With AMD having published the Catalyst 11.12 driver yesterday, the year is now complete as far as their graphics drivers are concerned. As such, for the sixth year, it's time for the year-in-review articles looking at how the NVIDIA and AMD GPU drivers have matured over the past twelve months in terms of features and OpenGL performance.
Before sharing the benchmark numbers of the monthly Catalyst Linux releases from Catalyst 10.12 (the end of last year) through this month's Catalyst 11.12 update, here's a few words about each of the driver releases from 2011.
Catalyst 11.1 brought production support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.0 (RHEL6), Linux 2.6.37 kernel support, and a hidden feature that was talked about on Phoronix. Hidden away in Catalyst 11.1 for Linux was an option that could be set to enable tear-free v-sync support for the Linux desktop that applied to 2D, 3D, and video. The tear-free support within the Catalyst driver is now generally in a good state.
In February the Catalyst 11.2 Linux driver brought a much leaner driver package (it dropped in size by about 20MB), updated packaging scripts, tear-free desktop updates, official Radeon HD 6800 series support, and Unigine Heaven fixes.
Catalyst 11.3 dropped support for the old X.Org Server 6.8 series, provided early support for openSUSE 11.4, and numerous bug-fixes, but it still didn't provide support for X.Org Server 1.10 as needed by Ubuntu 11.04, which resulted in another special early driver release to Ubuntu users.
The May release of Catalyst 11.5 delivered on better localization support within the AMD Catalyst Control Center, early-look support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1, and bug-fixes.
Catalyst 11.6 was not exciting at all with just some bug-fixes making it into the driver.