Years Later, Intel Poulsbo Remains A Bloody Mess
Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 19 June 2012 at 08:03 AM EDT. 28 Comments
While Intel's original GMA500 "Poulsbo" hardware is now more than four years old, this Intel Atom platform with PowerVR graphics continues to be a bloody mess under Linux.

In recent months there's been the new Poulsbo DRM driver from Alan Cox that has improved the open-source driver situation for the Intel Atom SoCs with graphics cores derived from the PowerVR technology at Imagination.

This new open-source driver doesn't support hardware acceleration, but at least provides kernel mode-setting and aims to provide a bit better open-source "out of the box" experience for those stuck with this poorly-supported hardware.

Last week I was performing a clean install of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on the CompuLab Fit-PC2 with its Intel Atom Z530 Poulsbo processor. I was running this hardware as one of the comparison systems in the 12-core ARM benchmarks. Early on in the Ubuntu 12.04 cycle when last running this Poulsbo hardware, I found Poulsbo Looks Better On Ubuntu 12.04, But Still Ugly. Unfortunately, it's regressed in the past half-year.

With Ubuntu 12.04 LTS final on the Linux 3.2 kernel, the Poulsbo experience was just awful. Mode-setting was totally botched and only the bottom half of the display was visible, which was shifted to the top half of the LCD panel connected via HDMI.

Aside from the mode-setting problem, the cursor would cause damage but the frame-buffer wouldn't properly refresh. Using the Intel GMA500 with this Poulsbo DRM driver was broken and useless in this hardware configuration.

While one would have hoped with the Poulsbo hardware being several years now, we'd be onto mature open-source support by now (2D/3D acceleration or not), but sadly that's not the case. Intel's hardware with PowerVR graphics still should be avoided at all costs.

Burn Poulsbo Burn...

I can't wait to see Intel Valley View where we will have a next-generation low-power Atom SoC with Ivy Bridge graphics. Rather than the PowerVR mess it's very nice in-house IVB graphics backed by the proper Intel open-source Linux graphics driver.

About The Author
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via

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