AMD Radeon HD "Cayman" Finally Moves On With Acceleration
Written by Michael Larabel in AMD on 24 May 2011 at 07:46 PM EDT. Add A Comment
It was last December that AMD had unveiled their newest "Cayman" graphics processors, which at launch powered the Radeon HD 6950 and Radeon HD 6970 graphics cards. The open-source driver support for Cayman GPUs had lagged behind the rest of the Radeon HD 6000 series "Northern Islands", but in February there was Cayman programming documentation released and in March there was then Cayman kernel mode-setting support. Only today is the AMD Cayman GPUs now getting up to speed with supporting hardware acceleration on the open-source driver stack.

The AMD Radeon HD 6950/6970 "Cayman" graphics cards have been supported by the proprietary Catalyst driver from day-one, complete with acceleration and the expected feature-set, but the open-source support was months behind. Only this afternoon is there a stream of patches hitting the open-source ATI driver tree for finally flipping on the acceleration.

In the xf86-video-ati DDX Git tree are Cayman-specific enablement patches: enabling all acceleration, bringing up EXA/X-Video acceleration, and adding the 3D register headers, among other commits.

The Cayman architecture is quite different from the other Northern Islands graphics processors (i.e. Turks, Juniper, Barts, and Caicos), which resulted in the Cayman open-source upbringing taking much longer for AMD. Even with other Radeon HD 6000 series graphics cards, the latest code is still fairly problematic for me.

Fortunately, AMD's bringing on more open-source developers and with the Radeon HD 8000 series they should finally reach some open-source parity whereby the new ASICs will be supported in the open-source stack on launch-day, or at least much closer than it is now for AMD. On the Intel side they largely manage to do this, sans bugs and getting it back-ported to already in-use Linux distributions, while the Nouveau support obviously takes a while as well due to the burden being placed on the community in reverse-engineering the NVIDIA blob and then writing up an open-source driver.
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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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