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Intel Haswell Linux Performance Improved A Lot In 2013

Michael Larabel

Published on 19 December 2013
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 4 - 10 Comments

With the end of the year quickly approaching, at Phoronix I have been re-testing all of the Linux graphics drivers to see how the performance has changed in 2013 and the features added/removed over the calendar year. I've been doing these annual Linux driver yearly recaps going back to 2005 when Linux GPU drivers were in their infancy compared to Windows. Yesterday I started with the NVIDIA 2013 Linux Year-In-Review of their first-rate binary driver while today I have some performance tests done for Intel's latest-generation Haswell graphics hardware.

In 2013, the Intel Mesa driver for Haswell (and Ivy Bridge) graphics processors picked up support for OpenGL 3.2 and OpenGL 3.3, plus support for various other GL extensions as part of OpenGL 4.x, etc. There was also work done on power improvements, Intel Broadwell support was published, and the SNA back-end is now being used for 2D acceleration by default with the X.Org driver. The Beignet project has also emerged for Intel OpenCL GPU support on Linux. For finer-details on the Intel open-source Linux 2013 improvements made, read the many Phoronix graphics driver articles and news items. With the Intel Linux "graphics driver" being spread across the Mesa user-space 3D driver, DRM library (libdrm), the kernel DRM/KMS driver, VA-API video acceleration library (libva), xf86-video-intel, and also now Beignet, it's hard to easily summarize all of the improvements made when they're spread across several different Linux code-bases.

Due to the open-source Linux graphics drivers being spread across several code-bases, it's not as easy as testing each individual driver release from 2013 like can be done with the binary AMD and NVIDIA drivers where they ship as a single binary package. Due to inter-dependencies between Mesa, libdrm, the DDX driver, and the Linux kernel, testing of the open-source driver was done by using Ubuntu 13.04 in its stock shape to get an idea for Ubuntu at the beginning of this year and then testing the same hardware with Ubuntu 14.04 in its current development state to get an idea for the Intel Haswell performance now at the end of the year. With forthcoming Ivy Bridge and Radeon results, Ubuntu 12.10 will be used instead of Ubuntu 13.04, but the Haswell Linux support really didn't come together until the 13.04 release. Ubuntu 13.04 shipped with the Linux 3.8 kernel, xf86-video-intel 2.21.6, and Mesa 9.1.7. Ubuntu 14.04 LTS currently has the Linux 3.12 kernel, xf86-video-intel 2.99.904, and Mesa 10.0. A third run was also done where Ubuntu 14.04 was tested with a Linux 3.13 Git kernel.

This entire Intel graphics driver benchmarking was done via the Phoronix Test Suite software. The Intel Core i7 4770K processor with HD Graphics 4600 was used for testing.

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