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Intel OpenGL Performance: OS X vs. Windows vs. Linux

Michael Larabel

Published on 29 August 2012
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 9 of 9 - 39 Comments

Overall, the Intel Windows 7 graphics driver destroys the Linux and OS X drivers with the OpenGL graphics performance for second-generation Core HD "Sandy Bridge" hardware. Only in a few workloads was the Windows 7 driver not the distant frontrunner. Apple's OS X Mountain Lion was also able to outperform Ubuntu Linux in a number of the games.

The multiple tests of Ubuntu Linux show Intel's open-source Linux graphics driver moving in the right direction (except for the outstanding regression in Nexuiz), but it's still no killer to the driver competition provided by the proprietary operating systems. Intel's Open-Source Technology Center developers have made significant optimizations to Mesa and their Linux kernel DRM driver, but it's still not up to the same standing as Windows and to some extent OS X. They also continue to still try to target performance optimizations, especially as part of their collaboration with Valve on the Source Engine Linux optimizations, but they have a lot to do if they want to reach parity with Windows.

These Intel Sandy Bridge results today also aren't too surprising with earlier Phoronix testing having revealed Intel Ivy Bridge is also much faster on Windows over Linux. At first the Linux driver for Sandy/Ivy Bridge was faster, but Intel's new Windows driver ended up bringing significant performance optimizations.

Beyond the higher frame-rates, the Intel Windows driver also has greater OpenGL support. Intel's Linux Mesa driver is still working towards OpenGL 3.1 support after only hitting OpenGL 3.0 compliance earlier in the year. Meanwhile the Intel Windows driver for Sandy Bridge has had this support since last year and their Ivy Bridge Windows driver can already do OpenGL 4.0. OpenGL 4.0 for Intel on Linux is likely at least still a year (or more) from becoming a reality.

The Intel Linux graphics driver is also catching up still on other fronts as well for feature parity, such as with MSAA anti-aliasing only having come a few months ago. The Intel Ivy Bridge graphics core under Linux also has no OpenCL support at this time (only on the CPU side via the closed-source Intel OpenCL SDK).

Future articles will provide more Windows vs. Linux benchmarks of different graphics drivers and hardware.

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About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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