Intel Sandy Bridge GPU Support Begins On Linux
Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 25 February 2010 at 02:48 PM EST. 14 Comments
Intel launched the desktop "Clarkdale" and mobile "Arrandale" processors a few months back that boasted a number of architectural improvements and one of the big features was the integration of a graphics processor directly on the CPU itself. As we shared when testing out the Intel Core i5 530 processor, the Clarkdale graphics performance was fairly nice and worked quite well under Linux using an open-source driver besides a few bugs.

The initial support was quite well as the Clarkdale Linux graphics support upbringing started months prior to the Core i3/i5 Clarkdale product launch. In fact, it was June of last year when we reported Intel was working on next-generation support in their public Linux code repositories under an IGDNG (Intel Graphics Device Next Generation) name that was then confirmed to be Clarkdale and Arrandale. Developers at the Intel Open-Source Technology Center had pushed out a new GPU shader compiler and thousands of lines of new code to support these graphics processors embedded on the multi-core Intel CPUs.

With the Clarkdale and Arrandale parts out the door and the support becoming stabilized, Intel's open-source developers have begun publicly pushing out new code for the next Intel graphics processors to be found in their CPUs to be introduced at the end of this year. The first bits of Linux graphics code to support "Sandy Bridge" is available in the Git master repository for the Direct Rendering Manager and in the xf86-video-intel DDX X.Org driver.

One of the commits can be found via the Git viewer and was pushed by Intel's Eric Anholt. Another commit shows PCI IDs (0x0102 and 0x0106) for both desktop and mobile processors being added to the driver. In terms of support, Intel's Sandy Bridge CPU will be their sixth-generation graphics processor. Besides the initial defines, new IDs, and a couple conditional statements, more of the Sandy Bridge support code should arrive in the coming months.

With this code starting to live in the mainline repositories, the first bits of Intel Sandy Bridge support will arrive in the Linux 2.6.34 kernel for the DRM and in xf86-video-intel 2.11 for the DDX user-space side. The new kernel should be out in May/June and the new Intel DDX release should be in a month or two. Sandy Bridge processors are not expected for release until Q4'2010 after being pushed up from an original Q1'2011 target date, which gives Intel developers plenty of time to fine-tune this support and see that it lands in the round of Linux distribution updates this fall to ensure a pleasant "out of the box" experience with their customers.

It's been reported that the 32nm Sandy Bridge graphics should be about 200% faster than the Clarkdale graphics and offer a number of significant improvements.
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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 Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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