Intel Mesa Driver Gets HiZ Support For Haswell
Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 10 April 2013 at 06:54 PM EDT. 3 Comments
If running the latest stable components powering the Intel Linux graphics driver (namely the Linux kernel, Mesa, and xf86-video-intel), the open-source graphics support for the forthcoming Haswell processors should be in fairly good shape. However, like Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge, it will take some time before the Linux graphics driver is fully-optimized. Fortunately, there's another newly-enabled Haswell feature to report within Mesa.

While patches have been floating around for a while and there was a separate branch to Mesa, Intel Open-Source Technology Center developers have now mainlined HiZ support for Haswell.

When Sandy Bridge launched, it took months for HiZ support, which is a performance-boosting feature. The timing with Ivy Bridge for HiZ was better while now with the forthcoming Haswell, there's pre-launch support.

The Hierarchical Z support can allow for performance gains by checking pixels against the z-buffer early on so that unneeded pixels aren't rendered. Intel's HiZ support can lead to impressive performance improvements for OpenGL on Linux, similar to Radeon's HyperZ.

While we aren't able to publish Intel Haswell benchmarks yet on Phoronix, the reported Haswell HiZ support reportedly introduces no Piglit OpenGL regressions and for one of the sample workloads referenced by Intel's Chad Versace is able to improve the GLBenchmark performance by 18.5%.

The commit where the merge to master happened was intel/hsw: Enable hiz (v2). Sadly, this HiZ support will land in Mesa 9.2/10.0, which won't arrive as a stable release until after Intel has introduced their Haswell processors. Those users of non-rolling-release Linux desktop distributions will likely be waiting until their H2'2013 updates to see this performance-enhancing feature.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com 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 OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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