470 Drivers: Nvidia Steps Up Their Game!

If you read the news, it’s all about AMD kicking ass left and right. They keep punching Intel on CPUs, they challenge Nvidia on GPUs more daringly than ever, and with (more) open drivers. However, Nvidia is a lot more alive than Intel is, in terms of technology, and in this past week they have demonstrated their commitment to Linux with the newest 470 drivers.

These 470 drivers are a massive step forward for Nvidia:

  • DLSS landing for games running in Proton, on the RTX GPUs
  • Wayland support improvements: OpenGL and Vulkan acceleration within XWayland
  • PRIME display offload improvements
  • Async Reprojection for SteamVR (by implementing the Vulkan extension VK_QUEUE_GLOBAL_PRIORITY_REALTIME_EXT from the VK_EXT_global_priority extension): this is supported for Pascal and newer architectures.
  • More Vulkan extensions (VK_EXT_extended_dynamic_state2, VK_EXT_color_write_enable, VK_EXT_vertex_input_dynamic_state, VK_EXT_ycbcr_2plane_444_formats, VK_NV_inherited_viewport_scissor).

It’s also clear there is a healthy collaboration between Proton and Nvidia’s drivers’ development as a bug encountered by DXVK was found and corrected in the 470 driver:

Fixed a bug that could cause intermittent corruption in Wolfenstein: Youngblood when using NVIDIA Kepler, Maxwell, Pascal, and Volta GPUs.

Nvidia is also making their Drivers settings more friendly with the inclusion of a parameter to control fan speed in the GUI:

Updated GPU fan control to be available by default in nvidia-settings and NV-CONTROL, for GPU boards that support programmable fan control. Previously, this was only available when bit 2 was set in the “Coolbits” X config option.

In a nutshell, Nvidia is making themselves a lot more attractive for Linux gamers all of a sudden:

  • DLSS is unchallenged currently in terms of technology. AMD has their FidelityFx upscaling algorithm, but that is not a real match against a proper neural network trained on a specific game to give the best effect. Nvidia has a whole section explaining the benefits of DLSS on their recent page related to the 470 drivers
  • No support for Wayland? That used to be a rallying cry for Linux users to swear “never again” when it comes to choosing Nvidia as their next GPU vendor. Having proper support for XWayland is huge, especially as Wayland is definitely replacing X in more and more distros by default these days, and X is entering maintenance phase instead of active development.

Ethan Lee has just reported on Twitter that the beta driver seems to work fine with Wayland, and posted this screenshot with FEZ running on Xwayland:

Fez running on XWayland with the latest Nvidia 470 drivers
  • Async Reprojection has been one of the key advantages of AMD when it came to VR to provide better performance and experience on Linux. Nvidia did not support it on Linux until now (they used to support it on Windows at least). Now Nvidia is at feature parity in that sense, and it’s not clear if AMD will have any advantage on the VR side of things anymore.

So where do you get the 470 beta drivers at the moment? You are advised to avoid installing them directly from the Nvidia pages, as they are not typically made to work on just any distro as is. Instead, you need to wait for your friendly neigborhood package maintainers to make the latest beta drivers land for your distro.

On Arch, you can grab them on the AUR: https://aur.archlinux.org/packages/nvidia-utils-performance/

On Ubuntu, you don’t get at the moment the latest version through this PPA: https://launchpad.net/~graphics-drivers/+archive/ubuntu/ppa so you might have to wait or find a different source.

Note that the drivers are still beta at the moment, so it might take a little while until we see a stable 470 version.

Now let’s not forget that a certain GPU maker is working on open source drivers as well. It’s almost unfathomable to think Nvidia would go there, but many years ago, when we interviewed Ryan Gordon, he thought Nvidia would eventually have to cross that line sooner or later. Maybe that time has come?


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