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The Loser In Our Windows vs. Linux Tests: Intel Graphics

Intel

Published on 30 April 2010 08:38 AM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Intel
50 Comments

We are still working on the first part of our Windows 7 vs. Ubuntu 10.04 LTS benchmarks that are set to be published early next week, but so far there is one easy conclusion to draw from the completed tests: Intel's Linux graphics driver is still no match to the Intel Windows driver.

As mentioned yesterday, seven different systems are being used for this testing to get a good idea for the true performance of the different platforms rather than being bound to one or two different sets of CPUs and GPUs. On the system we used to represent Intel graphics was an Intel Core i3 530 quad-core processor that sports Intel's newest integrated graphics processor, which is embedded onto the CPU.

We used the official Windows and Linux 3D drivers from Intel, which was their GMA 15.​17.​3.​64.​2104 on Windows and their Intel-Ubuntu stack on Ubuntu 10.04 with Mesa 7.7.1 and the Linux 2.6.33 DRM. The Intel Linux driver has supported the Clarkdale/Arrandale graphics long before the first products shipped.

Below are just two of the graphs, but the other OpenGL tests we ran on the Clarkdale system (and six other test machines) were similar and will be published next week with our other results.

The Loser In Our Windows vs. Linux Tests: Intel Graphics


On average, Windows 7 with the Intel driver is 10x faster than Ubuntu 10.04 with the Intel driver.

The Loser In Our Windows vs. Linux Tests: Intel Graphics


With Warsow the performance difference wasn't huge, but still very evident and with an Intel IGP enough that it's a difference of the game being playable or not.

Core Mesa code can be partially to blame for this large performance disparity, although Intel isn't too interested in switching to Gallium3D even though it could result in performance improvements. We also encountered a few crashes during our Intel Linux graphics testing that wasn't experienced by any of the other systems or with Clarkdale graphics on Windows. There are also some games and OpenGL applications that will run on Windows with Intel Clarkdale graphics, but not even work at all under Linux with Intel's Mesa stack.

If you compare the open-source Linux graphics drivers for ATI and NVIDIA (via Nouveau) you will certainly notice a large hit too (although not quite as bad as classic Mesa if using the Gallium3D drivers) compared to Windows where the Catalyst and ForceWare drivers, respectively, are the only driver options. The difference though with Intel is that the open-source driver stack with a classic Mesa driver is the only option on Linux, so you can't choose between an open-source driver or a high-performance but proprietary driver.

Intel's Linux graphics stack has improved a lot in recent years with kernel mode-setting, DRI2, the Graphics Execution Manager (GEM), and UXA (UMA Acceleration Architecture), among other improvements, but it's still by no means a comparable offering to the Intel Windows driver. Stay tuned for our complete testing report next week between Windows 7 x64 and Ubuntu 10.04 LTS as there are many other interesting numbers too.

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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