Although there is still no Linux support for ATI's CrossFire multi-GPU Technology, or their new ATI X1K (R5X0) series, ATI's newest drivers that were released earlier today are home to a host of new major improvements. Some of these notable features include Dynamic Clock Gating, dual link monitor support, Xinerama support, and a new ATI X server configuration utility. Starting off from the top ATI's newest Linux drivers, which are named v8.18.6, now include Dynamic Clock Gating support. This feature allows supported ATI graphics cards to deactivate particular components when they are not being used. For example, when Dynamic Clock Gating is enabled on a X850XT (R480) the card should use almost half the power consumption, thus eliminating half of the heat, when the card is running in 2D desktop mode rather than 3D acceleration. Not only is this technology beneficial for cutting down on the heat produced, but moreover for mobile users wishing to extend the life of their batteries with supported GPUs. Another one of the features to this newest driver set is enhanced support for OpenGL developers, which basically allows for enhanced developer support through providing the glATI.h header file upon driver installation. Another advantage of using the new v8.18.6 drivers is support for dual-link monitors on ATI graphics cards with dual-link DVI connectors. Finally, ATI has introduced Xinerama support to their drivers, and for those unfamiliar, Xinerama is an extension of Xorg that allows additional support for multiple monitors. The final major update to the latest ATI proprietary drivers is a new X server configuration utility named aticonfig. Aticonfig is designed to allow configuration of ATI products via a command line interface. In addition to these software advancements, ATI engineers have also corrected various issues faced by previous drivers. These corrections range from Quad Buffer Stereo (QBS) support with ATI FireGL graphics cards to fixes with intermittent error messages.
Running this latest v8.18.6 on a portion of our ATI-based systems, there is no substantial improvements made to the graphical interface for the installer. Of course, in addition to the full installer that weighs in at a hefty 59.4MB, ATI continues to package individual RPMs for XFree86 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, and X.Org 6.8. As of yet, ATI has yet to officially support any distributions other than Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SuSE Linux.
Although we have not yet performed any official graphical benchmarks relating to the performance of the v8.18.6, as they were released today, in our initial testing, we've seen slight improvements in the performance through various AGP and PCI Express graphics cards, but still we feel the performance is feeble to that of NVIDIA's drivers. Although ATI is vastly improving the quality of their proprietary Linux drivers, as it's very evident in this latest release, they still have a lot more work ahead of them if they wish to clamp onto a larger Linux market share in the graphics arena.
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