Apple's Enhanced OpenGL Stack Versus Linux

Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 25 August 2010. Page 3 of 3. 16 Comments

With Mac OS X 10.6.3 there was a major regression with Warsow, which was corrected in Mac OS X 10.6.4, but the performance has actually been made worse by the Snow Leopard Graphics Update 1.0 package. Mac OS X 10.6.4 without the SLGU was actually on-track with the Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS performance at all resolutions, but with the SGLU its performance dropped at all resolutions up until 1920 x 1080. The Snow Leopard Graphics Update caused an 11% performance drop on average for this open-source game that uses the Qfusion engine.

The last test we are running today is X-Plane 9.45 where there was yet another different story with the OpenGL performance. Mac OS X 10.6.4 didn't run X-Plane 9.45 with this NVIDIA-powered Mac Mini, but the Snow Leopard Graphics Update did improve the performance since some regressions in Mac OS X 10.6.3 and put its performance up where it was performing in Mac OS X 10.6.2. The level of Mac OS X performance with 10.6.4 + SGLU is actually ahead of Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS

While Apple's Snow Leopard Graphics Update 1.0 has widely been reported to improve the OpenGL frame-rate performance and image quality in Valve's Mac OS X titles and other applications, the improvements aren't throughout every OpenGL environment as shown by today's numbers with the SLGU actually resulting in the performance being degraded with Warsow and no performance changes in some of the other tests. Mac OS X 10.6 still has room to improve their OpenGL performance too as shown with the Nexuiz and Urban Terror games with Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS using NVIDIA's official Linux driver resulting in higher frame-rates. There is also still the Apple bug of the OpenGL performance suffering in some environments when running at the non-native resolution of their display server. We will check back to see how the OpenGL performance is when Mac OS X 10.6.5 is released and/or when the next Snow Leopard Graphics Update is available.

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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