Windows 11 Vs Linux (openSUSE) Gaming in 2024

Thanks in no small part to the Steam Deck and its Arch Linux-based SteamOS, more gamers than ever are coming to realize how far Linux gaming has come in recent years. Valve’s Proton compatibility layer not only lets you run most Windows-only games with relative ease – it even adds features like global FSR upscaling.

As a result, Windows can now more or less be considered optional when building a new gaming PC. The following are some of my own observations, as a relatively inexperienced Linux user trying to figure out what sort of performance to expect when moving to Linux with anything other than a Steam Deck.

Why openSUSE Tumbleweed?

I have tried various Linux distros over the years, but never really considered any of them for gaming until recently. After playing around with the Steam Deck for a while, SteamOS seemed like a natural choice to extend to another gaming PC. However, the Deck version of SteamOS apparently only (officially) supports the Deck at this point. You will get better compatibility and overall functionality with a general-use distro.

Fedora-based Nobara is an interesting candidate for gaming, since it comes with stuff Nvidia drivers, Wine packages and other gaming features out of the box. Some of the popular Debian/Ubuntu- or Arch-based options like Mint, Pop!_OS or EndeavourOS are probably also good candidates.

In this case, however, I’m trying this out on an AMD-based Asus laptop, and openSUSE Tumbleweed (the rolling release version) is among the distros supported by Asus. It is also quite user-friendly, not least thanks to the YaST configuration tool.

openSUSE KDE desktop

Installing gaming-related stuff like Steam, Heroic (for GOG and Epic Games), and ProtonUp-Qt (for managing Proton versions), is a fairly streamlined experience in openSUSE. As is customizing the desktop layout and behavior to your liking.

If you have a high-DPI monitor, a detail worth mentioning is that I couldn’t get the Gnome desktop environment to work properly with scaling. Most apps work well enough but games are unable to run at the display’s native resolution with Gnome, making KDE Plasma a better choice for now.

Win 11 Vs openSUSE Frame Rate Comparison

As far as gaming is concerned, you wouldn’t want to move to any Linux setup at the cost of a substantial reduction in frame rates, so I started with comparing a few games with built-in benchmarks.

There is unfortunately no such thing as a perfect apples-to-apples comparison in this case. Countless factors are at play, ranging from driver versions to the compatibility layer used (Proton/Wine) and so on.

For what it’s worth, the Linux kernel used here is, Mesa 23.3.5, and either Steam’s default version of Proton or ProtonGE 31. The laptop is an all-AMD model with a Ryzen 9-6900HS, Radeon RX 6800S (a low-power version of the RX 6650 XT), and 32 GB of DDR5.

All games were set to the display’s native resolution (2560×1600) without FSR and default/high settings, with the exception of Cyberpunk 2077 which uses custom (but identical) settings.

average and minimum FPS chart

Note that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Shadow of the Tomb Raider run under Proton and are not the Linux-native versions (which worked poorly or not at all).

Given the relatively high resolution, I would have expected smaller differences and more of a pattern here, but both average and minimum frame rates vary widely. The most surprising result would have to be Cyberpunk 2077, which was nearly 20% faster with Proton compared to Windows.

Batman: Arkham Knight from 2015 was also faster overall while other titles saw a performance reduction ranging from insignificant (Far Cry) to quite large (RDR2). Interestingly, Red Dead Redemption 2 was still visibly smoother under Linux thanks to a consistently higher minimum frame rate.

Conclusion (Pending)

At first, the large FPS variation seemed to indicate that some driver-level power optimizations were at work in either platform. However, that would consistently skew the results in one direction, which also didn’t happen.

The next step will be adding more comparisons with different hardware.

Jesper Berg
Jesper Berg

I got started with PC building in the 3dfx Voodoo era somewhere back in the 1990s, and have been writing for tech publications for a bit more than a decade. In other words old enough to have lost count of the times PC gaming has been pronounced dead.

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