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I know this is not the best question, I'm just trying to understand what needs improvement.

I just read a Phoronix article, which compared the FOSS radeon drivers a 5 years old FGLRX catalyst. As you would expect FGLRX was multiple times faster, even the feature set was not completely implemented.

The big question, not answered in the article, was why? I noticed FGLRX brings its own libGL, does Nvidia do this also? I know hardware registers are not always completely known, and yadda yadda... I still suspect that mesa is not a strong performer.

What needs to be done to reach remotely close to catalyst speed? What projects need help? Which ones need to be completely ditched?

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Well, I do not have inside information about either of the open source or proprietary projects but the answer is pretty simple from my point of view. FOSS video drivers are made by people in their free time on their specific hardware. Many times these programmers does not have the motivation, the hardware resources, the time, the knowledge or professionalism required to write so specific and difficult applications.

I personally admire their effort to make open source video drivers and Nuvou come a long way for NVidia, but regardless of the manufacturer if the development is not directly supported with specifications, knowledge and money by the hardware makers I see no way something open-source can be better than the proprietary driver.

A very positive and good example is Intel which contributes and supports the open-source drivers for their graphics chips, and it does in a way that proprietary drivers are not even made.

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Do you know if the performance is equal, or very close, to the windows drivers? –  TechZilla Feb 4 '12 at 21:31
    
I can speak only for what I have, an NVidia GeForce FX8600GT. The proprietary NVidia drivers have about the same performance both on Windows XP and Linux (Mandriva and Sabayon). The open-source drivers have huge performance difference, especially in 3D. In 2D I can see no noticeable difference, in 3D it's huge, the open source drivers being about half the speed of the proprietary one. In some cases the difference can be even an order of magnitude. –  Patkos Csaba Feb 5 '12 at 11:36

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