New NVIDIA Detonator 3 Drivers For Linux

Where Are The Cards Of 3dfx, ATi And Matrox ?

For this article I had the definite plan to include other cards besides NVIDIA's as well. Unfortunately there were several difficulties that kept me from doing so in the end.

  • 3dfx
    Tom's Hardware is finally in the process of getting back to a normal relationship with the once top-notch 3D-chip maker, which was one reason more to include at least one of their 3D-accelerators in this review. 3dfx certainly deserves praise for having a long history of providing Linux driver-support. I add another cheer for 3dfx' open source philosophy. Unfortunately however, Voodoo3 is really not up to competing with any of the NVIDIA cards and so I decided that it failed the qualification in the first place. Voodoo5 would certainly be a contender, but its Linux-support is still so young, that it is completely unable to show the real potential of the card. I could see the 3dfx-zealots complain if Voodoo5 looks really bad in the field, which is why I decided to keep Voodoo5 out of this competition as well. I will include it as soon as its Linux-performance lives up to its Windows98 results. Maybe I will even get some help from 3dfx for a change ...
  • ATi
    ATi's only card that is up to competing against the strong team of NVIDIA would be Radeon. Unfortunately there is no Linux-driver available for it yet. Here's the official response:
  • The drivers are "in development". We will have 2D drivers by end of Q4 and 3D drivers (WITHOUT TCL) by end of Q1 2001. The drivers will be open source. We are not sure if we will open source the TCL portion at this time, but the 3D portion will be open source.
  • Matrox
    I am sorry to say it, but Matrox can't offer even one 3D-chip that could threaten NVIDIA's good-old TNT2-Ultra. Therefore I won't include Matrox in the competition this time. I am seriously hoping that Matrox will be able to design a competitive 3D-chip before it's too late for them. It would be sad to see Matrox leaving the competition as well.

All in all I am indeed sorry that this review is once more a pure NVIDIA-show. I will do my best to make sure that the next article of this kind will show a variety of manufacturers.


Due to Linux' obvious lack of DirectX-support, I only compared OpenGL-performance. Quake 3 Arena was my choice for 3D gaming, and SPECviewperf 6.1.2 was used to measure the professional OpenGL-performance of the cards/drivers/operating systems.

Unfortunately you won't find any TNT2-Ultra results under Windows 2000. Both drivers, revision 5.32 (Detonator 2) as well as rev. 6.18 (Detonator 3), turned out to be highly unstable with TNT2-Ultra under Win2k. We were never able to finish a full SPECviewperf run, Quake 3 Arena crashed on several occasions as well.

This time I used SuSE's brand new Linux 7.0, which is based on the kernel 2.2.16.

You might be surprised to see GeForce 2 MX results this time. Seemingly my initial GeForce 2 MX sample was faulty in some strange way. It ran fine under any other OS, but never wanted to work with Linux. A new sample fixed the problem.

System & Environment Settings

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Platform Information
CPUsAMD Athlon/Thunderbird, SocketAPentium III 1 GHz FCPGA, Socket370
Intel 815 Chipset
MotherboardAsus CUSL2, ACPI BIOS 1003.002
Memory128 MB, Wichmann WorkX PC133 SDRAM, 2-2-2-5/7
Network3Com 3C905B-TX
VIA Apollo KT133 Chipset
MotherboardAsus A7V, ACPI BIOS 1004C
Memory128 MB, Micron PC133 SDRAM, 2-2-2
Network3Com 3C905B-TX
Graphics Cards
NVIDIA RIVA TNT2 UltraDiamond Viper V770, 32 MB, Core 150 MHz, Memory 183 MHz
NVIDIA GeForce256 DDRReference Board, 32 MB, Core 120 MHz, Memory 300 MHz
NVIDIA QuadroReference Board, 64 MB, Core 135 MHz, Memory 333 MHz
NVIDIA GeForce 2 MXReference Board, 32 MB, Core 175 MHz, Memory 166 MHz
NVIDIA GeForce 2 GTSReference Board, 32 MB, Core 200 MHz, Memory 333 MHz
NVIDIA Quadro 2Reference Board, 64 MB, Core 230 MHz, Memory 400 MHz
NVIDIA GeForce 2 UltraReference Board, 64 MB, Core 250 MHz, Memory 460 MHz
Environment Settings
OS VersionsSuSE Linux 7.0, Kernel 2.2.16, XFree 4.0.1, gcc 2.95File System ReiserfsRefresh Rate 85 Hz for all Quake 3 ResolutionsScreen Resolution 1600x1200x24x85 for SPECviewperfWindows 2000, 5.00.2195File System NTFSRefresh Rate 85 Hz for all Quake 3 ResolutionsScreen Resolution 1600x1200x32x85 for SPECviewperf
NVIDIA Detonator 2Driver for LinuxRev. 0.94
NVIDIA Detonator 3Driver for LinuxRev. 0.95
NVIDIA Detonator 2Driver for Windows 2000Rev. 5.32
NVIDIA Detonator 3Driver for Windows 2000Rev. 6.18
Quake 3 ArenaRetail Versioncommand line = +set cd_nocd 1 +set s_initsound 0Graphics detail set to 'Normal', 640x480x16Benchmark using 'Q3DEMO1'
SPECviewperfRev. 6.1.2


I divided the benchmark results in three groups.

  • The first group compares Linux to Windows 2000 with Detonator 2 as well as Detonator 3.
  • The second group shows the difference between Detonator 2 and 3 under Linux as well as Windows 2000.
  • Finally I compared AMD's Athlon/Thunderbird 1000 with Intel's Pentium III/Coppermine 1000 under Linux and Detonator 3.