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AMD R600/700 2D Performance: Open vs. Closed Drivers

Michael Larabel

Published on 30 September 2009
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 5 - 56 Comments

While the ATI Radeon HD 5800 graphics cards were introduced last week, the open-source support for the Radeon HD 2000/3000/4000 series is finally maturing. The Linux 2.6.32 kernel will feature kernel mode-setting support for these ATI R600/700 graphics processors as well as the DRM support for allowing 3D acceleration. The classic Mesa support for the Radeon HD 2000 through Radeon HD 4000 series is maturing and is now able to run basic OpenGL games and applications, while the Gallium3D support is still a ways out. However, now that there is finally the Catalyst 9.10 driver within Ubuntu Karmic Koala that supports the latest kernel, we are finally able to directly compare the performance of AMD's Catalyst driver and that of the latest open-source code. In this article we have benchmarks showing the 2D performance between these two driver options with both an R600 and R700 graphics card.

For this round of Linux 2D benchmarks we tested an ATI Radeon HD 3850 (RV670PRO) and then the ATI Radeon HD 4650 (RV730). We tested both of these graphics cards on a system running an Ubuntu 9.10 (x86_64) daily LiveCD snapshot with the Linux 2.6.31-10-generic kernel, GNOME 2.28.0, and X Server 1.6.3. The open-source DDX driver was xf86-video-ati 6.12.99 with the respective Linux 2.6.31 kernel DRM (using the EXA acceleration during the testing process) and then the proprietary driver was the Catalyst 9.10 driver that is currently available through Ubuntu's package repository. The rest of the hardware on this test system included an AMD Sempron 3400+ clocked at 2.16GHz, an ECS A790GXM-A motherboard, and Seagate 250GB ST3250310AS SATA HDD.

With the two ATI Radeon graphics cards and the two drivers being tested, we ran the Phoronix Test Suite with the JXRenderMark, GtkPerf, and QGears2 test profiles to test out the 2D performance in this forthcoming Ubuntu release. Chris Wilson has been working on a cairo-perf-trace test profile for the Phoronix Test Suite as a better 2D benchmark, but that test is not ready for this article.

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