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Intel Performance With Ubuntu Linux vs. Windows 8.1 Is A Mixed Bag

Michael Larabel

Published on 30 October 2013
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 6 - 11 Comments

Earlier this week I published an extensive set of results from thirteen discrete AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards benchmarking various OpenGL games and comparing the Ubuntu Linux and Windows 8.1 performance when using the official AMD and NVIDIA drivers for each operating system. Those results were very interesting for both the AMD and NVIDIA GPUs, but now it's time to see how the Intel graphics are performing under Ubuntu and Windows 8.1 Pro x64. Making things even more interesting here is that Intel has only an open-source Linux driver and no closed-source solution.

The drivers tested in the AMD / NVIDIA Windows vs. Linux article a few days ago was using the official closed-source drivers from each vendor for Windows and Linux. Both AMD and NVIDIA maintain a common code-base that they derive their OS-specific drivers from, which means there's close to feature and performance parity between platforms. There are also the open-source Radeon and Nouveau drivers, but that's a completely separate driver.

Intel, on the other hand, has a closed-source Windows driver and then a completely separate (open-source Linux driver and that's it. Intel's open-source driver isn't derived in any way from the closed-source Windows driver. As a result, there are different features and a fundamentally different architecture between platforms. The Intel Linux driver tends to lag behind the Windows driver with the Intel Linux "Mesa DRI" driver only supporting OpenGL 3.1 (or OpenGL 3.2 and 3.3 with the upcoming Mesa 10.0 release) compared to the Windows driver supporting OpenGL 4 for modern Intel graphics cores.

The last time I ran some Intel Haswell Windows vs. Linux benchmarks in August the results were mixed, as was also the case when comparing Iris Pro on Linux and Windows. Since then, there's been the release of Microsoft Windows 8.1, a new Windows driver update from Intel, and the open-source Linux code is constantly evolving.

For today's article, all benchmarking occurred with an Intel Core i7 4770K "Haswell" CPU sporting HD Graphics 4600 graphics. The test system for both the Windows 8.1 Pro x64 and Ubuntu Linux 13.10 x86_64 benchmarking was with an ECS Z87H3-A2X EXTREME motherboard, 16GB of RAM, and 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD.

Under Windows 8.1 the Intel graphics driver used was version 15.33.5.64.3316 and released on 17 October. The Windows 8.1 Pro x64 installation had all available system software updates as of the time of testing. Under Ubuntu Linux, the Intel graphics were tested in their stock state as found on Ubuntu 13.10 (Linux 3.11 + Mesa 9.2.1). After testing the "out of the box" Ubuntu 13.10 performance for Intel graphics, the system was then upgraded to the Linux 3.12 kernel, and then lastly while running Linux 3.12 the Mesa user-space OpenGL driver was upgraded to Mesa 10.0 Git. This third Ubuntu run represents the very latest Intel open-source Haswell performance possibilities as of this week.

All benchmarking for this article was handled in a fully automated and reproducible manner using the open-source enterprise-ready Phoronix Test Suite automated benchmarking platform with OpenBenchmarking.org.

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