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Further Testing Shows More Hope For ATI Gallium3D

Michael Larabel

Published on 19 January 2011
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 6 - 59 Comments

A week ago I reported on the open-source ATI driver becoming a lot faster thanks to the KMS page-flipping support finally landing in the mainline Linux kernel and xf86-video-ati driver, tiling improvements, and lots of work going into the R300g/R600g Gallium3D drivers. The open-source ATI Gallium3D is not conclusively faster than the proprietary Catalyst driver is, but it's becoming a much more competitive race. In last week's article an ATI Mobility Radeon GPU was used to illustrate these improvements, but in this follow-up article are the Linux benchmark results for three discrete Radeon graphics cards using the stock Ubuntu 10.10 open-source ATI driver, the last R500-supported Catalyst Linux driver, and then the latest open-source driver bits from the Linux 2.6.38 kernel.

The testing in this article follows the same principles as last week's tests of comparing the stock Ubuntu 10.10 performance to that of the Catalyst driver and then the newest open-source bits possible. Though due to bugs with some of the graphics cards on Catalyst 9.3, we ended up having to use the Catalyst 9.2 driver in this article. This R500-capable driver was tested with Ubuntu 8.04.4 (x86_64) like in the previous article. Testing the newest bits on Ubuntu 10.10 x86_64 included a Git snapshot of the pre-RC1 Linux 2.6.38 kernel, libdrm Git, xf86-video-ati Git, and Mesa 7.11-devel code from 2011-01-11. When testing the newest open-source bits, KMS color tiling was enabled along with KMS page-flipping, but we disabled the swap buffers wait support (see the previous article for details).

As far as the hardware goes this time around, we used the ATI Radeon X1800XL, ATI Radeon X1800XT, and ATI Radeon X1950PRO graphics cards. Originally, we hoped to include an ATI Radeon X800XL (R400) and ATI Radeon X1300PRO graphics card too as part of this older GPU test mix, but compatibility problems barred that from happening. The system used had an AMD Opteron 2384 Quad-Core CPU, a Tyan S2927 motherboard, 4GB of system memory, and an OCZ 64GB Agility EX SSD.

The OpenGL Linux-native game tests again included Nexuiz, Warsow, OpenArena, World of Padman, and Urban Terror via the Phoronix Test Suite 3.0-Iveland and OpenBenchmarking.org. With the few changes for this article covered, let us jump to the results.

In last week's article with the Mobility Radeon X1400, the open-source driver performance with the very latest bits had actually regressed compared to the Ubuntu 10.10 Mesa 7.9 stock driver. However, with these more powerful discrete ATI GPUs, this is far from being the case. The ATI Gallium3D performance with the Mesa 7.11-devel and Linux 2.6.38 kernel code is quite impressive with the speed-ups delivered in just the past few months thanks to KMS page-flipping and other optimizations. Via analyzing the results on OpenBenchmarking.org we are able to easily condense the results from the three ATI Radeon graphics cards and then normalize the values, which shows this latest Gallium3D code on average being 69% faster than the Ubuntu 10.10 driver, but the Catalyst 9.2 driver is still 33% faster than this newest open-source code.

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