SteamOS has had some performance issues, as some games don’t run as well under it as under Windows. But it may not have problems with performance for much longer, as it now supports the Vulkan API. Built with inspiration from AMD’s Mantle API, and considered by many as a spiritual successor to OpenGL, Vulkan has the potential to deliver give SteamOS a major boost.
The only caveat to this announcement is that it only supports Nvidia graphics hardware for now (as per PCWorld). There are plans for added Intel graphics support, which will make more low-level gaming on the Linux-based operating system possible, but it isn’t quite ready yet. There is an experimental version you can try, but there’s no promise it will work correctly.
AMD support will come later still, as the company is working on a new driver that will have support Vulkan on SteamOS, and it’s not yet ready.
Regardless, this is exciting news for SteamOS and Linux gaming. The potential performance gains that can be made by using a low level API like Vulkan are huge, and alleviate some of the issues that SteamOS has faced as of late. With continued work from Valve and developers it may be that SteamOS becomes a legitimate competitor to Windows for gaming, and that competition will only mean better things for gamers.
If that’s the case, more developers will look to support Linux gaming, which fans of the open source OS will no doubt appreciate.
If you have a SteamOS platform with Nvidia hardware, you should start seeing benefits in compatible titles like The Talos Principle right away, though you can manually download the Vulkan-ready Linux drivers for Nvidia cards here too. Technically it’s a beta driver too, but it shouldn’t be long until it’s certified.
Would you be interested in moving over to SteamOS, or another Linux distro for gaming if Vulkan proves successful?