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Intel Gallium3D Graphics Driver Performance

Michael Larabel

Published on 26 February 2011
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 3 - 11 Comments

While Intel remains to be the only major graphics vendor standing strong behind their classic Mesa driver on Linux for open-source support rather than drawing up plans to move to the Gallium3D driver architecture, there is actually available a Gallium3D driver available for Intel hardware. This Intel Gallium3D driver has been around since close to Gallium3D's inception, but it targets the older generations of Intel IGPs and was developed by VMware as a proof of concept. The driver is incomplete, but our testing shows that for those with Intel 945 netbooks and other hardware, the "i915g" driver is usable. In this article are benchmarks showing how this Intel Gallium3D driver compares to Intel's officially supported classic Mesa DRI driver.

The Intel 915 Gallium3D driver was developed by the Tungsten Graphics / VMware developers as one of the original drivers alongside their CELL driver, which pre-dates much of the Radeon and Nouveau Gallium3D work, but it receives little love. There still is the occasional commit to i915g, but it is not nearly as mature as the Radeon or Nouveau Gallium3D drivers. This Gallium3D driver also does not support the newer Arrandale/Clarkdale or Sandy Bridge graphics. The Gallium Status Wiki page indicates the Intel 915/945 driver as having mostly complete support for OpenGL with the Mesa state tracker, support is mostly complete for the DRI and X.Org state trackers, and the EGL state tracker is marked as being done. There has not been any measurable work on allowing the Intel 915/945 Gallium3D driver to work with the WGL, Direct3D 10/11, VEGA, EXA, or Python state trackers.

Intel has largely been uninterested in Gallium3D since moving to this driver architecture would effectively require a rewrite of the driver without providing any immediate benefits and they remain unconvinced on the benefits of Gallium3D or of any performance advantages. Instead, Intel continues to invest in optimizing their classic Mesa driver along with other core Mesa improvements such as their work in recent months on overhauling the GLSL (GL Shading Language) compiler. However, Intel's Mesa driver remains much slower and behind compared to Intel's Windows graphics driver.

This is our first time publishing benchmark results of this unofficial Intel Gallium3D driver, and it is intentionally timed with today's launch of OpenBenchmarking.org from the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE). The results are available on OpenBenchmarking.org so go to the 1102249-IV-INTELMESA29 result page and explore. By going to that result page or by cloning 1102249-IV-INTELMESA29 in your Phoronix Test Suite 3.0 client, you're able to view the results quite easily along with access other information not available from the Phoronix articles, such as the actual system logs (glxinfo, dmesg, Xorg.0.log, etc) and view other data. You can also easily compare these results to other systems.

On OpenBenchmarking.org is also its performance classification data, the ability to filter results, view the geometric/harmonic means, highlight results, normalize the results, compact the results, comment on results, and even export the results to other data formats. So, go forth and explore these results on OpenBenchmarking.org. Your feedback on OpenBenchmarking.org is welcome as well, plus there are more features and tweaks still arriving in the coming hours and days.

For those wanting to view the results in the old manner, the static graphs are also available on the following pages. The results show that even though this is running on the Gallium3D driver architecture, this unofficial driver is not quite as fast as the classic Intel Mesa driver. This testing was done on a Samsung NC10 netbook with an Intel Atom N270, 2GB of RAM, and an OCZ SSD. The software stack was on the Linux 2.6.38 kernel, Mesa 7.11-devel Git, xf86-video-intel 2.14 DDX, and an Ubuntu 10.10 base, but of course, this is all detailed on OpenBenchmarking.org as well.

For those interested in the Nouveau Gallium3D driver performance, we have the results here as well as a comparison of the ATI Radeon Linux graphics performance using both the classic Mesa and Gallium3D drivers. Let's also not forget the LLVMpipe driver as a much faster software rasterizer than what is available in classic Mesa as it leverages Gallium3D and the Low-Level Virtual Machine (LLVM). From earlier this month are also a batch of Gallium3D graphics card tests from both AMD and NVIDIA, thanks to another OpenBenchmarking.org test.

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