1. Computers
  2. Display Drivers
  3. Graphics Cards
  4. Memory
  5. Motherboards
  6. Processors
  7. Software
  8. Storage
  9. Operating Systems


Facebook RSS Twitter Twitter Google Plus


Phoronix Test Suite

OpenBenchmarking.org

Reasons Mesa 9.1 Is Still Disappointing For End-Users

Mesa

Published on 14 February 2013 08:24 PM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Mesa
37 Comments

While Mesa 9.1 represents a number of improvements to this open-source graphics stack that were made over the past six months, as far as end-users are concerned, there's still a number of shortcomings.

Shared earlier today were Nine Exciting Features Coming To Mesa 9.1. There's truly some great new features and work found in Mesa 9.1 made by both paid and volunteer developers. However, for end-users of the Linux desktop simply wanting their graphics drivers to "just work" and be on par with the proprietary graphics drivers, there's still a ways to go.

OpenGL 4.3 - The latest upstream OpenGL specification from the Khronos Group is OpenGL 4.3. Meanwhile, Mesa 9.1 is only in official compliance with OpenGL 3.1. Mesa is still years behind on desktop OpenGL support. For the next Mesa release in six months time we'll likely be at OpenGL 3.3 compliance, but OpenGL 4.0 is unlikely to be seen before 2014. Before OpenGL 4.0 support arrives to the open-source Mesa, it won't be surprising if Khronos has OpenGL 5.0. Unless there's some fundamental change to how Mesa is developed or the rate at which new OpenGL specifications are ratified, it will be quite a while before Mesa is caught up with the proprietary drivers that are already doing OpenGL 4.x. Even the Intel Windows driver is ahead in this area.

OpenCL - This also concerns the kernel DRM and other areas, but there is still no viable open-source OpenCL support on the Linux desktop. There's been mild progress lately, particularly by Tom Stellard at AMD on improving the R600 LLVM GPU back-end, but the OpenCL support still leaves a lot to be desired. With Nouveau and Radeon Gallium3D, some basic OpenCL tests should be able to execute on the GPU, but this support isn't found in any "out of the box" way with Linux distributions and more real-world OpenCL tasks aren't yet readied on this stack.

S3TC / Floating-Point Textures / Patents - Intel made progress on the patent/legal situation in that Mesa 9.1 they are now unconditionally enabling the OpenGL floating-point textures support for their Mesa DRI driver. However, the compile-time switch is still required for the Radeon and Nouveau drivers. Additionally, there still isn't any official S3TC texture compression support due to patents.

No More VA-API - The Gallium3D VA-API state tracker was removed from Mesa. At least there is the VDPAU state tracker that is more developed within Gallium3D and is in a working state. However, this video acceleration is still done using GPU shaders rather than say the AMD UVD video engine.

Anti-Aliasing - While multi-sample anti-aliasing has seen improvements in the Mesa 9.1 cycle where it is now available by default for the old Radeon X1000 series GPUs with R300g, it's still not available to all hardware generations supported by Mesa, it's basically only 2/4/8x MSAA, and the more advanced anti-aliasing modes are still not supported. Multi-sample anti-aliasing support has been common to Windows users for years and the proprietary drivers support more anti-aliasing modes not yet supported by Mesa/Gallium3D for enhanced image quality.

Performance Parity - There's been some performance improvements made to the hardware drivers found in Mesa 9.1, but as a whole, the open-source graphics drivers are still slower than the proprietary graphics drivers from the different vendors as many Phoronix tests have illustrated.

Gallium3D LLVMpipe - The LLVMpipe Gallium3D driver, which is commonly being used now as the default software fallback by Linux distributions -- including to run composited desktops like Ubuntu Unity and GNOME Shell -- still comes up short. LLVMpipe still doesn't have full GL3 support even though it's a software-based driver. LLVMpipe officially advertises OpenGL 2.1 compliance right now while the hardware drivers move ahead in the GL3 era. LLVMpipe also is still rather slow and mostly unusuable for ARM, even as the number of Linux ARM devices is on the rise. For more reasons why LLVMpipe still leaves a lot to be desired, read Not All Linux Users Want To Toke On LLVMpipe.

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 .
Latest Linux Hardware Reviews
  1. Rosewill RS-MI-01: An Ultra Low-Cost Mini-ITX Chassis
  2. D-Link DCS-2330L HD Wireless Network Camera
  3. Gigabyte AM1M-S2H
  4. AMD's New Athlon/Semprons Give Old Phenom CPUs A Big Run For The Money
Latest Linux Articles
  1. AMD Catalyst 14.4 Brings Few Linux Performance Improvements
  2. The Performance Of Fedora 20 Updated
  3. Clang Fights GCC On AMD's Athlon AM1 APU With Jaguar Cores
  4. Ubuntu 14.04 LTS vs. Oracle Linux vs. CentOS vs. openSUSE
Latest Linux News
  1. Valve Is Bringing VOGL To Windows & Working On Regression Tests
  2. Canonical Is Taking Over Linux 3.13 Kernel Maintenance
  3. Google Web Designer Is Now Natively Available On Linux
  4. Ubuntu 14.10 Is Codenamed The Utopic Unicorn
  5. Audacious 3.5 Lightweight Audio Player Released
  6. Steam Updated For Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, SteamOS
  7. DNF 0.5 Yum Replacement Now Supports Groups
  8. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.0 Is Looking Fantastic
  9. Intel Is Launching An Interesting Bay Trail NUC Next Week
  10. Another X.Org EVoC Proposed For OpenGL 4+ Tests
  11. The Best Features Coming With Qt 5.3
  12. Red Hat's RHEL7 RC ISO Is Now Publicly Available
Latest Forum Discussions
  1. The Most Amazing OpenGL Tech Demo In 64kb
  2. Announcing radeontop, a tool for viewing the GPU usage
  3. HTPC-upgrade advice: AMD Richland A8-7600 or Kaveri A10-6700T ???
  4. New card. Open source drivers only.
  5. The GNOME Foundation Is Running Short On Money
  6. Linux Kernel Developers Fed Up With Ridiculous Bugs In Systemd
  7. Script for Fan Speed Control
  8. Torvalds Is Unconvinced By LTO'ing A Linux Kernel