While still a ways from being comparable to the proprietary graphics drivers in terms of features and OpenGL performance, the open-source GPU drivers found by default in the forthcoming Ubuntu 13.04 release are a big improvement over the out-of-the-box graphics drivers found in earlier Ubuntu Linux releases. The Ubuntu desktop is also faster thanks to improvements to its Unity desktop environment and Compiz compositing window manager. In this article are Linux gaming benchmarks looking at the performance of Fedora 17, Fedora 18, Ubuntu 12.10, and a preliminary Ubuntu 13.04 development snapshot. In this first article, the OpenGL performance of Intel and Radeon graphics are being benchmarked.
The Radeon and Intel graphics benchmarking of the recent Fedora and Ubuntu releases were done on two distinctly different systems. First up are benchmarks of the Radeon graphics stack from Fedora 17, Fedora 18, Ubuntu 12.10, and an Ubuntu 12.03 snapshot from the 21st of January. The graphics card used for all of this testing was an ATI Radeon HD 4650 graphics card from the Intel Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition test-bed.
The Fedora and Ubuntu installations were all done in their stock configurations (aside from disabling swap buffers wait for the xf86-video-ati DDX). The key information on each OS for these gaming tests comes down to Fedora 17 being powered by the Linux 3.3 kernel with Mesa 8.0.2, Fedora 18 with Linux 3.6 and Mesa 9.0.1, Ubuntu 12.10 with the Linux 3.5 kernel and Mesa 9.0, and Ubuntu 13.04 with a development snapshot of the Linux 3.8 Git kernel and Mesa 9.0.1. Prior to the Ubuntu 13.04 release in April will also be the pulling in of Mesa 9.1.
Fedora continues to ship the GNOME Shell as its default desktop while Ubuntu is obviously with Unity over Compiz. Beyond the continued improvements to the open-source graphics stack, Ubuntu 13.04 also has significant optimization work going on for Unity/Compiz to make it a better platform for Linux gaming.