Back in May we shared that the Ubuntu Intel graphics performance was still in bad shape after testing out very early Ubuntu 9.10 packages. The netbook experience was killed in Ubuntu 9.04 after a buggy Intel Linux graphics stack led to slow performance, stability issues, screen corruption, and other problems. Months have passed since we last exhaustively looked at the Intel Linux graphics stack, but we have just carried out some new tests using Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 3. This new development release of Ubuntu carries the latest kernel, Mesa, and Intel driver packages as we see how the graphics performance is with an Intel 945 and G43 chipsets.
Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 3 ships with a development snapshot of the Linux 2.6.31 kernel, the GNOME 2.27.4 desktop, X Server 1.6.2 RC1, xf86-video-intel 2.8.0, and Mesa 7.5. This is in contrast to Ubuntu 9.04 with its Linux 2.6.28 kernel, GNOME 2.26.1, X Server 1.6.0, xf86-video-intel 2.6.3, and Mesa 7.4. It is the xf86-video-intel 2.8.0 driver that completely kills EXA and DRI1 in favor of using the EXA-derived UXA acceleration architecture that leverages the Graphics Execution Manager. DRI2, of course, is what replaces DRI1. With eliminating these older code paths, Intel cut down on the amount of work they are responsible for and they hope it reduced their regression count. Mesa 7.5 is the first release to introduce Gallium3D, but Ubuntu currently does not enable any components with this new graphics driver architecture.
For this article we ran a set of graphics benchmarks (using the Phoronix Test Suite) with an ASRock G43Twins-FullHD that offers an integrated Intel G43 graphics processor. Running with this system was a dual-core Intel Celeron E1400 that was overclocked to 2.50GHz, 1GB of DDR2 memory, and a 300GB Seagate ST3300622AS hard drive. We compared the results between clean installations of Ubuntu 9.04 and Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 3 (both versions were the x86_64 builds) and with the "out of the box" settings. EXA was the default 2D acceleration in Ubuntu Jaunty while Ubuntu Karmic is using UXA.
We also wanted to deliver new OpenGL results from Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 3 using an Intel 945 IGP found in the Dell Mini 9, but that was to no avail. The Intel graphics performance was bad in Ubuntu 9.04, but at least World of Padman, OpenArena, Tremulous, and Urban Terror were able to run successfully. With Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 3 on the Dell Mini 9 and with each of these games being run through the Phoronix Test Suite, the system would lock-up at various points. None of the tests had finished successfully even when trying to run them multiple times. This same problem had then occurred with the Intel G43 too. Mesa 7.5 has regressed badly in this area, but hopefully hitting in time for Ubuntu 9.10 will be Mesa 7.6 or at least more updates and patches to Mesa 7.5.x.
The 2D tests we then ran on Ubuntu 9.04 and Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 3 with the Intel G43 system were GtkPerf, QGears2, and JXRenderMark.