I ask this as with the Unity Desktop running , when I try any games with my Ubuntu 12.04.1 I get so much frame rate drop with Unity and Compiz. If I switch to Gnome-Classic which uses mutter, I get a vast boost in performance.

My system is an 8 core AMD with a Nvidia 460 SE that can play anything I chuck at it in Windows and I'm using the latest Nvidia drivers, but even simple games like the humble bundle gets serious lag with Unity and the only cause of this can be compiz (what I can guess).

When Steam come to Ubuntu, how will this performance loss be addressed?


Try Unity 2D or Lubuntu. Both of them are here How can I reduce lagging with GUI/GPU stuff -- make Unity run smaller, quicker, faster?. Lubuntu is not Unity but is a lightweight alternative.

  • He asked How the issue be addressed. He didn't asked another alternative.
    – Anwar
    Sep 26 '12 at 15:49
  • He doesn't seem to mind
    – user92200
    Sep 27 '12 at 16:16

This might be more of a comment than an answer, but it got too big. My bad. :-(

Unity was once based on Mutter, and gained in performance by switching to Compiz. Look at the happy comments there. :-) So I think it's not that simple; the situation has proved trickier than the way you're positing it.

When you say "all I can think of is it must be Compiz", it kinda sounds lke a presumpton. Phoronix and others have written about much better performance from Compiz without Unity. Unity makes high demands, whatever the backend. That seems to be the biggest issue.

A standalone rewrite might cost years of effort and then of optimizing. (And definitely be pilloried for NIH syndrome.) If you have particular ideas for implementing this, a demo in code would be best, 'cause imagined rewrites are usually chimerical. 'Start clean' isn't enough of a specification to create a different, better, OpenGL compositor and WM. :-/ There's a good Joel On Software article about the perils of starting from scratch, that could apply here.

For games, I think the Unity devs are still working out un-redirecting windows, that is, not passing them through Compiz, but bypassing that layer. You might search Launchpad and Planet Ubuntu for 'unredirect'. I don't know what the near future holds, but it seems to be one of their areas of focus right now.

Update, 2014, since I happened to look back at this:

Since 2013, the wheel has turned again on the whole graphics stack. Unity is being rewritten without Compiz, and on a whole new display server, Mir.


I saw a post on Ubuntu Vibes that addressed this issue and provided a fix from a community developer. This was also addressed some on Phoronix

  • my question is is why is Unity just a plug in for Compiz and not a proper shell in its own right, why a plug in for what has always been a pretty poor program. With Steam coming out how will we overcome the performance issues with running 3d Games with a slow desktop that takes lots of GPU power even when its not doing much?
    – Murphy1138
    Sep 24 '12 at 19:07

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