Over the past two weeks, we have published a variety of articles looking at different aspects of the open-source Linux graphics stack. These articles range from comparing the Gallium3D and classic Mesa performance to comparing the kernel mode-setting and user-space mode-setting performance. Today we are continuing with this interesting Linux graphics coverage by publishing benchmarks comparing the performance of the Radeon Mesa DRI graphics driver to AMD's Catalyst 10.4 proprietary driver. Is the open-source driver finally catching up to AMD's highly optimized driver? Continue reading to find out.
A little over a week ago, the Ubuntu 10.04 LTS repository picked up the Catalyst 10.4 driver. The currently available Catalyst 10.3 driver does not support the X.Org 1.7.5 Server used by Ubuntu Lucid, so once again (for the fourth release in a row), AMD had to supply Canonical with an early build of the Catalyst 10.4 driver that will be officially released in April. The Catalyst 10.4 driver supports the newer X.Org Server and is compatible with the Linux 2.6.32 kernel used by the 10.04 LTS release. The availability of this driver paved the way for us to finally perform a recent comparison of the newest Mesa code to the Catalyst driver.
At this time, however, we can only compare the performance of the Catalyst driver to the "classic" Mesa Radeon DRI driver. The Gallium3D R300g driver supports only the R300/400/500 ASICs, while support for the Radeon R600/700 (Radeon HD 2000, 3000, 4000 series) and Evergreen (Radeon HD 5000 series) chipsets is still being developed within a new Gallium3D driver. On the Catalyst side, support for the R500 (Radeon X1000) chipsets and earlier were dropped from their support spectrum, which makes no ATI graphics card currently compatible with both the Catalyst and Gallium3D drivers. Later this year though the new R600 Gallium3D driver should be in a shape adequate for testing. The classic Radeon DRI driver supports all ATI hardware up through the Radeon HD 48000 (RV770) series. The graphics card we used for this Mesa vs. Catalyst testing was an ATI Radeon HD 4830 graphics card.
We used our Core i3 530 quad-core test system running at 3.32GHz with an ECS H55H-M motherboard, 2GB of DDR3 system memory, a 64GB OCZ Vertex SSD, and the previously aforementioned Radeon HD 4830 graphics card with 512MB of video memory and clocks of 575/900MHz. The software side was composed of Ubuntu 10.04 with the Linux 2.6.32-16-generic x86_64 kernel, GNOME 2.29.92, X.Org Server 1.7.5, xf86-video-radeon 6.12.191, and Mesa 7.7.1-devel. The Catalyst driver available from Lucid's restricted repository is fglrx 8.72.10.
Each driver was left with all of its stock settings before commencing the test process through the Phoronix Test Suite. Tests included 1080p H.264 video playback, X-Plane 9, VDrift, OpenArena, World of Padman, Tremulous, Urban Terror, GtkPerf, QGears2, and JXRenderMark.