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The May 2012 Open-Source Radeon Graphics Showdown

Michael Larabel

Published on 21 May 2012
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 10 - 50 Comments

Up for publishing today is a multi-card multi-driver comparison spanning several generations of discrete ATI/AMD Radeon graphics cards looking at the Radeon OpenGL performance as found by default in Ubuntu 12.04, as found when updating to the latest "Git" development code, when tweaking the latest development code for maximum performance, and finally when using the proprietary AMD Catalyst Linux display driver.

The hardware being used in this May 2012 Radeon Linux showdown includes the Radeon HD 3850, HD 4650, HD 4830, HD 5770, HD 6450, HD 6570, HD 6770, and HD 6870 graphics cards. The Radeon HD 2000/3000/4000 performance on the open-source driver is more important now that AMD is removing the support from Catalyst.

The graphics cards were all tested on an Intel Core i7 870 setup with 8GB of RAM and running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS x86_64. Only the graphics cards and Linux driver stacks were changed during testing. The driver stacks included the following:

Ubuntu 12.04 - Linux 3.2.0-23-generic, xf86-video-ati 6.14.99 Git snapshot, Mesa 8.0.2. Worth noting is that throughout the entire testing process of the open-source Radeon code was benchmarked when swap buffers wait was disabled within the xorg.conf.

Radeon Git - Linux 3.4 Git, xf86-video-ati 6.14.99 Git, Mesa 8.1-devel git-d5a10db. The Git pull was from early May when the actual testing took place.

Radeon Git Tweaked - The same software stack as above with "Radeon Git", but when manually enabling PCI Express 2.0 support (radeon.pcie_gen2=1) and setting ColorTiling and ColorTiling2D to true within the xorg.conf. The 2D color tiling and PCI Express 2.0 options are known in many cases to dramatically increase the Radeon OpenGL performance, but are features not enabled by default or widely known to Linux desktop users aside from those graphics enthusiasts.

Catalyst - The Catalyst 12.4 / fglrx 8.96.4 binary driver as found in the Ubuntu 12.04 Precise repository was benchmarked.

All of this benchmarking was handled in a seamless, fully automated, and turnkey manner using the open-source Phoronix Test Suite software. The OpenGL Linux benchmarks being used for this Radeon comparison include Doom 3, Lightsmark, Nexuiz, OpenArena, Prey, Warsow, and Xonotic.

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