Is there any way to improve the graphics performance of a KVM guest?

I suspect that the question is too general, so I will give my setup and requirements.

My ultimate goal is to use an Ubuntu guest as my primary OS. The only graphics-intensive things I do are watching videos and playing state-of-the-1990s games.

Current setup: Debian host (X+Fluxbox), KVM guest with SDL graphics, (emulated) vmware graphics card (the other one has >0.5s redraw times), and a standard Ubuntu installation. I can watch videos, but games are a bit choppy.

What doesn't seem to work: Non-SDL graphics (both VNC and X forwarding are very choppy), VGA passthrough (not implemented in KVM; Xen requires IOMMU, which my computer doesn't seem to support)

What I am thinking about (but I have very little knowledge on the subject): Trying to eliminate X from the host. I've heard myths about something called "framebuffer", but I don't know much else.

  • 5
    I don't think you can get great video performance with KVM. That's not a high-priority design goal for it. Since your host is running Linux, you'd do better to run these programs directly on the host. – Gilles Nov 28 '11 at 1:56
  • 1
    Can you use other virtualization techniques? VirtualBox seems better designed to meet your specific needs. – Brian Cain Nov 28 '11 at 5:25
  • Use VBOX instead, KVM doesn't provide video acceleration – daisy Oct 24 '12 at 3:09
  • Run your games and videos in the Debian host. – haziz Jan 17 '13 at 21:59
  • 2
    KVM and Xen now have an option to share the hosts native GPU with (multiple) virtual machines using Intel iGVT-g technology (01.org/igvt-g). It works for Windows and Linux guest OS but requires you to have a 5th generation (or newer) Intel Core processors with Intel Graphics processors. Here's a demo of XenGT with two Windows guests: youtube.com/watch?v=V2i8HCcAnY8 – z1ga Dec 21 '16 at 23:11

SDL is ok, but you should also try SPICE. Check out the wikipedia page for more info as well.


You can try spice (http://spice-space.org/download.html). Spice has good performance at display and video. The performance of video of SDL is very poor. You should install spice guest program in the vm. This will install qxl driver, that will improve display and video performance.

Spice will consume much band of network, spice needs a band of network of at least 10Mb/s!

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