We knew Intel was planning to have Sandy Bridge 3D support done in Q4'2010 and their X.Org DDX driver support and Linux kernel DRM has been living in mainline for months now, while continuing to improve each step of the way. Intel is now preparing to release the xf86-video-intel 2.14.0 DDX driver where the official Intel Sandy Bridge CPU support will reside for the open-source graphics.
In getting ready for the 2.14 release in the next few weeks, Intel has today put out its first release candidate. As said by Intel's Chris Wilson in the release announcement, "It's getting close to party time, and so for all of those lucky enough to be receiving Sandy Bridge stocking fillers this Christmas, Intel would like to present you with a working driver... But first you have to help us test it! So without further ado, here is the first release candidate for 2010Q4."
Besides proper support for the next-generation Intel hardware, there's just some bug-fixes to be found in this quarterly DDX update. Some of the highlights include crash fixes on allocating memory, less fencing on problematic Intel "Gen3" hardware, backlight restoration after mode-setting, and a hang for i965+ hardware with newer versions of the Linux kernel.
Of the 28 official fixes in the xf86-video-intel 2.14 driver, 26 of them were made by Chris Wilson while Keith Packard and Matthias Hopf (at Novell) took care of the other two.
The official release of the xf86-video-intel 2.14 driver should be here within a few weeks. Mesa 7.10, which will carry the official OpenGL acceleration support on the classic Mesa driver architecture for Sandy Bridge, is set to be released in early January. When that's available plus the xf86-video-intel 2.14 driver, they will be released as Intel's 2010Q4 Linux package along with the libdrm 2.4.23 release and a recommendation on using the Linux 2.6.36/2.6.37 kernel for the best support.