It used to be -- at least when using the Windows Catalyst drivers -- that within the first few months of AMD releasing new Radeon graphics hardware that Catalyst driver optimizations would deliver measurable improvements in this short span. For the Radeon HD 7000 series, which is built upon an entirely new GCN architecture, is this still the case? Here are benchmarks of all the AMD Catalyst Linux drivers that have been released this year and then benchmarked on an AMD Radeon HD 7950 graphics card.
Going back to the Catalyst 12.1 driver there has been support under Linux for the Radeon HD 7950 graphics card, which is part of the "Southern Islands" family. There still is not any usable open-source driver support for the Radeon HD 7000 series graphics cards yet, but there has been at-launch Linux support within the binary-only Catalyst driver. For the benchmarking in this article, the Catalyst 12.1 through Catalyst 12.6 drivers were benchmarked. In addition, the AMD press drivers for the fglrx 8.99.2 and fglrx 9.0.0 release streams were also benchmarked.
The point of this testing is basically to see how the Catalyst Linux driver has evolved (if at all) since the early 2012 launch of the Radeon HD 7950 graphics card. The XFX Radeon HD 7950 3GB graphics card, which was clocked at 900/1375MHz, was running from an Intel Core i7 3770K "Ivy Bridge" system.
Besides looking for OpenGL performance improvements thanks to AMD Catalyst developers better optimizing the software drivers for their new architecture, this benchmarking is also to look for any other performance changes -- possibly as a result of AMD fixing OpenGL performance issues for Valve Software. AMD's found areas for optimization within their driver for the native Source Engine on Linux, but I haven't heard if the optimizations there have landed in the mainline Catalyst driver and whether the optimizations would benefit any other OpenGL games.