For those that are thinking about trying out the Sandy Bridge New Acceleration (SNA) architecture option for 2D graphics acceleration by the xf86-video-intel X.Org Linux driver, here are some benchmarks from the recent xf86-video-intel 2.17 release.
Intel's new acceleration architecture has been around since June, but the xf86-video-intel 2.17 release is the first release where it's in halfway decent shape. There were many early adoption bugs and other problems, but Chris Wilson at Intel has been working on hundreds of bugs and performance optimizations. There have been numerous Intel SNA benchmarks on Phoronix in the past, but with SNA almost advancing daily, it was interesting to see where it is at with this public release. SNA acceleration was designed for current-generation Intel "Sandy Bridge" graphics, but there is SNA back-ends for previous generations of hardware too. SNA is currently disabled by default and it requires that the DDX driver be built with the "--enable-sna" switch.
Originally the goal of this article was to also try out the Intel Glamor acceleration too, which is even newer and uses OpenGL for accelerating 2D (similar to Galliumk3D's Xorg state tracker), but that was causing segmentation faults when loading the driver. As a result, this article is just comparing the xf86-video-intel 2.17.0 driver with and without SNA. The Mesa 7.12-devel and Linux 3.2 kernel were from Git as of 17 November.
Testing was done from the HP EliteBook with an Intel Core i5 2520M Sandy Bridge CPU.