AMD Catalyst 8.8 Linux Driver, Exciting New Features
AMD had delivered same-day Linux support when launching the Radeon HD 4800 series this summer. This was a first for AMD when launching a major product revision that there was same-day support considering for the R500 and R600 (and earlier) generations it had taken months for any level of support on Linux. This was great to see and the Radeon HD 4850/4870 performance was terrific thanks to their new OpenGL driver introduced last September. Today AMD has announced another Catalyst driver release for Linux and this is arguably the most significant driver update since last October's release when AIGLX support was added. Catalyst 8.8 delivers CrossFire support on Linux, OverDrive overclocking support, adaptive anti-aliasing support, and other improvements.
Following the release of the Radeon HD 4800 "RV770" series we were allowed to share that AMD would be making an evolutionary step in their Linux support. In that article we had basically highlighted the same-day support, some of AMD's partners choosing to ship the Linux driver on their product CDs, and CrossFire support that would be coming soon. Today with the Catalyst 8.8 driver release we are starting the second wave of new features. The Catalyst driver updates for Linux earlier this year were mostly small with not many new changes aside from new GPUs being supported and bug fixes (Catalyst 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, and 8.5), but that's because AMD has been working hard on this next big step and preparing to end the year with a big bang.
First and foremost, the Catalyst 8.8 Linux driver (fglrx 8.52) adds support for CrossFire. This multi-GPU technology from ATI to share the rendering workload between multiple graphics processors was first introduced in 2005 (with the CrossFire X revision coming late last year), but there was absolutely no support up until now. On NVIDIA's side though, they have supported SLI on Linux since 2005. Initially this CrossFire support is limited to the Radeon HD 4800 series products (HD 4850, HD 4870, and HD 4870 X2) and the new products that AMD will introduce in the future. This Linux CrossFire implementation is also bound to two GPUs currently and there are some other limitations. As this feature alone is so huge, head on over to check out our just-published AMD CrossFire On Linux article. In that article we have plenty of details about CrossFire on Linux along with benchmarks from the Radeon HD 4850 and Radeon HD 4870 in single and dual card configurations. Our Radeon HD 4870 X2 benchmarks will be published later this week.
One of the other long overdue features finally arriving on Linux is OverDrive! ATI OverDrive is their technology for allowing users to overclock graphics cards -- both the core and memory frequencies -- in a relatively safe way. While OverDrive was introduced as a feature for the Radeon 9800 series, on Linux this support is only available for the Radeon HD 4800 series (and other future R7XX chips) along with the Radeon HD 3000 series. Right now, all of the OverDrive options are only accessible using the CLI-based aticonfig, but in a future release, they will integrate it with the AMD Catalyst Control Center Linux Edition to provide GUI-based overclocking. As this is another big feature, check our AMD OverDrive For Linux article.
Some of the other minor fixes include reduced tearing for windowed applications in Linux, fixing a segmentation fault when using Textured Video, fixing a segmentation fault with glxgears, fixing a clone-mode DisplayPort problem, and addressing a hang in Doom 3. This release also adds support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2. Additionally, the FireMV 2260, FireMV 2400, and RV610 LE are also supported with this driver update. Finally, this release does support the Linux 2.6.26 kernel.