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Ubuntu 19.04 Delivers A Welcome Surprise For Nvidia GPU Owners

Ubuntu 19.04 is a only few days away, and it’s looking like the forthcoming Ubuntu Linux Gaming Report may get a slightly higher score than expected. That’s because the “out-of-box” graphics driver situation for Nvidia GPU owners is getting a very welcome update.

Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080 Ti Founder’s Edition

Nvidia

On the Ubuntu MATE blog, Martin Wimpress outlines what has changed between the 18.10 release last year and this week’s release, calling Ubuntu MATE 19.04 a “modest upgrade.” And there are indeed some notable new features so go check out those release notes. But Nvidia graphics card owners — particularly those who enjoy gaming and may be new to the desktop Linux world — will discover a new feature I’m thrilled to see.

During an Ubuntu MATE 19.04 installation, (and other flavors in the Ubuntu 19.04 family*), users can as always select the option to install 3rd party software. Said software now includes Nvidia’s proprietary graphics driver “suitable for your generation of Nvidia GPU.” For example, if you have an Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti, you’ll get version 418. Laptop users with an older GTX 960m would receive version 390.

Wimpress explains the variance in driver versions via Twitter:

Choosing that 3rd party button means the proprietary driver gets downloaded (you’ll need an internet connection to accomplish that) and then installed during the post-install process. “To confirm this, open a terminal and run nvidia-smi,” Wimpress writes. “Ubuntu MATE users with laptops that support hybrid graphics will see the MATE Optimus hybrid graphics applet displaying the nvidia logo.”

The new 3rd-party software option during an Ubuntu 19.04 install.

Ubuntu MATE / Martin Wimpress

As I’ve explored the various nuances and setup steps involved for gamers across multiple Linux distributions (like Manjaro, Fedora, Pop!_OS and Solus), I’ve paid attention to what’s required for getting AMD and Nvidia drivers properly installed and ready to play. It’s an area where Ubuntu has fallen slightly behind.

Prior to Ubuntu 19.04, users needed to dig into the Software & Updates menu, select “Additional Drivers” and then choose the option for proprietary Nvidia drivers (these are vastly superior to the open source Nouveau drivers for gaming). Now it’s just a matter of clicking that same third-party button during installation that most people are likely to hit anyway.

Frankly, that rocks. It’s awesome to see Ubuntu improving the out-of-box experience, especially as this reduces potential pain points or confusion for Linux newcomers. With Ubuntu 19.04, Linux gaming gets even better. And don’t worry AMD Radeon users. Like all modern Linux distributions, your perfectly performant open source graphics driver is baked into the kernel. Now, regardless if you’re Team Red or Team Green, you can install Ubuntu and quickly get your game on.

*Note: Lubuntu does not support this feature.

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