The Most Exciting Open-Source Graphics Driver News From Q1'2021

Written by Michael Larabel in Mesa on 29 March 2021 at 06:12 PM EDT. 2 Comments
Mesa this quarter saw the release of Mesa 21.0 with many OpenGL and Vulkan improvements, a lot of work continues building up around the Zink OpenGL-on-Vulkan implementation, Lavapipe continued advancing for software-based Vulkan, Intel and AMD continued with their stellar open-source hardware support, and performance optimizations in Mesa and lower down the stack are seemingly never-ending.

With Q1 drawing to an end and delivering open-source Linux graphics news on Phoronix pretty much every day, here is a look back at the most popular Mesa news of this quarter.

Another NVIDIA Engineer Just Made His First Contribution To Mesa
Another NVIDIA engineer has made his first contribution to Mesa in the rather interesting focus of fixing up Volta so atomic operations will work with OpenCL SVM.

Mesa Flips On OpenGL Threading For Valheim To Deliver Better Performance
For those enjoying the Valheim, the new survival/sandbox game that has been an incredible success and sold more than four millions of copies so far while being a low-budget indie game, Mesa should be providing better performance when using its OpenGL renderer.

Mesa 21.0 Is Now Working With Haiku OS For Software OpenGL Rendering
BeOS-inspired Haiku OS can now run with Mesa 21.0 well using the latest development code.

Mesa 21.0 Released With Numerous RADV Improvements, New Vulkan Extensions, Many Fixes
Following several weeks of delays, Mesa 21.0 was officially released today as the newest quarterly feature update for this collection of predominantly open-source OpenGL and Vulkan drivers for Linux systems.

Intel Tiger Lake Xe Graphics On Linux 5.12 Git, Mesa 21.1-devel
Recently I wrapped up some tests looking at the Dell XPS Linux laptop with Core i7 1165G7 "Tiger Lake" processor when looking at the Linux kernel performance of 5.10 vs. 5.11 vs. 5.12 as well as the impact if upgrading to the Linux 5.12 kernel.

Zink Now Supports OpenGL 4.5 Over Vulkan With Mesa 21.1
It was just yesterday we were talking about Zink achieving OpenGL 4.3 support and wondering if OpenGL 4.4 or potentially even 4.5 could be buttoned up in time for Mesa 21.1... Well, as of a few minutes ago Zink now is advertising OpenGL 4.5 support for this graphics API layer built atop Vulkan.

Zink OpenGL-On-Vulkan Now Works Atop NVIDIA's Linux Driver
Zink as the generic OpenGL implementation built atop the Vulkan API while leveraging Mesa's Gallium3D can now work atop NVIDIA's proprietary graphics driver.

Mesa 21.0 Aiming For Release Tomorrow With Windows DXGI Winsys, RDNA 2 Improvements
The Mesa release train once again rode off the tracks but this week looks like it will get back on track with hopes of releasing Mesa 21.0 on Thursday.

Radeon Vulkan "RADV" Driver Saw Many Optimizations This Week For Mesa 21.0
Prior to Mesa 21.0 being branched this week in preparations for the quarterly stable Mesa3D release, a number of open-source Radeon Vulkan "RADV" driver optimizations were merged.

Mesa 21.1 Addresses Issue Of Gallium Nine Often Hitting Memory Issues With 32-bit Games
For those using Gallium3D Nine as a Direct3D 9 state tracker when running Windows games on Linux rather than the likes of DXVK for going through Vulkan, next quarter's Mesa 21.1 will better handle 32-bit games with the Nine state tracker.

AMD Radeon "Aldebaran" Support Merged Into Mesa 21.1
The AMD Radeon "Aldebaran" successor to Arcturus has now landed the initial user-space code into Mesa 21.1.

Mesa's RADV ACO Adds Support For Rapid Packed Math
Hitting the Mesa tree when Mesa 21.0 was being branched (but looks like it will still make it now part of "staging/21.0") is support for AMD's "rapid packed math" with the RADV driver's ACO compiler back-end.

More OpenGL Threading Improvements Land For Mesa 21.1
Even in 2021 longtime open-source AMD Mesa driver developer Marek Olšák isn't done optimizing OpenGL for delivering the best possible performance with the Radeon graphics driver. Marek's latest work includes more OpenGL threading enhancements and other work seemingly targeted at SPECViewPerf workloads.

Radeon Linux Drivers Now Only Officially Support Smart Access Memory On Zen 3 + RDNA2
While many Linux users were excited when finding out the open-source AMD Radeon Linux drivers were allowing Smart Access Memory (Resizable BAR) support on older motherboards/CPUs and older Radeon GPUs rather than basically the very latest AMD products as seen on Windows, there is a change of course due to bugs. Now, officially, Mesa 21.0 is just enabling Smart Access Memory for systems with AMD Zen 3 processors and RDNA 2 graphics cards though if you have other hardware you can force-enable it.

Zink OpenGL On Vulkan Now Supports OpenGL 4.2 With Mesa 21.1
It was just earlier this month that mainline Mesa achieved OpenGL 4.1 for Zink, the Gallium3D driver allowing OpenGL to be implemented atop Vulkan. Now OpenGL 4.2 support is in place for this promising Mesa component.

Mesa 21.0.1 Released, 20.3.5 Issued To Close Out The Older Series
For those that tend to wait until at least the first point release before moving to a new Mesa feature release, Mesa 21.0.1 is out today while Mesa 20.3.5 was also released as the last of that Q4'2020 driver series.

Mesa's Intel Vulkan Driver Introduces A Null Hardware Layer
Intel's latest addition to Mesa 21.1 with their "ANV" Vulkan driver is... A null hardware layer.

Mesa 21.0 RadeonSI Will Run Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Faster
Mesa 21.0 is bringing some overdue improvements for the RadeonSI Gallium3D driver with the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Standalone XWayland Makes It For Ubuntu 21.04 Along With Linux 5.11, Mesa 21.0
As part of planning for Ubuntu 21.04 to use Wayland by default when running on the default GNOME Shell desktop, Ubuntu developers were going to evaluate the standalone XWayland work being pursued by Red Hat initially for Fedora in order to ship newer XWayland code without resorting to releasing a new X.Org Server. That standalone XWayland package is now on its way to the Ubuntu archive.

Mesa 21.0 Gearing Up To Ship As Soon As Next Week For Latest Open-Source GPU Drivers
For those Linux gamers and other desktop users of the open-source OpenGL/Vulkan drivers with some extra time this weekend, Mesa 21.0-RC3 is now available for testing as what might be the last release candidate before officially releasing Mesa 21.0 as soon as next week.

Mesa 21.1 is already well into development for debuting in Q2. It will be interesting to see what comes of Mesa in Q2 especially with NVIDIA working on their GBM back-end support proposal, Microsoft continuing to contribute more to Mesa, and Intel and AMD continuing to both deliver great open-source graphics driver support on the Linux desktop. Hopefully in Q2 we'll see more work on Vulkan ray-tracing, but feel free to chime in the forums where else you would like to see Mesa improved upon next quarter.
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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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