Intel SNB Linux Driver Can Out Run Windows Driver
These results are certainly very interesting and paint a very different story from the February test results. The Intel Linux Sandy Bridge graphics driver is not conclusively faster than the Windows driver is, but it is getting there and at least for nearly all cases does deliver comparable performance.
While the performance may now be hitting parity, in other areas the Linux driver still lags behind. First and foremost, while the latest Linux code is now delivering this impressive performance, most Linux users won't be using this code until the end of the year when hitting the next round of updated Linux distributions. For most end-users, upgrading the open-source Linux graphics driver stack is a pain due to needing to upgrade all of Mesa, the respective X.Org driver, often libdrm, and then most problematic can be needing to upgrade the entire Linux kernel. Even with this latest code we had to manually enable semaphores with the Intel DRM driver for the system to not crash due to the last-minute 2.6.39 revert and the "out of the box" Ubuntu 11.04 experience is troubling.
The Intel Linux driver also lacks features such as Quick Sync Video, InTru 3D Technology, Intel Wireless Display, Intel Flexible Display Interface, and other technologies currently only found in their Windows driver. There are also OpenGL extensions and other functionality found within their Windows driver but not the Linux driver, such as S3TC texture compression support and other patented features that cannot be implemented in the open-source stack by default.
In terms of performance, there is more good news coming soon as well to the Intel Linux code. Intel developers have told Phoronix that more SNB optimizations are on the way and will be landing in the Linux kernel DRM and their Mesa driver soon. At that point, perhaps, the Linux driver will now clearly outperform the Windows blob.
Stay tuned for more Intel Linux coverage. There will also be the continuous flow of Intel Sandy Bridge benchmarks on a per-commit basis from this Intel laptop soon as the setup process finishes.
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