Back in April of 2006, a proprietary driver from ATI that had supported the Radeon X1000 "R500" product family had finally greeted Linux users. This driver, v8.24.8, had supported the entire desktop and mobile Radeon X1000 lineup with 3D support and even Avivo video playback capabilities. For the six months prior, Linux users were stuck in the dark without any Linux support for the R500 series while the ATI Windows Catalyst customers had support that was continually improved. Of course, back in 2006 there was no open-source R500 driver either. Over the past 16 months with R500 support in the fglrx driver, the features have continually improved with an AMD Catalyst Control Center for Linux, support for the newer R500 graphics cards, and there are far less bugs in the driver now then there was in the past. However, these changes really have not affected the performance as it has stayed the same for the most part with minimal improvements. In this article today we are going back to test the original 8.24.8 display driver and compare it directly against the latest driver available as of today, the 8.40.4 fglrx release.
For compatibility with the fglrx 8.24.8 release we had went back to use Fedora Core 4 with X.Org 6.8.2 and the Linux 2.6.15 kernel. The hardware used in these tests was an Abit AW8-MAX i955X, Intel Pentium D 820, 2GB of OCZ DDR2-800 memory, 200GB Serial ATA 2.0 hard drive, and SilverStone 750W Zeus power supply. The graphics cards we had used to compare the fglrx 8.24.8 and 8.40.4 releases were an ATI Radeon X1300PRO 256MB and ATI Radeon X1800XL 256MB. The benchmarks used were Enemy Territory, Doom 3, and Quake 4. The results on the following pages are meant to demonstrate the level of performance for the R500 series back when it was introduced for Linux and comparing these numbers to the latest publicly available driver.