With NVIDIA squeezing its developers abilities moments before the new year and holidays, through the 1.0-8178 display drivers, only one can take a guess when the next release will occur for Linux, FreeBSD, and Solaris. In 2005, NVIDIA, as well as ATI, had made some impressive improvements across the board with each preceding driver release; however, the green has never been much into delivering scheduled Linux driver releases. If you will recall from last year, the release intervals ranged from merely twenty to 118 days. On the contrary ATI has routinely delivered monthly, and even in some rare instances bi-monthly, display drivers for a great amount of time with its Windows CATALYST software. In recent months, joining in on the monthly ritual has also been their Linux display drivers, and this month is no different. While generally the second week of the month ATI strikes its users with updated drivers, January's release is taking place in the middle of the month. Hitting the web just moments ago is CATALYST v6.1, which features various game fixes and graphics enhancements, while on the penguin side of things is ATI v8.21.7. Although both releases can largely be considered maintenance updates, the Linux drivers do fix two of the items we have been nagging about in past driver examinations. For one, the Linux binaries size has been greatly reduced. While in the past their RPM packages have been small in size (generally about 13MB) the binaries with the new ATI installer, which was introduced last year, have been quick to exceed in size. The drivers with installer have increased from an initial 35.1MB to 68.8MB (i386) with their prior v8.20.8 drivers. With the January driver release, the ATI drivers now weigh in at ~ 35MB, which is certainly enticing for the dial-up users. Recently speaking with ATI's Matthew Tippett, he has revealed to Phoronix that there is even more room that can be squeezed out of the packages -- and we presume that the additional trimming will continue with future release candidates. Another highlight for the v8.21.7 drivers is the formalization of OpenGL 2.0 support. ATI has received heat over the OpenGL 2.0 drivers, or there the lack of, since NVIDIA had introduced similar support with its 1.0-7664 drivers this past June. However, ATI has really had OpenGL 2.0 support in its drivers, for the most part, for quite some time but this release is the first with formalized support. Listed below is ATI's official change log for this release.
Release Date: January 18, 2006
Size: 35.3MB (i386)
· OpenGL 2.0 Support
· Smaller ATI Proprietary Linux Driver Bundle
As with past ATI and NVIDIA drivers, we had loaded the v8.21.7 drivers up on our system for a slew of testing. Comprising the test system today is a recently reviewed Power Color X800XL 256MB. The Power Color X800XL is PCI Express x16 based, and under Linux we have found it to be presently a rough equivalent to a NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT. Outside of the graphics card, the system is powered by a Pentium 4 LGA-775 processor with an Abit AW8 (i955X) motherboard and 1024MB of memory. On the software side of things, Fedora Core 4 with the 2.6.14 kernel was used. Below is the complete run-down of system components.
|Processor:||Intel Pentium 4 530 @ 3.90GHz|
|Motherboard:||Abit AW8 v1.0 (i955X)|
|Memory:||2 x 512MB Corsair XMS2-5400UL|
|Graphics Card:||Power Color X800XL 256MB|
|Hard Drives:||Western Digital 160GB SATA2|
|Optical Drives:||Lite-On 16x DVD-ROM|
|Cooling:||Swiftech H20-220 APEX Ultra|
|Power Supply:||SilverStone Strider ST56F 560W|
|Operating System:||Fedora Core 4|
|GCC (GNU Compiler):||4.0.0|
For 2006, we have also introduced a fresh slew of benchmarking scenarios for use with ATI driver tests. Measuring the game-play performance is Enemy Territory, Doom 3, Quake 4, and Unreal Tournament 2004. X2 - The Threat will be appended as soon as Linux Game Publishing resolves a few ATI-related issues with its benchmark. As the v8.21.7 Linux drivers mainly served as a maintenance release, for comparison today we simply used the v8.20.8, which was December's candidate.