The new benchmarks going out today on Phoronix are looking at the performance of Intel's Sandy Bridge graphics with the latest Microsoft Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux drivers. Not only are we using the very latest drivers, but there is also a separate Linux test run with SNA, the "Sandy Bridge New Acceleration" architecture enabled.
The last time delivering Linux vs. Windows benchmarks for "Intel SNB" hardware was a few months back when the position at that point was the Linux driver could outperform the Windows driver. This was after Intel's OSTC Linux engineers made a number of significant performance optimizations to the kernel DRM driver, to Mesa, and the DDX driver itself. Since that point, however, Intel released a significantly better Windows driver too. The 2361 Windows driver build, which is still the latest public release at the time of publishing, introduced OpenGL 3.1 support along with significant performance optimizations for DirectX and OpenGL games. In this review for the Windows driver we are using this latest Intel 126.96.36.1991 driver under Windows 7 x64.
On the Linux side, there have also been many improvements. For our testing the latest Git code for the xf86-video-intel DDX, libdrm, Mesa, and Linux kernel were used as of the 11th of July 2011. The Linux 3.0 kernel is finally in good shape for the Sandy Bridge hardware we commonly test with, after earlier having a semaphores bug and other problems. These components were tested in their stock configuration and then when building the Intel X.Org driver with the --enable-sna flag to benefit from the Sandy Bridge New Acceleration architecture. Intel introduced this faster acceleration architecture in early June, which was quick to receive a variety of improvements, and it has still been receiving a continual stream of bug-fixes and other optimizations. As it is still being constantly refined, and an out-of-tree xorg-server patch being needed for ideal support, it has not been quick to be benchmarked at Phoronix. The initial testing also has been somewhat buggy in certain situations.
The testing today is being done from an HP EliteBook 8460p, which is one of the Intel Software Development Platform notebooks. Intel sent it over for the per-commit Linux driver testing, which is being finalized in a new design, so for the moment it is being used for this manual cross-OS testing. This notebook has an Intel Core i5 2520M quad-core clocked at 2.50GHz, 160GB Intel SSDSSA2M160 SSD, HD 3000 Sandy Bridge Graphics, and 4GB of RAM.
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64 with Service Pack 1 was used with the 188.8.131.521 driver and all available system updates. On The Linux side it was with Ubuntu 11.04 x86_64 with Unity 3.8.10, X.Org Server 1.10.1, GCC 4.5.2, LLVM 2.8, EXT4, and the latest Git components as of 11 July for: Linux 3.0 kernel, Mesa 7.12-devel, and xf86-video-intel 2.15.0.
For this testing we just ran the Phoronix Test Suite under Windows and the two Linux runs using the multi-platform Nexuiz, OpenArena, and Warsow games. Obviously, the selection of multi-platform OpenGL games also continues to be limited since Mesa and Intel's Linux driver do not yet fully support OpenGL 3.0 and there are various other limitations of this open-source OpenGL library.