As we have talked about in numerous articles now and delivered various benchmarks for different graphics processors from those using a classic Mesa DRI driver to the newer NVIDIA/ATI hardware with Gallium3D support, Mesa 7.9 brings a lot to the table. There are many new features to be found in Mesa 7.9 for all drivers, but in this article, we are specifically looking to see how the OpenGL performance of the classic R600 driver has changed compared to Mesa 7.7 and Mesa 7.8.
The ATI R600 driver in Mesa supports the ATI Radeon HD 2000/3000 series GPUs, but that support has also been extended to support the R700 class (Radeon HD 4000 series) ASICs too. With Mesa 7.9 we now have the "R600g" Gallium3D driver beginning to work and living in Mesa's mainline code-base, but we are saving those initial Gallium3D results for another article. In this article our focus is simply seeing how the R600 classic performance has changed (if at all) in a few of our common OpenGL benchmarks under Linux.
Some of the classic R600 DRI driver improvements made during the Mesa 7.9 development cycle include OpenGL 2.1 support, tiling support, and other improvements. There's also been more generic improvements to Mesa core like switching to the new GLSL compiler that affect all drivers and not just the Radeon driver. For this simple testing we ran the classic Mesa R600 driver on Mesa 7.7.1 (as found by default in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS), Mesa 7.8.3, and Mesa 7.9-devel, which was a Git snapshot as of 2010-09-02. The graphics card used for this testing was an ATI Radeon HD 4870 (RV770). The test system had an Intel Core i5 750 CPU clocked at 2.67GHz, an ECS P55H-A motherboard, 4GB of system memory, a 500GB Western Digital WD5000AADS-0 SATA HDD, and the RV770 graphics card. On the software side was a clean installation of Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS with the Linux 2.6.32 (x86_64) kernel, GNOME 2.30.2, X.Org Server 1.7.6, xf86-video-ati 6.13.0, GCC 4.4.3, and an EXT4 file-system. In between each test, we just swapped out Mesa. Mesa 7.7.1 advertised OpenGL 1.5 support for this driver, Mesa 7.8.3 advertised OpenGL 2.0 support, and Mesa 7.9 advertises OpenGL 2.1 compatibility.
We ran tests of Mesa 7.7.1, 7.8.3, and 7.9 with Warsow, OpenArena, World of Padman, Smokin' Guns, Tremulous, and Urban Terror. With each of these games we ran them at 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1280 x 1024, 1600 x 1200, and 1920 x 1200.