ASTC Texture Compression May Finally Supplant S3TC

Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Gaming on 12 August 2015 at 05:39 AM EDT. 15 Comments
The days of the patent-riddled S3TC texture compression algorithm may finally be limited for new software.

S3 Texture Compression has been a big headache for open-source Mesa and other projects due to its patent-encumbered status. There are different workarounds but at the end of the day open-source fans are waiting for S3TC to die... Or until October 2017 when it's believed the S3TC US patent may expire. Without S3TC, performance can be degraded and/or graphics quality degraded.

Last week when talking with Neil Trevett, the Khronos President and NVIDIA's VP of Mobile Ecosystem, under embargo about this week's Khronos OpenGL/OpenCL/Vulkan announcements, I asked him about ASTC and S3TC and the outlook.

ASTC is royalty-free next-gen texture compression that Khronos announced back in 2012. Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression was originally developed out of ARM and is part of OpenGL and is also part of Direct3D 11.3/12.

With this week's release of OpenGL ES 3.2, ASTC support is now a requirement as previously it was just part of the Android Extension Pack. Thus ASTC will now be supported on both desktops and mobile for all modern GL/GLES drivers. Mobile game developers will likely start making use of ASTC more and there's hope that other desktop games will also begin making use of Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression rather than S3TC. Though the vast amount of legacy pre-GL4 games and applications will remain stuck with S3TC, but at least the patent will hopefully expire in two years...
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 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 automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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