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Apple's Retina MacBook Pro Causes Linux Woes

Hardware

Published on 30 July 2012 10:32 PM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware
11 Comments

Linux on the 2012 Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display can cause some problems.

I had ordered the Apple MacBook Pro 2012 model with Retina Display after being tempted by its impressive 2880 x 1800 display and other attractive features. Unfortunately, when Linux is running bare metal on the hardware it's not running too good at the moment. My full review of the Retina MacBook Pro with Linux will come in early August, but there's a few tid-bits to share now for those tempted shoppers.

As Greg KH shared today on the mailing list, even the open-source Intel Linux graphics driver has problems with this MacBook Pro that launched last month. The Retina MacBook Pro is controlled by an Intel Ivy Bridge processor with HD 4000 graphics and then there's a discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M Kepler graphics processor too. The Intel IVB graphics on the new MacBook Pro can have problems even being detected.

As far as the hybrid switching between Intel and NVIDIA graphics under Linux, that too is premature. There's work in that direction with DMA-BUF and various improvements in the X.Org stack to better allow hybrid graphics, but that's still at least months away before it will become really usable and found in tier-one Linux distributions.

Greg KH mentions in his mailing list message as well, "I'm using a 3.5.0 kernel (with a few minor hardware patches for other bits of this laptop that don't work with 3.5.0, but no changes to the graphics drivers.)"

In addition, the Thunderbolt support under Linux isn't too good. I ordered a Thunderbolt-enabled Apple Cinema Display last month in order to test the Linux support. Surprisingly, the integrated Ethernet and USB ports worked without any problems at all on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. However, the Thunderbolt monitor had some problems... It works, but there's very high CPU usage that causes the experience to be rather unusable for the Linux desktop.

Apple's Retina MacBook Pro Causes Linux Woes
As shared on Twitter earlier today, the Retina MBP testing is under-way..

There's also other Linux problems to be detailed in the Phoronix article due out in early August. That article will also offer a performance comparison of Apple OS X Mountain Lion vs. Linux benchmarks.

For those craving some numbers to compare your system's performance against, under OS X 10.7 Lion I do have some benchmarks that I uploaded this evening from the Retina MacBook Pro.

1207301-SU-APPLEMACB14 - This result file offers some random OS X benchmarks from the new MacBook Pro against various sub-systems.

1207308-SU-MACBOOKPR41 - This result file offers some OpenGL benchmarks scaling to various resolutions. (Note though that there seems to be a weird OS X vsync issue for some of these tests.)

1207300-SU-MACBOOKPR08 - A comparison of the different Xonotic image quality settings when running the mid-2012 MacBook Pro with the NVIDIA Kepler graphics from the retina-enabled 2560 x 1600 resolution.

Again, more benchmarks (from Ubuntu and Linux vs. OS X) and other information pertinent to Linux users wanting to run their favorite open-source operating system on Apple's new hardware will be made public on Phoronix.com in early August. To support this continued Linux hardware testing and involved expenses, please consider subscribing to Phoronix Premium and/or PayPal tips, which can lead to the articles going out straight-away with full details rather than multiple "preview articles", etc. (It's a single person doing ~18 hour work days and seven days a week doing most of the Phoronix.com testing, related content, etc.)

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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