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Review: ATI vs. NVIDIA on Linux - the showdown

by Jo Shields on 16 April 2009, 08:58

Tags: HD 4870 1GB PCS+, GeForce GTX 260 OC, PowerColor (6150.TWO), Inno3D, PC

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Round Three: 3D Performance

The selection of truly system-stressing 3D games on Linux remains depressingly small even now - even previously-supportive people, Epic Games, have still failed to deliver Unreal Tournament 3 after over 18 months of waiting. As a result, I've picked four benchmarking apps which I think offer a reasonable workout for the cards on test. All benchmarks are done in the highest detail allowable, at 1,920x1,200, with 4xAA and 16xAF (forced via the card's control panel).

Unigine is a piece of middleware from a small Russian company, with a few future games on its release radar. Unigine Corp has released a couple of nice-looking benchmarkable demos, which happen to have Linux versions - one is a fly-by of a small tropical island, so lots of water effects, and the other is taken inside a small, foggy chapel, so lots of snazzy shadow effects.

LIGHTSMARK 2008 appears a little rudimentary at first glance - however, it seems demanding enough that it's the only test which caused the graphics cards fans to kick up to full speed, and it's essentially a benchmark based on a lighting engine which is being used in some big-name games like Rockstar's L.A. Noire. You can download a copy from here.

The last benchmark is Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. Which is, well, the same as on Windows, really (which is a good thing). I'm using exactly the same input files and settings as the rest of the team does, so yes, these numbers can be compared directly to numbers found on a Windows-based review.

Winner: A draw. NVIDIA dominates in the Unigine tests - but ATI dominates with LIGHTSMARK. In the only real-world test, ETQW, the results are pretty much equivalent for both cards. NVIDIA probably did a little better overall, but I'm not content to call it for the green team given the LIGHTSMARK results and, here at least, higher price of hardware.