1. Computers
  2. Display Drivers
  3. Graphics Cards
  4. Memory
  5. Motherboards
  6. Processors
  7. Software
  8. Storage
  9. Operating Systems


Facebook RSS Twitter Twitter Google Plus


Phoronix Test Suite

OpenBenchmarking Benchmarking Platform
Phoromatic Test Orchestration

A Big Comparison Of The AMD Catalyst, Mesa & Gallium3D Drivers

Michael Larabel

Published on 5 January 2011
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 9 of 9 - 201 Comments

Even in 2011, the Mesa / Gallium3D drivers for the recent ATI Radeon graphics cards are still far from being comparable to the official Catalyst Linux driver in terms of performance. This though is not a huge surprise, but is unfortunate. The OpenGL support is still also well behind with the Catalyst driver supporting OpenGL 3.3/4.1 while all of the Mesa-based drivers are still bound to OpenGL 2.1.

One of the other interesting takeaways from this large Linux graphics comparison was with the VDrift results where a few of the ATI graphics cards being controlled by the Gallium3D driver actually outperformed the Catalyst driver. However, from the numbers it looks more along the lines of the Catalyst driver hitting a show-stopping bug.

If looking at the geometric mean for all of the test results in this article for all of the graphics cards excluding the R500-based Radeon X1950PRO (as for the open-source side it's using R300g/c rather than R600g/c and it's unsupported by Catalyst 10.12) and then averaging them, it shows the Catalyst driver on Linux is roughly five times faster (5.18x to be exact) than the ATI Gallium3D driver for the Radeon HD 2000/3000/4000/5000 series. That's under this OpenGL workload of tests that work with the open-source drivers and not the demanding workloads that will work only with Catalyst at this point (i.e. the Unigine Engine tech demos and games). Again, this is with the latest upstream code at this time for the Linux 2.6.37 kernel, Mesa 7.10-devel, and xf86-video-ati 6.13.99.

There has been much progress over the past year to the open-source ATI drivers and the Linux graphics stack in general, but it still has a ways to improve. Our similar set of results for the NVIDIA side with the open-source Nouveau Gallium3D driver will be out in a few days. Also worth noting is that at this time only the R300 class Gallium3D driver is enabled by default in Mesa (and most Linux distributions) while the R600 classic Mesa driver is still used rather than its newer Gallium3D driver. Based upon the faster performance, minimal regressions (just Nexuiz with Evergreen ASICs and a few other areas), the superior architecture (support for state trackers, etc), better OpenGL 2.1 support, and other benefits, hopefully in Mesa 7.11 we will see R600g by default and it being utilized by most Linux distributions upon their next major update.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
Latest Articles & Reviews
  1. GeForce GTX 750 Series: Nouveau vs. NVIDIA Linux Driver Performance
  2. GLAMOR + RadeonSI 2D Acceleration Is Quite Good For Open-Source AMD 2D Performance
  3. AMD Radeon R9 290 OpenGL On Ubuntu 15.04: Catalyst vs. RadeonSI Gallium3D
  4. Ubuntu 15.04 Offers Faster OpenGL For AMD Radeon GPUs On Open-Source
  5. Ubuntu 15.04 Brings Some Graphics Performance Improvements For Intel Haswell
  6. Sub-$20 802.11n USB WiFi Adapter That's Linux Friendly
Latest Linux News
  1. Many Ubuntu Phone Updates Are Coming Up Soon
  2. Nouveau Lands GL_AMD_Performance_Monitor Support
  3. Deb-Based Ubuntu Will Continue To Be Offered For The Foreseeable Future
  4. Linux Game Publishing Remains Down For The Count
  5. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.7 Beta Released
  6. Keeping The Humidity Out Of The Basement Linux Server Room
  7. It's A Long Road Ahead To Get Ubuntu Snappy On The Desktop
  8. NetworkManager 1.0.2 Arrives As First Post-1.0 Release
  9. Libinput 0.15 Adds New Debug Events Utility
  10. Qt 5.5 Beta Is Coming Soon, Snapshot Released
Most Viewed News This Week
  1. Trying Out Microsoft Visual Studio Code On Linux
  2. Microsoft Releases New Code IDE For Linux!
  3. Improvements On The Way For GNOME's Nautilus File Manager
  4. A Lot Of Improvements Are Coming For Mir 0.13, Including Work Towards Libinput
  5. Kodi 15.0 Beta 1 Released
  6. Mono 4.0 Makes Use Of Microsoft's Open-Source Code, C# 6.0
  7. Wayland 1.8 Alpha Release Delayed
  8. Lucid Sleep Support Is Being Worked On For The Upstream Linux Kernel