Earlier this month our NVIDIA AYiR (A Year in Review) 2006 article was published. Like years past, in that article we summarized the major event happenings for NVIDIA Corporation this year when it came to their Linux display drivers. We had also retested all of the display drivers that they had released during the year to see how the performance has evolved over time. Now it is ATI Technologies turn as we see how they have revolutionized their much-debated Linux fglrx display drivers. We also benchmarked all twelve of their drivers from this year and see what the ATI/AMD camp has in store for next year. Without further ado, we present the ATI AYiR 2006!
Back in 2005 ATI had begun releasing monthly Linux fglrx display drivers that had accompanied their Windows Catalyst counterpart. Since then ATI has continued to follow this monthly cycle for both sets of drivers. The 2006 driver year for ATI had started out on January 18 with the introduction of the fglrx 8.21.7 driver. The two key improvements in the 8.21.7 driver were OpenGL 2.0 support and a smaller ATI proprietary Linux driver bundle. NVIDIA had delivered OpenGL 2.0 support to its proprietary Linux display drivers back in 2005, but this past January was when ATI had finally appended this support. The fglrx Linux driver size in this release was greatly reduced from its previous 50~60MB file-size down to 35MB. However, with time the size of the Linux driver has crept back up and now with the latest drivers at the end of 2006 are back up to ~55MB. This is not much of a problem except for those utilizing slower Internet connections.
Following the 8.21.7 driver was the 8.22.5 display driver. Changed in this release was support for the 2.6.15 Linux kernel, added some missing Radeon 9600 PCI IDs, and some other minor bug fixes. This release had changes "under the hood" that would set the stage for many good things to come in the succeeding driver releases.
A month later in the 8.23.7 display driver we had seen the additions of OpenGL 2.0 extension compliance (verified by GLEW -- OpenGL Extension Wrangler Library), new product support, and FSAA support being enabled for all non-R200 cards. The new product support in this release was not the X1000 series as many had hoped but rather was for the X800 and X850 AGP editions as well as the Mobility Radeon X800 and Radeon X850.