Last quarter we compared the Catalyst and Mesa driver performance using an ATI Radeon HD 4830 graphics card, compared the Gallium3D and classic Mesa drivers for ATI Radeon X1000 series hardware, and ultimately found that even with the ATI R500 class graphics cards the open-source driver is still playing catch-up to AMD's proprietary Catalyst Linux driver. In this article we have similar tests to show the performance disparity with ATI's much older R300 class hardware. Even with Radeon hardware that has had open-source support much longer, their drivers are not nearly as mature as an outdated Catalyst driver in the same configuration.
With this latest testing we have results from Mesa 7.9-devel Git code for the classic R300 DRI driver and the Gallium3D "R300g" driver while running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, results from a clean installation of Ubuntu 8.10 with its stock Mesa 7.2 classic DRI driver stack, and finally results from Catalyst 8.10 with Ubuntu 8.10. Ubuntu 8.10 was the last Ubuntu Linux release to support the R300/400/500 class with the proprietary Catalyst driver since the support was dropped from their mainline Catalyst driver in early 2009. This testing took place on a Lenovo ThinkPad R52 notebook with an ATI Mobility Radeon X300 64MB graphics processor, an Intel Pentium M 1.86GHz CPU, an Intel 915PM + ICH6M motherboard, 2GB of system memory, and an 80GB Hitachi HTS541080G9AT00 HDD.
The key package versions for Ubuntu 8.10 testing were the Linux 2.6.27 kernel, GNOME 2.24.1, X.Org Server 1.5.2, fglrx 8.54.3 / OpenGL 2.1.8087, Mesa 7.2, and xf86-video-ati 6.9.0. Ubuntu 10.04 LTS was tested with the Linux 2.6.32 kernel, GNOME 2.30.0, X.Org Server 1.7.6, xf86-video-ati 6.13.0, and Mesa 7.9-devel (checked from Git master on 2010-07-13) for its classic DRI and Gallium3D support. The OpenGL games that were run for testing via the Phoronix Test Suite were OpenArena, World of Padman, Tremulous, and Urban Terror.