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Radeon Open-Source Performance Over Three Years, Compared To Legacy Catalyst

Michael Larabel

Published on 5 March 2014
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 6 - 20 Comments

Yesterday on Phoronix I published results showing the Radeon Gallium3D performance getting close to Catalyst for the Radeon HD 5000 series and newer GPUs that are supported by the mainline Catalyst driver. On the open-source side the hardware is supported by the R600 and RadeonSI (for the GCN hardware) Gallium3D drivers. Yesterday's results showed that on Ubuntu 14.04 for many OpenGL workloads the R600/RadeonSI Gallium3D drivers were now ~80% the speed of the proprietary Catalyst driver in many instances. While this is a great feat, how does it stand for older generations of AMD Radeon hardware? In this article are Radeon HD 4870 benchmarks looking at the performance of the open-source AMD Linux driver over three years of Ubuntu Linux releases and compared to the legacy Catalyst driver from 2011.

Back in early 2012, AMD dropped Catalyst support for the Radeon HD 2000/3000/4000 series GPUs. This left Linux users to only use the open-source graphics driver (they do maintain the R600 through R700 series support in a Catalyst Legacy driver branch, but it's seldom updated and hard to even call it maintained at all). While the open-source graphics driver has made great strides for these older generations of hardware, even among the open-source Radeon driver developers it's seldom a new focus for original improvements with having their hands full properly bringing up current generation Radeon GPUs.

For this article we benchmarked Ubuntu 14.04 in its current development state and compared it to the Ubuntu releases going back three years to Ubuntu 11.10. The test configuration panned out to:

- Ubuntu 14.04 (Linux 3.13 + Mesa 10.1)
- Ubuntu 13.10 (Linux 3.11 + Mesa 9.2)
- Ubuntu 13.04 (Linux 3.8 + Mesa 9.1)
- Ubuntu 12.10 (Linux 3.5 + Mesa 9.0)
- (Ubuntu 12.04.0 LTS had to be omitted since in its stock configuration it would not properly mode-set on this particular hardware configuration.)
- Ubuntu 11.10 (Linux 3.0 + Mesa 7.11)
- Ubuntu 11.10 + Catalyst (fglrx 8.88.7 + OpenGL 3.3.11005)

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