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Preview: Intel's Open-Source Driver Can Beat Mac OS X

Michael Larabel

Published on 24 January 2012
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 5 - 12 Comments

Thanks to recent advancements by Intel's Open-Source Technology Center, the open-source Linux graphics driver not only supports more OpenGL 3.0 functionality than Apple's Intel graphics driver for Mac OS X, but the performance is more competitive. In some cases, the OpenGL performance is now superior under Linux with the open-source driver that is developed by Intel in conjunction with the free software community. This article is looking at the performance of Intel Sandy Bridge graphics under Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" and Ubuntu Linux.

Comparing the Intel Sandy Bridge OpenGL graphics performance is something that I have wanted to do ever since Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" was released last summer. Back in July, I did publish the rough story of Intel Sandy Bridge graphics for Mac OS X, which shared some early OpenGL results under Mac OS X 10.7.0 and Microsoft Windows 7. Left out though were any Linux results, since due to UEFI problems with Ubuntu Linux at the time, the Mid-2011 Apple Mac Mini could no longer boot. This was just days after purchasing this brand new Apple hardware at the time.

For the past six months the system wouldn't boot and every once in a while I'd try to get the system to boot using a variety of means -- clearing the PRAM, attempting to boot the Mac OS X Lion installation media over USB / DVD / Internet recovery, using reFIT, etc. Nothing worked. Since my discovery of the problem in July, it seems many more people have had EFI problems on the Mid-2011 Mac Mini with their system appearing to be bricked, etc. In some cases, "unbricking" the system has meant needing to have the motherboard replaced by Apple. (There's mid-2011 Mac Mini EFI discussion threads on the Apple Support Communities and elsewhere.)

Finally, a few days ago when trying everything once more to restore the 2011 Apple Mac Mini, I managed to get Ubuntu 11.10 x86_64 to successfully boot and then to also perform a clean install of Mac OS X 10.7 using the Internet Recovery feature built into the firmware of the new Mac Mini computers. With the system running, new tests were conducted under the latest Apple release (Mac OS X 10.7.2) as well as Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu 11.10 in its stock configuration was tested and also when pulling in the latest Intel Linux graphics components, with similar versions to what will be found in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS this April.

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