How Nvidia's Open-Source Drivers Will Impact Linux Gamers

Nvidia's new R515 driver will provide an open-source driver for the community for the first time, hopefully giving the Linux community a way to more easily use Nvidia graphics cards in their systems, and Nvidia providing more open-source technology standards has many benefits. Unfortunately, open-sourcing software has not been a staple with Nvidia and, as such, has caused a bit of an uproar in their community. But with the new R515 driver, this may be changing for the better.


People have been begging Nvidia to be more open with their driver software, similar to companies like Intel and AMD, which provide open-source drivers for their products. But Nvidia has, until now, been closed-source with their drivers, which doesn't cause too many issues for Windows users, but for the Linux community, it has made using Nvidia GPUs more challenging to optimize. Since Nvidia drivers are not open-sourced, developers are unable to look at the source code of a driver and develop their software with the full knowledge of how the drivers were coded, unlike with an AMD driver, for example, which is open-source, allowing for developers to see how the drivers were coded completely.

Related: Is Open-Source Or Closed-Source Software Better

So how will Nvidia's new R515 drive affect gaming on Linux? Well, most likely, it won't affect things too much in the short term. Gaming on Linux with Nvidia GPUs is very doable as Nvidia does provide drivers for Linux, even though they are proprietary. Many Linux distros will automatically install Nvidia drivers for the user, such as PopOS. However, over time, if Nvidia continues to release their drivers as open-source software, then Linux developers will be able to take advantage of the positives that open-sourcing drivers have done for AMD, such as more compatibility and choice of different driver options, either proprietary or open-source, depending on which suits the user's need. Also, being open-source can help develop drivers and increase reliability for Linux, just as AMD and Intel are the most reliable options on Linux compared to Nvidia.

Nvidia Proprietary VS. Open Source Drivers

Nvidia proprietary drivers have always been great on Windows, and overall they are great on Linux as well, which is why many gamers and Linux users still use Nvidia GPUs and not only AMD. There was also an open-source version of Nvidia drivers available before the R515 driver called Nouveau. However, this driver was generally slower and less reliable than the official Nvidia proprietary drivers. This is most likely due to Nouveau not being officially the open-source driver from Nvidia and instead was built by reverse engineering Nvidia drivers. Nouveau also suffers from not supporting reclocking of a GPU, which is a significant issue for users interested in overclocking their Nvidia GPU.

Overall, the announcement of officially providing open-source Nvidia drivers is a huge boon. This will give developers much more information about the drivers they are developing software and games for, as well as provide the community to help develop new drivers since they are now open-source. The Linux community will also benefit over time as Linux has a good chance of becoming more compatible and reliable with Nvidia GPUs as they are with AMD and Intel, which will help with performance and efficiency, as well as with gaming. With Nvidia going open-source, it may continue to put more pressure on other tech companies to be more open about their technologies which will also help support a more free and open technological future.

Source: Nvidia