AMD 8.36.5 Display Driver
Last month the AMD Catalyst Control Center Linux Edition had entered the world with mixed opinions by the ATI/AMD Linux user community. In our 8.35.5 Linux driver review we had looked at the Linux version of the Catalyst Control Center quite extensively. This new control center replaced the old fireglcontrolpanel and in our opinion was a huge move for AMD. However, the negativity against the Catalyst Control Center has been by those seeking the much overdue AIGLX support. While today's 8.36.5 release doesn't contain AIGLX support, it does contain a few changes worth mentioning.
It was in early February when the Linux 2.6.20 kernel was released but neither the February 8.34 or March 8.35 fglrx drivers had contained official support. However, this month's 8.36.5 driver does finally append proper Linux kernel 2.6.20 support. The Fedora patch that was made popular in the 8.35 release for Linux 2.6.20 support was only a temporary patch and a proper solution has been implemented in this driver release. With the proper Linux 2.6.20 support, there should be appropriate Ubuntu Feisty Fawn build support with the 8.36.5 driver.
In January we had mentioned AMD was quietly working on Radeon R600 support for the Linux drivers so they would not be faced by another time disaster like what had occurred with the Radeon X1000 (R500) series support and other long-awaited features. This month the 8.36.5 drivers do not mention official R600 (Radeon HD 2000 series) support, but that will hopefully be here in the near future.
The AMD 8.35.5 display driver had shipped with version 0.8 of the AMD Catalyst Control Center. This control interface had contained quite a bit of functionality and was a near graphical equivalent to aticonfig. However, a few crashes and other bugs, which all should be worked out in this release, plagued the 8.35.5 release. Shipping with fglrx 8.36.5 is amdcccle v0.9. Outside of fixing the outstanding bugs, there is new localization support in the Catalyst Control Center. Localization support is in Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Swedish, Spanish, Thai, and Turkish. If you run into any problems with amdcccle, be sure to stop by the Phoronix Forums.
One of the other changes in this release is a fix for virtual terminal switching blanking screen on cards using the Rialto bridge chip (PCI Express GPUs with an AGP interface). While not marked in the official release notes, there have been some "under the hood" changes with the fglrx 8.36.5 driver. In this driver are two new files: esut.a and glesx.so. These are new X.Org modules for the fglrx driver and specifically involve TexturedVideo and OpenGL ES. The changes that stem from this should be very interesting and when the time comes for its implementation we will be sure to share all of the details.
The driver release notes for the 8.36.5 driver do mention a lot more known issues than the previous 8.35.5 release. These known issues involve AMD Catalyst Control Center issues with some particular Radeon X1900 desktops, XGL enabled X servers disables display hot plug support (Dynamic Display Management), increased CPU utilization for video playback using GLESX compared to GSL, video tearing during playback, and no video playback support on the second head in dual head mode.
As with all of the fglrx driver releases, we have thoroughly tested them; however, as we have not seen any performance increases or decreases with this driver release, we will not be including our normal Linux gaming benchmarks. We continue to try out the fglrx driver in a combination of different systems and if we come across any performance changes over version 8.35.5 we will pass along the information.
The AMD fglrx 8.36.5 driver is an important release in that it now supports the Linux 2.6.20 kernel and fixes a few bugs, but beyond there isn't much. However, esut.a and glesx.so will likely prove to be very interesting in the upcoming driver releases. The fglrx 8.36.5 driver does not contain official support for R600 GPUs, but once there is official fglrx support you can expect benchmarks and much more information on Phoronix.
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