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Intel Open-Sources Broadwell Linux GPU Driver; Broadwell Graphics Look Amazing

Michael Larabel

Published on 3 November 2013
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 2 - 8 Comments

While Intel's Broadwell processors won't be launching until 2014 as the successor to Haswell, this weekend the initial open-source Linux GPU kernel driver was published ahead of the Linux 3.13 kernel merge window. The changes are massive and it's looking like the Broadwell graphics improvements will be astonishing and provide significant improvements over Haswell and earlier generations of Intel graphics.

Ben Widawsky of Intel's Open-Source Technology Center was cleared on early Sunday morning to publish the initial kernel driver support for Broadwell. Intel in their traditional manner has managed to publish their open-source graphics driver support for Linux months prior to the hardware debut so that it can be merged into the upstream kernel and begin appearing in the next round of Linux distribution releases. For Broadwell Linux enablement Intel is pushing the preliminary hardware support into Linux 3.13 and hopes to stabilize it and push additional features for Linux 3.14. With the Broadwell support in Linux 3.13, it should be at feature-parity to Haswell. With that said, Fedora 21 and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS -- and other H1'2014 Linux distributions -- should be in good shape for supporting the next-generation Intel hardware. How this timing will work out for Linux end-users with "out of the box" support will be contingent upon what month Intel begins shipping Broadwell CPUs; hopefully it will be in Q2 to avoid some of the missteps made during the early 2011 launch of Sandy Bridge.


Intel's Haswell is soon to be succeeded by "Broadwell" and the Linux support is now taking shape and at a hardware level the graphics should be even more incredible.

Kudos to Intel and their OTC developers for getting Broadwell into shape and so that it should hopefully be a smooth launch. This is a much better situation than with AMD where the stable open-source support generally has only arrived post-launch for major new GPU introductions or on the NVIDIA side where the open-source support is still largely left up to the reverse-engineering Nouveau community, though NVIDIA says they will now support Nouveau.

Anyhow, being released this weekend were a set of 62 patches to the Linux kernel for enabling Broadwell support by Intel's DRM (Direct Rendering Manager) driver. The user-space support hasn't been released. Intel is expected to release the libdrm and intel-gpu-tools support in the coming days and then after that we need to see the i965 Mesa DRI driver changes plus the xf86-video-intel DDX driver for X.Org support. For the 3D/OpenGL support by the Mesa driver, the Mesa 10.0 code is being branched from Git master in the next few days so Broadwell code won't likely be in released Mesa form for a few months (UPDATE: Broadwell Mesa OpenGL driver changes were pushed to a Git branch). The next release will be Mesa 10.1 or Mesa 11.0 depending whether core Mesa achieves OpenGL 4.0 compliance and that release will be around February of next year.

The open-sourcing of the Broadwell support shouldn't come as a huge surprise at all if you're a loyal Phoronix reader. I've already written a number of Broadwell Linux articles, noted earlier this week that the code was likely to land soon given the publishing of multiple power-well support for future Intel hardware, and in talking about Intel graphics for Linux 3.13 had commented on Saturday the secret is likely Broadwell. Today's Broadwell drop is similar to how Phoronix was the first source for news on Valley View graphics in advancing Atom SoC graphics by doing away with PowerVR.

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