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ATI PowerPlay

Michael Larabel

Published on 12 November 2005
Written by Michael Larabel
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As we had shared yesterday in our ATI v8.19.10 Linux performance article there is not much in the way of gaming performance improvements brought to the table with this latest driver release but that's not to say this build is malnourished. Highlighted in this new Linux driver release is a Frame Buffer Objects (FBO) mode in fgl_glxgears, initial suspend/resume support on capable kernels, and finally PowerPlay support. For those unfamiliar with this mobile-oriented power management technology, it allows the user to switch power consumption modes in order to save upon battery-life for your laptop/notebook. Of course, altering the power states will adjust your core and memory frequencies as well as the voltage supplied to the parts. Today we will be sharing a small preview of what has to come from this ATI technology now supported under Linux. To start with, below is ATI's official release note regarding PowerPlay in the v8.19.10 drivers.

PowerPlay™ Support

The ATI Proprietary Linux driver version 8.19.10 introduces PowerPlay™ support. This revolutionary power management technology allows the user to switch between power consumption modes using the aticonfig utility provided with the installation of the driver. For help on using this feature, run aticonfig --help from a terminal. This feature is supported on ATI Radeon 9000 series products and above.

When entering the --help option for aticonfig, the command-line X Server Configuration Utility for ATI cards introduced in the v8.18.6 drivers, among the many other adjustment possibilities were the two present PowerPlay options --list-powerstates and --set-powerstate=. When entering --list-powerstates or --lsp, the different power states for that particular card will print onto the screen. As mentioned in ATI's official statement, PowerPlay is supported with the latest Linux drivers with RADEON 9000 series and higher but of course, the technology is designed primarily for the mobile environment and the ATI Mobility products officially supported under Linux at this moment are the Mobility RADEON X700, 9800, 9600, 9550, 9200, and 9000 along with the RADEON Xpress 200M series. For this article, we used an ATI Mobility RADEON X300 64MB solution that was implemented in an IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad R52 (18494WU).

In the event of our ATI RADEON X300, upon entering aticonfig --lsp, the available power states were 1: 105/122 MHz [low voltage], 2: 209/182 MHz [low voltage], and 3: 297/230 MHz [default state]. Depending upon the particular GPU, the power states may vary greatly depending upon the series. When it comes time to set the power state, the aticonfig --set-powerstate= needs to be applied where the parameter is either 1, 2, or 3, that correlates to the previously mentioned values.

When using the set power state option, the specified value will also be written to the system's xorg.conf (if file permissions allow). The PowerPlay value will be written to the graphics card device section in the syntax of Option "PowerState" "<NUMERIC VALUE>". In our initial testing we have performed with the ATI Mobility RADEON X300, we experienced no shortcomings when it came to the PowerPlay operation.

Although Linux desktop users will not feel these latest ATI drivers are life changing, mobile users on the other hand should greatly welcome the belated inclusion of PowerPlay into their drivers. Like Windows, ATI PowerPlay for Linux will not only extend the life of your battery but should drive down the operating temperatures of the graphics processor. Of course, the processing capabilities of the GPU will be greatly confined when specifying a lower power state but the performance should be suffice for desktop usage. For those wishing to learn more about PowerPlay, the white papers can be found here. Ending off, we are excited about ATI's recent Linux advances and hope Matthew Tippett is able to continue with his great work and bringing fourth new features to the ATI proprietary Linux drivers.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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