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Phoronix Test Suite

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Benchmarks Of AMD's Newest Gallium3D Graphics Driver

Michael Larabel

Published on 22 November 2010
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 4 - 163 Comments

While we have already published two exciting articles today looking at the native ZFS file-system for Linux and also new benchmarks of OpenSolaris / BSD / Linux, here's a third article for the day. We might as well test our new Phoronix serving infrastructure while already having excess load today due to Slashdot, etc (it's good practice for OpenBenchmarking.org), so here are benchmarks of AMD's newest Gallium3D driver compared to their classic open-source Mesa driver and also their proprietary Catalyst driver. Oh yeah, a fourth article is also in the queue for today or the very near future when AMD has a major Linux driver announcement to share.

With the Mesa 7.9 software release the default open-source ATI graphics driver for ATI R300 through R500 (Radeon X1000 series) graphics cards switched from being the classic Mesa DRI driver to being the Gallium3D-based solution that has been in development for a few years. The results for this R300 era Gallium3D driver have been quite favorable with many improvements having come about for these older GPUs. At the same time, the newer Gallium3D driver that supports the ATI Radeon HD 2000/3000/4000/5000 series (R600 through Evergreen ASICs) has been quick to mature too. In this article are benchmarks of this open-source ATI/AMD Gallium3D driver with ATI Radeon HD 4000 and 5000 series GPUs. The performance is compared to the classic Mesa driver for this hardware as well as AMD's official proprietary Catalyst driver.

This, in fact, is our first time publishing benchmarks of the open-source Evergreen / Radeon HD 5000 series drivers. It was just in August that open-source 2D/3D acceleration came for the Radeon HD 5000 series on Linux via an extension to the classic Mesa R600 DRI driver, but then literally days later this Evergreen acceleration code was ported to the R600 Gallium3D driver. Initially this support was a bit shaky, so we waited to deliver benchmarks, but then came Oktoberfest and other business happenings, but now we are finally getting around to see where this classic Mesa and Gallium3D performance is after being public for a few months.

There have been many improvements to the R600g driver and even a new design. Those testing out this driver have been reporting that the parity between these new and old R600/700/Evergreen-class drivers is approaching feature parity in terms of support (OpenGL capabilities, etc) and performance. There is even XvMC R600 support in Gallium3D. The forthcoming Radeon HD 6000 series support may also come to this Gallium3D driver.

For today's benchmarks we used the ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB and ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB graphics cards to benchmark the Catalyst 10.10 Linux driver and then the very latest snapshots of the classic Mesa and Gallium3D drivers that are used by both GPUs. Testing was done under Ubuntu 10.10 x86_64 with the Catalyst 10.10 driver for the proprietary benchmarking and then for getting a look at the latest open-source 3D support we pulled the Linux 2.6.37-rc2 kernel, xf86-video-ati 6.13.99 Git DDX, and Mesa 7.10-devel / Gallium3D code from Git on 2010-11-18. These two graphics cards with three drivers were tested on a system with an Intel Core i5 750 quad-core CPU clocked at 2.67GHz, ECS P55H-A motherboard, 4GB of DDR3 system memory, and 500GB Western Digital WD5000AADS-O disk.

With the different drivers and Radeon RV770/Juniper graphics cards we used the Phoronix Test Suite to run the Nexuiz, VDrift, OpenArena, World of Padman, and Smokin' Guns games at different resolutions under this Ubuntu Linux installation. Unfortunately since AMD dropped support for the R500 hardware and earlier back in 2009 with a Catalyst driver release that is no longer compatible with today's Linux distributions and hardware, we are unable to compare the relative performance directly of the R300g driver + Catalyst to that of today's combination.

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