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AMD's New Catalyst Linux Driver Isn't Too Good

Michael Larabel

Published on 22 November 2012
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 4 - 51 Comments

Last week marked the release of a new AMD Catalyst Linux driver beta that was intended to improve the AMD Radeon OpenGL performance. AMD said this updated closed-source Linux graphics driver would bring "significant performance improvements" for Valve's recently ported Left 4 Dead 2 Linux game. Curious about AMD Linux OpenGL performance improvements elsewhere, I ran some benchmarks of this new driver on several different graphics cards. Unfortunately, the performance improvements aren't too widespread and there's other problems making this beta driver not appealing.

NVIDIA released a new Linux driver that delivered massive performance improvements as part of Valve's Linux play. NVIDIA's performance improvements were not isolated to Valve's Source Engine games but performance improvements were found throughout most Phoronix OpenGL benchmarks. This new NVIDIA Linux driver update (310.xx) was very exciting, which led to hope that the updated AMD Catalyst driver with its advertised "significant performance improvements" would also be great.

While I can't share Source Engine Linux benchmarks at the moment, I went ahead and tested the new Catalyst 12.11 Beta 8 Linux driver with other Linux-native OpenGL workloads from Ubuntu 12.10. On three different AMD Radeon graphics cards I compared the performance of the stock Catalyst driver as packaged currently in the Ubuntu 12.10 repository (fglrx 9.0.2 / OpenGL 4.2.11903) to that of the new Catalyst Linux beta that was released days ago (fglrx 9.1.11 / OpenGL 4.2.11991). The tested graphics cards included the Radeon HD 5770, HD 6570, and HD 7950.

A variety of OpenBenchmarking.org test profiles with the Phoronix Test Suite were run while only swapping out the Catalyst driver and graphics card.

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