Intel's Clear Linux Shows Much Potential For Optimized Graphics Performance

Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 15 April 2016 at 11:00 AM EDT. Page 1 of 2. 27 Comments.

When it comes to CPU workloads, stunning in our Linux distribution comparisons has been Intel's Clear Linux distribution. This Intel Open-Source Technology Center project has led many of our distribution / OS comparisons with Intel engineers investing heavily in performance optimizations via AutoFDO, LTO-optimized binaries, aggressive compiler flags by default, and more. But how does the OpenGL performance compare for Clear Linux? Here are some graphics benchmarks and in select cases the results are quite a surprise.

In the past distribution comparisons, Clear Linux was left out of the graphics testing primarily because when we're doing high performance open-source graphics testing we tend to be using AMD Radeon discrete graphics. Clear Linux doesn't package AMD Radeon drivers at this point but only their own Intel graphics stack. So for today's article I fired up an Intel Xeon E3-1235L v5 CPU with HD Graphics P530 for checking out the Intel graphics performance on Clear Linux.

Clear Linux doesn't ship with any desktop by default but installing the os-utils-gui bundle will end up installing a modern Xfce-based desktop environment. (Once the bundle is installed, manually run startx to get access to the desktop with supported Intel graphics.)

In case you forgot (or didn't read) some of our past distribution benchmarks, here are some CPU benchmarks first as a referesher about the performance potential of Clear Linux outside of graphics:

Depending upon the test, the Clear Linux performance can be anywhere from the same to much faster than other modern Linux distributions like Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, CentOS, etc. All of the tests for this article were run on a Xeon E3-135L v5 system with ASRock Rack C236M WS motherboard, 2 x 4GB DDR4-2133MHz memory, and the integrated Skylake graphics. Clear Linux 7410 was compared to Xubuntu 16.04.

For running some Intel Skylake graphics tests on Clear Linux 7410, I ran a few of our usual OpenGL tests available via the Phoronix Test Suite. Not all of the interesting OpenGL Linux tests could be run though as at the time of testing, Clear Linux didn't even package SDL. Clear Linux has since added SDL2 to their support for being able to run more games/graphics tests, so the next round of testing should be more interesting. However, there are likely many more unmet dependencies if trying to run Steam on Clear Linux given that this distribution isn't currently designed for a gamer's system but is more enterprise-oriented.

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