Mesa 10.1 Released With Many Open-Source Driver Improvements

Written by Michael Larabel in Display Drivers on 5 March 2014 at 10:41 AM EST. Page 1 of 1. 32 Comments.

Mesa 10.1 was released this morning as the latest three-month update to this 3D library and graphics driver stack used throughout the Linux desktop ecosystem. With Mesa 10.1 there are tons of improvements, while one of the big highlights is OpenGL 3.3 support for the open-source Radeon and Nouveau drivers.

Ian Romanick announced Mesa 10.1 in the wee hours of the morning. The release announcement and release notes aren't too descriptive for end-users, but fortunately we have you covered with writing about Mesa 10.1 on a nearly daily basis with dozens of articles -- and benchmarks -- being out there on Mesa 10.1 development code since the beginning of the year.

Here's some key information about this big graphics driver update:

- The Radeon Gallium3D drivers now support OpenGL 3.3 that is for both the R600 and RadeonSI Gallium3D drivers; having the latest kernel and LLVM is also a wise move when upgrading your Radeon graphics driver stack as some GPUs will need it for GL 3.3 compatibility. Intel reached OpenGL 3.3 support in their Linux graphics driver some months ago and that's what led to Mesa 10.0 but now the Radeon drivers are joining the party.

- Nouveau Gallium3D now also supports OpenGL 3.3. This open-source NVIDIA driver supports GL 3.3 with their NV50 and NVC0 graphics drivers. Again, thanks to Intel's Open-Source Technology Center doing all the core Mesa work on OpenGL 3.3 enablement a few months back, it was easy now for these other GPU hardware drivers to follow in finishing off their GL3 support.

- Numerous OpenGL 4.x extensions are also now supported by core Mesa and the different hardware drivers. However, no driver has yet to reach OpenGL 4.0 compliance... Hopefully in a few months the Intel driver will be the first to meet the GL 4.0 criteria.

- The RadeonSI Gallium3D driver is in much better shape now overall. The driver is faster, supports more GL extensions, can handle more Linux games, and overall is closer in its state to the more mature R600 Gallium3D driver. This driver for the GCN / Radeon HD 7000 series and newer will also do best with the latest Linux kernel and LLVM for its AMD GPU back-end. There's also new hardware support in RadeonSI.

- Intel has done a lot of work on supporting Broadwell so that's better off too, but for this yet-to-be-released hardware, it looks like Mesa 10.2 will be the "sweet spot" for good Linux graphics support.

- Many game optimizations and other Linux gaming improvements have landed. Metro: Last Light now works with Mesa drivers, among other Steam Linux games. Unigine Heaven & Valley now also work.

- H.264 and MPEG-4 video support is found within the NV50 Gallium3D driver for VP3/VP4 GeForce GPUs.

- There have been many improvements to the Freedreno Gallium3D driver as the open-source, reverse-engineered driver for Qualcomm's Adreno graphics hardware.

- The LLVMpipe software-based driver sadly hasn't seen too much attention during the Mesa 10.1 cycle.

- Improvements to the OpenCL Clover state tracker but overall there's still much work to be done in making it on-par with the proprietary graphics drivers and for finding "out of the box" open-source OpenCL support on the Linux desktop.

- A whole lot of bug-fixes continue to land in core Mesa and throughout the different GPU hardware drivers.

When it comes to the benchmarks and performance:

- We have found for the Radeon HD 5000/6000/7000 series GPUs, the Gallium3D performance is now ~80%+ the speed of Catalyst on Linux. However, for the very latest GCN graphics cards there still are some issues and you will need to be using the yet-to-be-released Linux 3.14 kernel for the best Radeon Dynamic Power Management support. The HD 5000/6000 series is the best hardware right now in terms of performance against the proprietary driver.

- The Radeon HD 4000 series performance is still a ways off from the legacy Catalyst driver, but at least the open-source driver is still being improved.

- A 13-way AMD Radeon graphics card comparison with the R600/RadeonSI drivers for those curious about AMD performance on Mesa 10.1.

- Intel Haswell performance remains good.

- On earlier Mesa 10.1-development code I also did a 25-way open-source graphics card comparison for those in the market for a GPU and intend to be using a Mesa-based driver.

- The open-source NVIDIA driver is still struggling, but that mostly comes down to the kernel DRM side with the reverse-engineered driver not yet properly supporting re-clocking / dynamic power management to operate the GPU and vRAM at its top-rated frequencies.

In the next few days I will have out some more Intel/Radeon/Nouveau Mesa 10.1 benchmarks before turning all of my attention to Mesa 10.2-devel. For Ubuntu Linux users, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS has Mesa 10.1.

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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