The open-source ATI/AMD Radeon Linux driver stack has made a lot of improvements in recent times with their Gallium3D drivers becoming mature across all generations and support for new features (such as DRI2 page-flipping) landing in the mainline code and beginning to make its way to users. The time required to bring up support for new generations has also been reduced greatly and with the Radeon HD 8000 series there should be a turning point for their open-source strategy. In this article, we are providing an updated look at the course of the open-source driver's performance for the past two years.
Testing in this article is quite simple: we performed clean installations of each Ubuntu Linux release from the latest Ubuntu 11.04 daily post-beta snapshot all the way going back to Ubuntu 9.04. Each time the stock open-source driver stack was compared. As a bonus, we also threw in the Catalyst results and the results when using Ubuntu 11.04 with an updated driver stack from Git source.
In order to have hardware that worked back in Ubuntu 9.04 and with open-source 3D acceleration even back then, a Lenovo ThinkPad T60 notebook was used. The T60 bears ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 128MB graphics with an Intel Core 2 Duo T2400, 1GB of system memory, and 80GB Hitachi SATA HDD.
Ubuntu 9.04 shipped with the Linux 2.6.28 kernel, xf86-video-ati 6.12.1, X.Org Server 1.6.0, and Mesa 7.4.
Ubuntu 9.10 had the Linux 2.6.31 kernel, X.Org Server 1.6.4, xf86-video-ati 6.12.99, and Mesa 7.6. Ubuntu 9.10 is where ATI kernel mode-setting was flipped on.
Ubuntu 10.04.2 LTS deploys the Linux 2.6.32 kernel, X.Org Server 1.7.6, xf86-video-ati 6.13.0, and Mesa 7.7.1.
Ubuntu 10.10 has the Linux 2.6.35 kernel, X.Org Server 1.9.0, xf86-video-ati 6.13.1, and Mesa 7.9.1. With Ubuntu 10.10 is where the "R300" open-source driver switched from the classic Mesa implementation to being Gallium3D based.
Ubuntu 11.04 is set to ship with the Linux 2.6.38 kernel, X.Org Server 1.10, xf86-video-ati 6.14.0, and Mesa 7.10.1. When pulling the Git components on top we had a snapshot of the Linux 2.6.39 kernel, xf86-video-ati 6.14.99, and Mesa 7.11-devel.
Each OS was tested in its stock configuration, including the use of Compiz. For testing an R500-era GPU (the Mobility Radeon X1400), Ubuntu 8.10 had to be used as it is the last release compatible with a Catalyst proprietary driver prior to the R300 through R500 support being discontinued. Ubuntu 8.10 has the Linux 2.6.27 kernel, X.Org Server 1.5.2, and fglrx 8.54.3 (Catalyst 8.10).
Tests for these historical benchmarks included Nexuiz, OpenArena, Padman, UrbanTerror, and Warsow. Testing was done with the Phoronix Test Suite and OpenBenchmarking.org. In another article, we will be going back with even hardware that is supported longer, as in an original ATI R300 ASIC.