The Direction Of Intel Graphics With Fedora 13 Alpha
Fedora 13 Alpha was released yesterday with a plethora of new features and updated packages for this Red Hat Linux distribution. Aside from the features like Btrfs system rollback support and PolicyKit One support for Qt/KDE applications to excite end-users, each Fedora release always pulls in the very latest Linux graphics code. Fedora was the first distribution shipping with the Nouveau driver, then its KMS driver, and now with Fedora 13 it's the first OS deploying Nouveau's Gallium3D driver (there's benchmarks behind that link). Fedora 13 is also carrying the latest packages for the unreleased X Server 1.8, DisplayPort monitor support for more graphics cards, the latest ATI driver code from the xf86-video-ati DDX to the in-development DRM, and then there is the very latest Intel work too. To get an idea for the direction that the Intel 3D support is heading in this release, we have carried out a few quick OpenGL benchmarks.
We used a Samsung NC10 netbook with its Intel GMA 950 graphics for this round of testing considering the prevalence of these IGPs within Atom-powered mobile devices on the market. Our NC10 test system was loaded up with an Intel Atom N270 processor, 2GB of system memory, and a 32GB OCZ Core SSD. On the Samsung netbook we tested out the official releases of Fedora 11 and Fedora 12 and then the just-released Fedora 13 Alpha release. Each distribution was left in its stock configuration, including the use of SELinux. To note, when Fedora 13 is in development there are some debugging options compiled into the packages that may affect the system's performance, but of course, we will be back with more Intel benchmarks later on and when Fedora 13 has been officially released this May.
Fedora 11 shipped with the Linux 2.6.29 kernel, X Server 1.6.2 RC1, xf86-video-intel 2.7.0, and Mesa 7.5. Fedora 12 bumped these versions to the Linux 2.6.31 kernel, X Server 1.7.1, xf86-video-intel 2.9.1, and Mesa 7.6. Fedora 13 Alpha right now is running with the Linux 2.6.33 kernel, X Server 1.8 RC1, xf86-video-intel 2.10.0, and Mesa 7.8-devel.
With the Phoronix Test Suite we ran the World of Padman, Tremulous, OpenArena, and Urban Terror tests. We ran each of these games at 640 x 480, 800 x 600, and 1024 x 600 resolutions.
Beginning with the World of Padman game that is powered by the ioquake3 engine, Fedora 13 Alpha was actually noticeably slower than Fedora 12. Even any debugging options in Fedora 13 Alpha would not rightly explain a 40% drop in performance over the past few months. While there is this massive slowdown with Fedora 13 at this time, the performance is still better than what it was with Fedora 11. It was these Intel packages last year that killed the netbook experience for a short while as Intel's developers addressed fallout from all of the invasive changes that went on with their Linux graphics stack in recent years.