recent xorg, now everything works except Maya , I reinstalled Nvidia Driver, but with the 304 version, I had the most recent 309.49 for my card , and I need Maya more than a game or another application.

The thing here is that when I executed glxgears the frames per second were around 529, with noveau driver before removing it were around 7000 frames per second.

Since Maya does not work anymore with the current Xorg and proprietary driver, so I was thinking in move into Noveau, but since I have read your comments guys. I don't know if it's better to reinstall Maya again. Why not blender? I'm still learning to use it, profesioanlly speaking I have a work to hand on Thursday, and learn an app is not that easy. I would like to know what I learned of Maya in Blender,

I would be so happy, but for the moment,I just can't waste time. I wasted a lot yesterday finding that the update made crash the way to run Maya. Now I have to back to windows for the moment until I finish my work :C