Assessing The Current Intel Haswell Linux Experience

Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 21 June 2013 at 05:15 PM EDT. 5 Comments
Since the Computex launch of Intel's much anticipated Haswell processors at the beginning of the month, there's been much Linux coverage on Phoronix concerning the compatibility and performance of these new Intel processors from both the processing and graphics sides. Here's a summary of all of our discoveries and findings over the past few weeks.

Going back to May, there's been Phoronix testing within our labs of the Core i7 4770K "Haswell" CPU, thanks to Intel courteously sending out an early Haswell sample. For the past week, testing has also commenced of a Core i5 Haswell-based Apple MacBook Air. Most of the Phoronix testing to date has been from the i7-4770K but more from the Haswell MacBook Air is coming up shortly with both OS X and Linux testing.

While you are encouraged to read all of the Phoronix articles about Haswell, the short story is that the Haswell processor is great. On the CPU side it's a decent upgrade over Ivy Bridge in raw performance, but the real kicker for thew new processor architecture is the lower power consumption but yielding an incredible boost in performance-per-Watt. On the power consumption, Haswell is freaking spectacular compared to older Intel CPUs as well as AMD's competition.

The Linux support is there for supporting the new Haswell CPUs and using the new Intel motherboards/chipsets that can handle the new hardware. However, you need to be running a new distribution (e.g. Fedora 18, Ubuntu 13.04, etc) or newer. Ideally, using all of the latest and greatest packages. In particular, Linux 3.8+, Mesa 9.1+, GCC 4.7+, LLVM 3.2+, etc and you should be in good shape. The newer the kernel and other components, the better the experience. On the CPU side there doesn't appear to be any major Linux issues aside from some possible tuning on the power management/scaling side, which is still being explored.

On the graphics side, the Haswell Linux graphics support is okay. If you're running a stable Linux distribution, the graphics and OpenGL acceleration support is there, but for the best performance you really need to be running the very latest development code. As our tests have shown, the yet-to-be-released Linux 3.10 kernel and Mesa 9.2 driver offer the best performance for Haswell. However, the Linux Haswell OpenGL performance doesn't yet match the Windows driver and there's still a ways to go (benchmarks coming in the next few days). On the Linux graphics side, there's also not yet any open-source OpenCL support, the current OpenGL support level is around GL 3.1 (though GL 3.2/3.3 should be nailed in Mesa 9.2 final),, and some other shortcomings compared to the Intel Windows driver.

Long story short, the Intel Haswell Linux support is there at launch. Everything is working and the newer the code you're running the better. Look for more Haswell Linux OpenGL improvements in the coming months.

Haswell is a winner! Haswell processors have already been extensively benchmarked via the Phoronix Test Suite software, and we've been extremely pleased with the results. Via our collaborative platform, you can find all of our test results -- plus the Haswell CPU results of any other early Haswell owners who have benchmarked their own systems and decided to share the results. For running your own system comparisons against our results, you can find many of our current test results on via the Core i7 4770K search query.

Now for the articles to check out:

- Intel Core i7 4770K benchmarks on Ubuntu Linux if you want to see how the Haswell CPU compares against other Intel and AMD CPUs along with various performance-per-Watt figures.

- Intel HD Graphics 4600 performance on Ubuntu Linux show the current performance figures relative to previous generations of Intel hardware with integrated graphics.

- AMD Radeon vs. Haswell Graphics show the Linux OpenGL performance figures for both the open and closed-source drivers.

- 2D acceleration benchmarks of the HD Graphics 4600 core with both UXA and SNA acceleration back-ends.

- The Linux evolution of Haswell show how far the Linux performance has come already when updating the various Linux components to their newest versions.

- More Mesa 9.2 benchmarks compared to Mesa 9.1 Git stable. There was also a Linux kernel comparison.

- GCC vs. LLVM/Clang show how the two main code compilers are doing when benchmarking the GCC 4.7.3, GCC 4.8.1, LLVM Clang 3.2, and LLVM Clang 3.3 compiler releases on the i7-4770K for various source-based tests.

- Binary optimizations for Haswell with various compiler tuning parameters to optimize binaries for the new instruction sets offered by the new CPUs.

- Ubuntu 13.10 Haswell performance show how the October release of Ubuntu Linux is shaping up for this latest generation Intel hardware.

- Gallium3D LLVMpipe benchmarks on the i7-4770K as an interesting experiment.

- Intel HD Graphics 5000 benchmarks from the Core i5 Apple MacBook Air, but more is on the way.

Stay tuned for more Linux performance tests from the Core i7 4770K system looking at other areas like virtualization, other compiler tunables, and more in the way of Linux graphics optimizations. There's also all of the MacBook Air benchmarks coming, including OS X vs. Linux vs. Windows performance figures. There will also be some Phoronix Linux reviews of new motherboards and much more. Any test requests can be directed to the forums or @MichaelLarabel on Twitter.
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About The Author
Michael Larabel

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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