Intel Broadwell HD Graphics 5500: Windows 8.1 vs. Linux

Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 24 January 2015 at 02:00 PM EST. Page 1 of 6. 36 Comments.

Linux graphics tests of Intel's Broadwell hardware are finally here! Going back to November of 2013 is when Intel began putting out open-source Broadwell HD Graphics code. Since the initial Broadwell code drop, I've written dozens of articles to date covering the Linux kernel work, Mesa DRI OpenGL driver progress, Beignet OpenCL compute support, and other key Linux components work on Intel Broadwell support. A few days ago I received the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon with Core i7 Broadwell CPU to finally see how the Linux support has panned out for this next-generation line-up succeeding Haswell.

Now having the X1 Carbon in hand with Core i7 5600U processor, both of which were announced earlier this month at CES in Las Vegas, there will be numerous Linux articles in the days ahead concerning Broadwell's support and performance under various Linux distributions -- Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, etc. So far this third-generation Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is playing rather well under Linux as alluded to in the earlier article.

The Intel Core i7 5600U that's found in this first Broadwell system at Phoronix is a dual-core part with Hyper Threading that's clocked at 2.6GHz with a 3.2GHz Turbo Frequency. The TDP of this Broadwell chip is 15 Watts with a configurable TDP-down of 7.5 Watts. This chip has a 4MB cache. The graphics hardware found on the Core i7 5600U is the Intel HD Graphics 5500 with a 300MHz base frequency and 950MHz maximum frequency -- slightly higher than the lower-end Broadwell Core i5 laptops/ultrabooks having a 900MHz clock speed. The HD Graphics 5500 can drive up to three displays simultaneously.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon shipped with Microsoft Windows 8.1 and so prior to wiping the solid state drive to begin the Linux testing, I first ran some basic OpenGL benchmarks to later compare to Linux. Using Lenovo's stock install of Windows 8.1 64-bit I installed all of the Windows system updates as of 22 January and also upgraded to the Intel Windows driver released on 12 January.

This Windows driver exposes OpenGL 4.3 an OpenCL 2.0 support for Windows 7/8/8.1 (and DirectX 11.2 for what it's worth). With the latest Git code under Linux, the Intel Haswell/Broadwell driver only exposes OpenGL 3.3 officially while the Intel Open-Source Technology Center developers are close with hitting OpenGL 4.0 compliance and to be followed closely by OpenGL 4.1 and OpenGL 4.2 support, but for Linux desktop users that's months away. Via Intel's Beignet project, there is OpenCL 1.0 support but a lot of work is likely needed on that front before exposing OpenCL 2.0 to match the Windows driver.

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