Linux 4.6 Set To Bring A Significant Number Of New Features

Written by Michael Larabel in Software on 26 March 2016 at 08:16 PM EDT. Page 1 of 1. 6 Comments.

Linus Torvalds ended up tagging the Linux 4.6-rc1 kernel on Saturday night rather than opting for Sunday. While we tend to get excited about every major update to the Linux kernel, Linux 4.6 is coming in particularly heavy with new functionality and notable improvements to existing features. Linux 4.6 is arguably looking like the most exciting release in a few kernel cycles.

Indeed, Linus Torvalds noted in the 4.6-rc1 release announcement that this has been one of the bigger merge windows in a while. While the early release of Linux 4.6-rc1 threw me off guard a bit, below is a quick summary at the changes I've been watching on the kernel mailing list and Git over the past two weeks. Enjoy!

My quick one sentence summary would come down to finally having open-source hardware acceleration via Nouveau on the GTX 900 series, FBC/PSR for Intel by default, power management improvements in several different areas, a lot of new ARM hardware support, better Raspberry Pi 3D performance, OrangeFS is now the newest Linux file-system in mainline, there's been a big CPU frequency scaling redesign, Dell XPS 13 Skylake laptop support, an important fix where some laptops were always being thermal throttled and thus poor performance, more USB 3.1 support, and some security improvements that separately benefit EFI systems and then also work on better 32-bit Linux program security.


- Open-Source GeForce GTX 900 hardware acceleration support! Finally when using NVIDIA's signed firmware image files, it's possible to get open-source 3D working on NVIDIA's latest Maxwell GPUs. But there isn't yet re-clocking support and other limitations are present; I'll have my Nouveau GTX 900 benchmarks from Linux 4.6 out on Monday.

- The Intel DRM graphics driver has enabled FBC and PSR by default for select generations of Intel graphics hardware. Frame-buffer compression and Panel Self Refresh on supported hardware can lead to measurable power savings.

- AMDGPU reset support for being able to better recover with AMD's new DRM driver when issues are encountered.

- Performance improvements on Raspberry Pi for its 3D support thanks to DRM driver optimizations.


- Support 13 new ARM SoCs and a lot of platform improvements. Among the ARM SoC/platform work is on Axis Artpec-6, TI Keystone-k2g, Mediatek MT7623, Allwinner A83T, NXP i.MX6QP, ST Microelectronics stm32f469, Annapurna Labs Alpine v2, Marvell Armada 3700, Marvell Armada 7000/8000, Amlogic S905, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, Socionext UniPhier, ARM Juno Development Platform, Allwinner A64, and Broadcom Vulcan. Board/machine work includes Buffalo Linkstation LS-QVL/LS-GL, Cubietruck Plus, D-Link DIR-885L, Google Nexus 7, Homlet v2, Lamono R1, Itead Ibox, LG Optimus Black, and the Raspberry Pi Model A.

- Continued architecture work on the ARM 64-bit / AArch64 code.

- A significant redesign to CPUFreq and P-State for allowing the kernel's scheduler to better communicate changes to the CPU frequency scaling drivers. There's also a new scaling governor being designed (but not for linux 4.6) to further benefit from the changes.

- Various scheduler changes.

- Initial POWER9 CPU support but it won't really become useful until later kernel releases.

- Intel Memory Protection Keys support.

- The usual churn in the KVM space.

File-Systems / Storage

- OrangeFS has landed as a new file-system while it's long been in development.

- XFS file-system updates.

- More improvements to F2FS for running this file-system on flash/SSD storage.

- Scalability and performance improvements in EXT4.

- Relatively mundane Btrfs file-system changes.

- Runtime AHCI power management for being able to conserve more power when the disks are also suspended.

Other Hardware

- Dell and Alienware laptop support improvements along with other x86 laptop support work, including for the new Dell XPS 13 Skylake model.

- An important fix for a bug where some laptops are always being thermal throttled and thus leading to bad performance.

- Synaptics RMI4 support that will lead to better touchscreen and touchpad handling when drivers make use of it in future kernel revisions.

- Continued XHCI USB 3.1 support work.

- A smothering of Linux networking improvements and add-ons.

- The usual HID driver updates that include fixed Logitech Dual Action gamepad support, force feedback on the Logitech G920, and more.

- Intel Skylake audio fixes.


- EFI security improvements.

- Better security for 32-bit programs.


- There's finally CGroup Namespaces support.

- A lot of staging patches thanks to Outreachy.

- The Objtool for making it easier to find Assembly bugs in the kernel.

- More x86 Assembly code was ported to C.

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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